Learning Forward with Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier

Learning Forward with Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier

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Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier
Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at University of Toronto
Director for Graduate Professional Development and Alumni Engagement, Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto


BY: Sonja Elsaid
Photo BY: Krystal Jacques


Today, most university professors believe they ought to train the next generations of scholars to essentially create their own replacements.  But, do most life science graduate students actually follow in their supervisor’s footsteps?

According to Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier―the recently appointed Director for Graduate Professional Development and Alumni Engagement at the Institute for Medical Science (IMS)―only 15% of University of Toronto (UofT) PhD graduates in Life Sciences are employed as tenure-track professors. The remaining hold various leadership positions in the public and private sectors.  However, their transition from academia is often difficult mainly due to the lack of guidance for the professional development they received at the university. Learning about these career transition challenges motivated Dr. Reithmeier to dedicate a part of his work towards promoting professional development. The IMS Magazine interviewed Dr. Reithmeier to gain insight on how to be successful after graduate school.

In Dr. Reithmeier’s opinion, to be successful in the pursuit of an academic career, graduate students should focus on publishing their research in journals with a high impact factor.  These publications should not only reflect the thesis-based work, but also the ability to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams.  For those seeking an academic career in Canada, it is vital to network with Canadian scientists.

On the flip side, to those wishing to follow a career outside academia, Dr. Reithmeier highly recommends staying open to a wide range of opportunities.  For instance, students can learn about the non-academic professions by attending career panels or by doing informational interviews.  It is also necessary to use every opportunity to network.  The networking could even take place outside school.  In fact, Dr. Reithmeier has met many of his professional networks while playing golf! Thus, building and maintaining a professional network is necessary for success outside the academia.

Success does not always come without having to overcome adversity. According to Dr. Reithmeier, one of the main challenges graduate students face today is articulating their research to diverse audiences.  Indeed, he feels so strongly that we—as the scientists—have an obligation to communicate our research to the public. For this reason, he joined the Royal Canadian Institute of Science (RCIS), which has a mission to bring the science to the public.  As the Volunteer President of the RCIS, Dr. Reithmeier organizes events such as the free-style socials, during which the scientists share evidence-based information with the general public. Dr. Reithmeier believes that the ability to articulate science to everyone is the most important skill one should possess to become more employable. The 3-minute thesis competition or the elevator pitch is a great example of developing good communication s