Rachana Bhave is a rising 6th year PhD student under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Cox in the Department of Biology within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her dissertation research focuses on understanding reproductive strategies of males and females and how it affects the evolution of body size by using lizards as a model system. Rachana is a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Fellowship offered by the Department of Biology as well as the Explorer’s Club Mamont Scholars Grant.
Rachana is a graduate of the PhD Plus Career Design series, having successfully completed the course. She has also participated in the PhD Plus Foundation series.
Q. What are your career aspirations?
I am interested in the intersection of research and teaching, so I intend to work in academia primarily in liberal arts colleges with a teaching focused job as a professor and also contribute to development of curriculum and/or education policy.
Q. Please summarize your experience in the Career Design module.
The career design workshop helped me become more intentional about where I want to go and the skills I need to get there. It also instilled in me the confidence to change paths if I wanted to and equipped me with tools to get there. I also attended part of the Foundations series which would have been instrumental to me had it been available to me as a first year PhD student. Through the Foundations series, I learnt a great deal about project management and how to multitask effectively, while also breaking bigger tasks into manageable chunks.
Some primary skills I learnt was being self-aware about my own values and interests and how they aligned with my career goals. In my own training, it helped me focus on enhancing my teaching skills in-line with my goal to be a professor wanting to provide a research-based education to college students. At the same time, I also learnt how to communicate my needs and goals better with my own mentor and collaborators. It was particularly enjoyable to take these courses and meet with people outside of my department to understand the different career trajectories people were willing to pursue.
Q. How have the strategies and skills learned, and community developed through this core module assisted you in your personal and professional development, as well as planning for diverse careers?
I think previously I was a bit narrow-minded in my attitude of the possibilities beyond academia with a Ph.D. in Biology. However through the career design course, I became more comfortable with being flexible about my plan and was confident in my abilities to switch plans if I changed my mind. One particular activity that helped was looking at job postings within my careers of interest, to understand what people look for in such jobs which helped me address my own strengths and weaknesses before applying for those jobs. . It also taught me the value of networking with people even if their work differed from mine and get a sense of what it may take to put together a better application. Throughout my participation in all the modules, I always came away with a sense of confidence in my own abilities and I carry that with me even today whenever I am faced with obstacles in my personal and/or professional life.
Q. What is your advice or recommendations to peers on how to best leverage the PhD Plus program?
I would recommend that students take the Foundation series as soon as they are at UVa and delve into the Career Design series somewhere around their 3rd or 4th year, as it would first help them excel in their program early on and then help plan the path they have set out for themselves. Even if you don't participate in every module to completion, attending even some of the workshops can really help add a new perspective to one's trajectory as they see it. Additionally, I would recommend making use of the internships to explore potential careers you are interested in, and plan early by the end of your 3rd year if you intend to apply. This will allow you to have a conversation with your advisor early on about your ability to tailor it into your program, while you are working on your own thesis. Even perusing the PhD Plus website as well as the CTE website can introduce you to a ton of resources that you can access outside of the scheduled workshops.