Where are PBGG alumni now?

If you’ve read my Bio, you know that I’m a Ph.D. student in the Plant Biology Graduate Group (PBGG) at UC Davis. We’re a pretty diverse group in terms of research interests. We have everything from computational biologists and biochemists to plant breeders and ecologists. This diversity got me and fellow PBGGer Mark Lemos wondering about what sort of careers alumni of our program were pursuing.

To answer this question, we took to the internet to track down our alumni – primarily using LinkedIn, Pubmed, and Google. We were able to find 101/110 of Ph.D. alumni that had graduated during the previous 10 years. I presented our findings at the PBGG annual meeting in Spring 2013 and have decided to post them here for people who missed the meeting or want to revisit the data.

Here is a breakdown of the sectors in which our alumni are employed:

alumni_by_sectorThis distribution is similar to what is seen for alumni of Biology Ph.D. programs nationally – for example in this cool infographic. However in the case of both the above graph and the infographic, the large chunk of alumni in “Academia” leaves a lot of questions unanswered. To address these questions, I’ve broken down our alumni that are in academia into two groups (research-focused and teaching-focused) and tabulated their various job titles:


Given that the data includes many relatively recent graduates, the large number of post-docs is not surprising. It should also be noted that all but one of the “Extension Professors” listed above are at R1 institutions. I wanted to emphasize that extension positions are an option to consider for those looking for tenure-track research positions. Additionally, “International Professors” are primarily PBGG alumni that have taken positions in their home countries.

teaching.academicsThe data show that 65% of our alumni that are in academia are employed in research-focused positions. The remaining 35% are employed in teaching-focused positions.

Now that we’ve examined the breakdown of alumni within academia, let’s look at specific employers. Here are the top six employers of our alumni:

  1. UC Davis (8)
  2. UC Berkeley (4)
  3. Monsanto (4)
  4. USDA (4)
  5. UC San Diego (3)
  6. National Taiwan University (3)

While the majority of our alumni have found “traditional” lines of work for Ph.D. holders (i.e. research or teaching positions), a number of our alumni have enjoyed success with a variety of “non-traditional” careers. For example:

  • Intellectual property (including a patent attorney, a patent agent, and a patent examiner)
  • Scientific publishing (an alumna is an editor at Plant Cell)
  • Policy (including fellows at the California Council on Science and Technology and the California Senate Office of Research)
  • Entrepreneurship (one alumna has a business that combines yoga with ecology, while another owns an agritourism business in Italy)

Overall, the data paint a pretty nice picture for alumni of the PBGG. The vast majority of our alumni have careers in science (though often not involving research) and the few that are unemployed are in that position by choice. You can visit the PBGG website to learn more about the program or contact me if you have questions about this survey.


One thought on “Where are PBGG alumni now?

  1. Pingback: Guidelines for PBGG students interested in teaching careers | The Prospective Prof

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