Stacie Bloom on Choosing a Science PhD Program Over Medical School

In Chapter 4 of 19 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, Stacie Grossman Bloom answers "What Variables Did You Consider When Deciding Between Graduate School and Medical School?" She notes how we are conditioned to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer, etc. and not a molecular neurobiologist. As she started to apply to medical school, she become more exposed to what it meant to get a PhD. She finds the personalized study and sense of discovery more compelling than studying a standardized set of material.

Stacie Grossman Bloom is the Executive Director at the NYU Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center. Previously, she was VP and Scientific Director at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). She earned her PhD in Neurobiology and Cell Biology at Georgetown University and did a post-doctoral fellowship at Rockefeller University in New York City. She earned her BA in Chemistry and Psychology from the University of Delaware.


Erik Michielsen: What variables did you consider when deciding between grad school and medical school?

Stacie Grossman Bloom: I thought I wanted to go to medical school because I think it’s a very typical career path that you think about. From the time you are a little kid, are you going to be a lawyer, are you going to be a doctor, are you going to be a fireman, are you going to be this that. Nobody ever really sits down as a little kid and says, am I going to be a molecular neurobiologist.

I would say as I got closer and closer and closer to actually going into the medical school track, my eyes were opened up to what other possibilities were out there.

When I was applying to graduate schools and medical schools and I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do and as I spoke to more and more people who had PhDs. I didn’t know anybody with a PhD when I was a kid. There is nobody in my family with a PhD. My friends, and their parents. I just didn’t have anybody in my circle.

But as I was starting to apply to medical school, Georgetown had a big PhD research arm and I started having conversations with people there and learning more about it. And as I was exposed more and more to it, I was more and more attracted to it.

And when I learned what it meant to get a PhD and what it entailed, that was something that I was more interested in. I thought, rather than sit in a room and learn everything that everybody else is learning, I’d rather be off in a lab discovering something that nobody else knows yet.