Before my internship at the Dr. Reade Roberts Lab, I had never worked in a scientific research lab before. Talking with the graduate students and the postdoctoral fellows made me more aware of the avenues that those pursuing the sciences can take.
In my time teaching, I have noticed that my students with the most interest in medical careers (doctors, surgeons), have gone on to major in Biology, in order to pursue a Pre-Med curriculum. Not surprisingly, some of the undergraduates who work in the lab have the same ambitions, and having experience in microbiology can be valuable as it represents different skills and abilities.
There seems to a major fork in the road between academia and industry for those beyond the undergraduate level. In general, working in industry both domestically and internationally results in higher salaries, but working in academia allows the pursuit of research goals, while also allowing for opportunities for publication and teaching. Of course, there are pros and cons to each road; working in academia means writing grants and searching for funding in addition to obligations related to teaching and industry scientists tend to have less flexible schedules.
It is sometimes difficult to advise students in their formative years as to what path to follow. Speaking from personal experience, I changed my mind about my major within my first year of college. Even today, I love teaching, but the road I took to it was not clear cut.
I think the most important thing to remember is to always look for opportunity. As a college student, I was the only non-engineer hired to lead students as part of a NASA summer experience at Virginia Tech. When you are willing to give up that fear of judgment, you could find that you are leaning into more of yourself and your potential. As I have conversations with my students, I hope to give them a confidence in themselves and to encourage them to look inwards for their drive. Having that additional background of learning the sides of academia and industry from my fellowship gives me more value when guiding my students and I am grateful for that perspective.