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Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) – Info on How to Apply

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 7, 2020

The Presidential Management Fellows Program is a two-year training and leadership development program at a United States agency and is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. This program is only open to U.S. citizens and those with a recent graduate degree. The program focuses on developing new government leaders in a variety of disciplines and can be a great entry point for a career with the federal government.

Every Tuesday during the month of September 2020, there will be a new informational webinar for prospective graduate students and applicants. The webinars aim to provide a general overview of the program as well as specific details about the 2021 application cycle. Each webinar will have a specific focus, but they are open to all majors to attend.

The webinar on Tuesday, September 8th from 2:00-3:00PM EDT will have a focus on Scientific, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. You can register to attend this session here.

Another webinar session that might be of interest to readers of the OITE Career Blog is the one with a focus on Public Health. That session will be on Tuesday, September 15 from 2:00-3:00PM EDT and you can register here.

The PMF application will open on September 30, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT.  Once the application opens, it will appear on You can find it by searching for “Presidential Management Fellows”. 

The application process for the PMF is often long and includes many steps. The whole PMF application process is outlined here. As noted within the application process, you can see that an online assessment is often the first tool used to evaluate applicants. Many applicants to the PMF program find that the online assessment can be a hard hurdle to jump.  The online assessment is taken on your own and covers four dimensions: Situational Judgement, Life Experience, Problem Solving, and Writing. Given the weighty importance of this first assessment, it would be a great idea to familiarize yourself with the rules and policies of the online assessment.  A 2021 PMF Assessment Preparation Guide is currently available online until the application closes, which you can check out here.


GRExit – Grad Schools Dropping GRE Requirement

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 28, 2020

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) has long been a key standardized test used for admissions to graduate programs in the United States. The test usually consists of about four hours of multiple choice and written questions that assess a candidate’s quantitative, verbal, and writing skills.  However, even before the pandemic, many graduate programs were dropping the GRE as an admission requirement; a move that has been dubbed “GRExit”. These programs noted that the GRE is not a great predictor of a student’s success in school and that using this metric for admissions requirements often disadvantages applicants from underrepresented groups.

Some still see the value in reviewing a GRE score and stress that this is just one data point in a larger, more holistic picture of a candidate. Graduate schools use test scores in addition to letters of recommendation, essays, and general application materials detailing your experience and skills.   However, according to Science, in 2018 44% of molecular biology PhD programs within the top 50-ranked US research universities stopped requiring GRE scores.

Fast forward to 2020 and almost all programs are waiving or at least loosening their GRE requirements to accommodate the needs of applicants applying during the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic when all testing centers were closed, Educational Testing Services (the administrators of the test) announced a GRE At Home program for students to have an alternative test taking option. In an effort to ensure an equitable testing experience, the testing requirements were long and detailed and included such things as a computer with webcam, private room, stable internet connection, whiteboard should you want to take notes, etc.  While some students were able to successfully take the GRE at home; others ran into multiple issues.

If you are planning to apply to graduate school this cycle, please be aware of these issues. It is imperative that you check the GRE requirements for your target programs/schools to make sure you understand their current policy and what will be expected of you as an applicant. Even if the general GRE is no longer required, some programs are still mandating applicants to take field/program specific GRE tests.  When questions arise, contact program directors and offices of admissions.


Embracing Change

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 14, 2020

Post written by guest blogger Charlesice Hawkins, Detailee within OITE. 

Whether starting the first semester at university or finishing up the last, looking at a new job, or applying to a professional program, the fall is often filled with excitement and prospect. It is a time when we may be asked questions about our plans. What is your dream school? What do you want to do after you graduate? If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Under normal circumstances even the most well-intentioned inquiries about the future can stir up feelings of unease. Now, career landscapes at every level, particularly in the realm of education, have drastically changed over the past six months. There are new questions about virtual work, rotating schedules, and changed timelines on top of the now even more ambiguous questions that are already difficult to tackle.

Whatever strategy you choose – journaling, meditating, writing, talking with friends – here are some questions to think about to help you begin to embrace, rather than resist, change:

  1. Reflect on changes. What has changed? What steps did you take to maintain wellness and productivity? How did you modify your approach as the period of change lengthened? What was the most challenging aspect? What would you do differently?
  2. Compare your circles of control. What is completely out of your control? Is there something you wish you could have control over? What is immediately in your control? Is there anything that might not be tangible now, but might shift into your control later?
  3. Give yourself time. Do you have to make that decision right now? Can you set a date to decide? Do you need to have all the answers now? Can you decide now with the information you have and still have the option to do something different later?

It might seem counter-intuitive and somewhat cliché to answer questions with more questions, but as it is true in the sciences, growth and discovery depend on asking the right questions even if they evolve as we gather more data. Talking to others and hearing their stories can help us build community and can also help us make our own decisions. OITE offers weekly discussions for building resilience in different areas as well as affinity groups. Details about these groups as well as other events and resources are available at the OITE website and the OITE YouTube channel. You can also check out previous blog posts to learn more about the impacts of change and how to make the most of those transitions.


Postdoc Appreciation Week

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 21, 2020

Post written by guest blogger Charlesice Hawkins, Detailee within OITE. 

The National Postdoc Association (NPA) reports that there were approximately 79,000 postdoctoral fellows actively involved in research in the United States in 2017. Officially, a postdoctoral position is defined as "a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path." Whether they are mentoring more junior trainees or working on publishing papers and developing their own line of research, postdocs play a vital role in the success of science and scientists across the country. It is also important to recognize that in addition to their own critical professional development, the period of postdoctoral training often coincides with major life and family changes. We want to express our appreciation for the immeasurable impact that postdocs, visiting research fellows, and clinical fellows continue to have on the scientific community.

In a 2015 report it was estimated that postdocs make up to nearly half of the biomedical training positions in the United States and that the entire postdoc and student workforce contributed almost 40% of project effort (as measured by person-years of effort). Unfortunately, data about the postdoctoral workforce is limited in terms of breadth, consistency, and availability. It is worth noting that large efforts are being made toward collecting data across institutions with the goal of improving support for the needs of postdocs. For example, a 2018 survey of more 7000 postdocs from 351 institutions across the US explored the impact of demographic factors, training, and mentorship satisfaction on long-term career plans. Irrespective of the increased competition for academic positions and the growing emphasis on other career paths, nearly 60% of the participating postdocs maintained the long-term goal of securing such a position. Mentorship training, support, and overall mentor satisfaction were strong components in pursuit of a research based academic career. The 51% of postdocs who did not have US citizenship expressed greater interest in these positions as well despite the unique considerations they may have to take.

During the current global health crisis, postdocs have continued to excel and support science. In the most recent COVID-19 special edition issue of The POSTDOCket, members of the NPA shared stories of the pandemic-specific challenges that postdocs are facing and the innovative ways they are working together to overcome them. Through platforms like Zoom, Twitter, and blog sites postdocs are helping each other stay well mentally and physically, maintain productivity, and continue to build their community. Postdoctoral fellows have also been providing support for physicians and other COVID-19 related projects, helping review the homework of their peer’s children, and launching initiatives to help fellows in immediate assistance with food and housing. International fellows are having to deal with unique issues regarding travel, isolation, and in some situations job security and financial stability. For these reasons, it is more important than ever to support each other and take the time to appreciate all that our postdocs do and who they are.