5 Key Takeaways From ADSA's Climate Science Career Panel

28 February 2023

By Stella Min

The ADSA Career Development Network recently facilitated a discussion with climate science researchers who shared tips for navigating the job market. The panel included Jackie Dean – Researcher at Woodwell Climate Research Center, Gillian Galford – Research Associate Professor at the University of Vermont, Mathew Hauer – Assistant Professor at Florida State University, and Esteban J. Quiñones – Researcher at Mathematica. Below, are 5 takeaways from the conversation.

Check out our previous panels to learn more about career paths for data scientists.

Speakers for the Academic Data Science Alliance's Climate Career Panel.

1. Be Curious

Climate science is a multidisciplinary field and the panelists reflected this diversity in their training and the methodological approaches they apply in their research. To keep up with the latest developments and to expand the limits of their current understanding, the panelists recommended taking courses outside of your core discipline or even retaking foundational courses, like linear algebra, to strengthen skills related to methods that are emerging within the field.

The panelists especially encouraged current students to branch out of their discipline while opportunities are accessible. For anyone who is currently enrolled in a graduate program, this may be a particular opportune time to explore classes in subjects outside of your discipline, since oftentimes they’re free. If you’re thinking about or are in the process of applying to a graduate program, Gillian recommended asking faculty about whether these sorts of opportunities are available to students.

In general, the takeaway is that, regardless of your career stage, curiosity can excel your career. By following your curiosity, you will develop skills that are critical for uncovering innovative solutions to long-standing problems. Take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow to drive your career forward.

2. A Ph.D. is Optional

You don’t need a PhD to conduct research and make an impact on climate science. Jackie is a living example. She earned a master’s degree in geography from the University of Hawaii and studies wildfire, carbon, and biomass models with the Arctic group at Woodwell Climate Research Center. The notion was reinforced by Gillian, who stated that although she chose to pursue a PhD, it’s absolutely possible to get a job without one. Gillian encouraged students to stop and reflect on what type of career they truly want and to talk to others to learn about alternative routes to finding a meaningful job.

3. Network!

Three out of four panelists emphasized the importance of networking to find a (good) job. For example, Jackie’s network introduced her to niche job boards, like Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Job Board, which is where she found the job she has now. Esteban said that connecting with people in his network was instrumental to learning about job opportunities and the culture of organizations that he was interested in applying to. Because of its central importance, Esteban encouraged everyone to couple networking with whatever strategy they adopt when searching for jobs.

In addition to the importance of networks in finding a job, professional networks may help you land an interview. Gillian noted that a personal referral or recommendation can help push your application to the front of the stack. She recommended attending conferences to meet other researchers and collaborating with researchers other than your primary advisor as ways to grow your network.

4. Develop a Strategy for Applications

Applying for jobs can be stressful. Turn down the pressure by developing a strategy for finding and applying for jobs.

One approach, recommended by Mathew, is to apply widely. Submit resumes to as many job openings as possible to increase the chances of being interviewed and hired. Citing Michael Scott in The Office, Mathew said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Another approach, or one that can be used in conjunction with the one above, is to narrow your search by looking at niche job boards. The specific boards mentioned during the discussion with the panel included ADSA’s data science job board, Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Job Board, Earth Science Women’s Network – which posts jobs for any gender, and the Environmental Data Science Inclusion Network’s #resources-opportunities Slack channel. Don’t forget to check out another helpful resource - ADSA’s Career Development Network’s monthly newsletter - which shares career-related resources like interview and research tips, as well as job opportunities.

5. Interview the Interviewers

Before an interview, job seekers are commonly advised to practice answering common interview questions, but the panelists pointed out that you may also want to practice asking good questions too. Keep in mind that an interview is a great opportunity to learn about your potential employer and whether the position fits with your career aspirations. Mathew suggested asking questions about their computational practices around documentation, code review, and version control to get a sense of the company’s organization and collaborative processes. These kinds of questions may even help you stand out as a candidate.

Summary

The climate career panel was chock-full of advice for people at the very early stages of their career, including tips for networking and questions to ask during an interview. To increase your chances of landing an interview, try to keep an open mind throughout your job search and apply widely to increase the chances that your resume is seen and selected. If the search is overwhelming, ask your network about niche job boards in your field or upcoming opportunities that they may know about. Lastly, follow your curiosity, even if it leads you down a path that may seem unconventional. It’s often an indicator of your true interests and may help you accrue skills that make you stand out as a candidate.

Review all these tips and more by watching the Climate Career Panel. Check out our community blog and our previous panels to learn about more career paths for data scientists.

 

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