An interview with MCB Department Head Dr. Joyce Schroeder
Q: What key things should prospective students look for in a graduate program?
A: A program that shares your scientific goals is number one. Are you interested in translational research? Find a program with clinical strengths. Are you more interested in general scientific inquiry (i.e. most science is fascinating to you and you can imagine many areas of interest)? Find a program with broad areas of research where the faculty and staff can think and talk about many different disciplines.
Finding a collaborative environment is also important; the more labs, faculty and students you can work with during your training, the better your education will be.
Finally, students should work hard during their rotations to find a lab that fits. The right lab will have engaging science and a mentor you can work well with. Make sure your personality fits with the rest of the lab--you’ll be pretty much living with this group for five years. It can be an amazing and rewarding experience if you match well.
Q: How do UA MCB graduate programs stack up in these areas?
A: MCB is a group of scientists who love what we research and are also interested in many aspects of biology and beyond. Our students are trained to be great molecular and cellular biologists; how they want to apply that knowledge after graduation is up to them. There are many translational labs, where students are working on therapeutic applications, as well as labs focused on basic science. The course work is designed to help students develop critical thinking skills that are broadly applicable to a range of MCB-related disciplines.
Q: Are these attributes hard to find?
A: They can be – one of the really great things about being in MCB is the fact that all of our faculty are excited about research and are very willing to help students grow as scientists. As a result, students receive a lot of mentoring. The open and collaborative nature of UA fits in perfectly with this.
Q: What do you like about working with MCB graduate students?
A: Their enthusiasm to learn new things and willingness to work hard. Our students come to MCB as brilliant people and helping them grow into brilliant scientists is incredibly rewarding.
Q: How does an MCB graduate degree play in the job market?
A: Our students have been highly successful in many areas. The students who trained in my lab are now professors, working in both research and compliance in industry, science writers, physicians and post-docs.
Q: Many of our students and faculty come here from other parts of the country. How is life in the Tucson area?
A: The UA is a large university ensconced in a small town (at least it feels like a small town). It’s a vibrant town with beautiful surroundings. The climate in Tucson makes it easy to enjoy the outdoors all year long, which is an important part of work-life balance for many of our students and faculty. We are within an hour’s drive of beautiful mountains, forests and hiking trails to explore throughout the Sonoran desert. We also have world-class cuisine—Tucson was recently designated a UNESCO Capital of Gastronomy. Tucson’s airport is less than 20 minutes from campus, making travel relatively easy.