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Career Profile: Medical Scientist

Career Profile: Medical Scientist

Byron Ford, Ph.D., Neuroscience Researcher, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become a neuroscience researcher because I’ve always liked science. After earning a biology degree, I took a year off and worked in a research lab. Until then, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor, but I really liked the lab work. I decided to pursue a career in science research and entered graduate school instead of medical school.

• Bachelor of Science, Biology, Grambling State University, Grambling, La.
• Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Physiology, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn.
• Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday revolves around my duties as a principal investigator and an assistant professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. In the morning, I go to the lab and review everyone’s progress. Currently, I supervise four undergraduate students, one research assistant, three Ph.D. students, and a postdoctoral fellow. We discuss things like experimental results, problems, changes, and next steps. I assist with experiments when necessary, and I spend a lot of time in the office taking care of management-related activities.

My major duties are:

• Researching, including performing experiments and analyzing data. About 90% of my day is spent doing research-related activities.

• Managing, including writing grants and preparing manuscripts of research results for publication.

• Reading scientific literature to keep up-to-date on advances in my field. At least a quarter of my day is spent reading.

• Lecturing for about 6 hours per year at the college (three 2-hour lectures). I searched for a position with minimal teaching responsibilities, because I wanted more time for research.

• Speaking, by invitation, at major national science meetings and seminars at universities. Recently, I’ve traveled to some cool places like New Orleans, New York, Washington, D.C., Nashville, and Honolulu.

What I like best and least about my work …

What I like best about my work is the independence and the flexible schedule. I get to choose what, when, and how I want to study something. I also appreciate what we’re doing for minority students at Morehouse School of Medicine, which is a historically black college. We train a lot of minority students and focus on research involving diseases that disproportionately affect minorities.

What I like least about my work is the administrative tasks involving lots of paperwork. I prefer to spend more time in the lab.

My career goals are…

My career goals are to contribute to our understanding of the brain during stroke. Through research, I hope we can learn ways to protect the brain from stroke, repair the brain following stroke, and develop effective treatments. I plan to continue my research and expect to retire at Morehouse School of Medicine.

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