Johanna Chajes is a PhD candidate Department of Psychology at the University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. For her research, she is interested in understanding how young children learn important positive social behaviors, like helping and sharing, how these behaviors relate to their emerging self-control skills, and how all these behaviors and skills are related to underlying differences in children's brain activity.
Johanna internship with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost for Academic Outreach. Prior to completing her internship, she participated in the PhD Plus Foundations, Career Design, and Data Literacy skills series.
Q. What are your post-PhD career aspirations?
I'm currently planning to pursue a career in science outreach, education, or communication after I graduate. I'd like to use my skills as a developmental scientist to serve as a translational link between the researchers and the parents, teachers, doctors, and policymakers who will actually be putting what we've learned into practice. My ultimate goal is to find a career where I can weave together my interests in developmental research, helping children and families, and inspiring others to get excited about the scientific process.
Q. Please summarize your PhD Plus internship
For my internship, I spent a year working in the UVA Office of Academic Outreach, where I assisted a team of faculty and staff members as we worked to launch the new Public Service Pathways program for undergraduate students. I initially applied for this position because I really enjoyed the various science outreach projects I'd been involved in through my department, but I wanted to explore what it would look like to engage in academic outreach at an administrative level. Additionally, public service has always been a big part of my life, and the idea of helping to establish a new university-wide public service program for students was extremely exciting. I think I was very fortunate with the timing of my internship because I got to join my team right at the start of this new program and was able to see it through to the end of its inaugural year which was really rewarding. This also meant that I got to help with a wide variety of tasks, from setting up the program's student-facing portal and designing bi-weekly newsletters to searching for existing events and opportunities that aligned with the goals of the program to attending team meetings where we would all work together to make our vision for this program a reality. It was one of the most collaborative experiences I've ever been a part of, and I learned so much about how to work together effectively as a team on such a large-scale endeavor.
Q. What professional skills did you develop during your internship?
This position helped me develop a number of professional skills, including organization, communication, and working collaboratively as a team. Since we were building this new Pathways program from the ground up, everything was being created from scratch, and this offered a lot of space for designing effective organizational systems that will remain in place for years to come. I was able to design and write up a protocol for finding and collecting the details of relevant events around grounds that we would share with our students. I also got to practice my communication skills through formatting, editing, and sending out our programs bi-weekly newsletters during the second semester of my internship, which was a challenging yet satisfying experience. Finally, I really learned a lot about working collaboratively simply by attending our various team meetings and observing the techniques that everyone used to maintain such a positive and effective team atmosphere.
Q. How did the internship support your career development?
I learned a little bit about both what I do like and what I don't like when thinking about a future career, and I think both are equally important things to learn. I found that I really enjoyed working on a team and the overall process of developing new programs and organizational systems that will then be put in place and used to benefit others. However, I found that I missed personally interacting with students and getting to be part of the hands-on implementation of the program, and so I think in the future I'd want to make sure that I find a way to include that kind of interpersonal component in whatever I'm doing.
Q. What advice would you give peers on utilizing PhD Plus internships for career development?
I think the PhD Plus internships are a great opportunity for any graduate student to explore something new, but particularly students who are unsure if the traditional tenure-track academic route is right for you. These positions are a relatively low time commitment, and yet you get to learn so much about the other possible career opportunities that are out there beyond academia. It's also a really great networking opportunity to make personal connections with people who you may never have met otherwise, and this has the potential to open doors down the road that you might not have known even existed.