To our alumni:
This alumni corner is set up so that current undergraduate students at Binghamton can find out more about varied careers and paths toward those careers that you have taken. If you are willing to share your experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
LORI (SHEIMAN) PITKOFSKY (BS Biology, 1997)- Teacher
I found my experiences at Binghamton University to be instrumental in helping me to navigate the road to my current career. In addition to the typical biology- major coursework, I participated in the HHMI Teaching Scholars program. Basically, it involved a small group of us (15 or so) spending the summer on campus developing labs that could be used in an intro bio lab course. Perhaps more important to me than even the actual lab itself, we participated in seminars on how to develop a constructivist lab exercise as opposed to the typical "recipe-format" lab exercise. I was then able to put my experience into practice by spending the next semester as an undergrad teaching assistant for Bio 115. I had always loved teaching and of course biology was my favorite subject to teach, so the Teaching Scholars program gave me the best of both worlds! In the meantime, Dr. McGee was gracious enough to take me under his wing, first by having me help with various projects around the lab, and finally, by helping me with my honors thesis project. I can't tell you how much more I learned through those real-life projects than I ever could have in a "typical" classroom setting.
After I graduated from Binghamton, I spent the summer as an intern at ImClone (at the time no one had heard of it...). In the fall, I went on to NYU, initially for my PhD degree. I have to admit, I found that atmosphere to be completely different. I still enjoyed the science, but I didn't feel the same "spark" in the lab that I did at Binghamton. In the meantime, I was volunteering with a group called "Sisters in Science". A number of female NYU graduate students and medical students would go up to Harlem one weekend a month and we brought hands-on activities for pre-teenage girls. I found myself looking forward to that one-day-a-month, perhaps a bit too much. I finally did a lot of soul-searching and decided that I would stop with my MS degree and pursue a career in teaching.
I have since been teaching for three years now. I have taught for two years at the high school level and one year at the college level. Once I left NYU, I spent a year taking the required education classes for New York State teaching certification, and then I was in front of the classroom. I found my research background to be incredibly helpful in the classroom -- I can tell my students the "realities" of how techniques can be used (how easy it is to get bitten by a mouse, how DNA gels glow under UV light) -- and I can easily modify lab techniques to be used in the classroom (isolating DNA from split peas or chicken livers is always a big hit!). I am thrilled with the convoluted career choices that I made!!
My advice for any bio major would be first and foremost to follow your heart! Don't pursue any career/degree because that's what you're "supposed to do". Pursue a career because it will make you happy! If you would like to go into teaching, take advantage of your time at Binghamton to get the most scientific experience as you can. Once you get into the education end, you will find it more difficult to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest techniques and research. However, while you're in college, you have labs and other resources at your fingertips. Get yourself into a lab. Become a TA. Get to know your professors. Spend some time just browsing "Science" and "Nature". Your future students will thank you!!