Name One Thing with Dr. Jo Nyffeler. Advice for recent graduates: developing a CV and the etiquette of job applications.

This image is a header for the Name One Thing Advice for Graduate Students Series. On the left are the words indicating this, on the left there is a picture of a sign hanging off a brick wall with the word ASK printed in large letters.

Welcome to Name One Thing the interview series where I ask academics, researchers, postdocs, and other professionals what they wished they’d known in grad. school. This month’s guest is Dr. Jo Nyffeler, a toxicologist and research leader with an international perspective on completing graduate school and a post-doc. Plus, their top advice for recent graduates entering the workforce.


Picture of Dr. Jo Nyffler, sitting to the side of their computer screen which displays several colorful assays.

Name: Dr. Jo Nyffeler
Degree: Ph.D., In Vitro Toxicology
Current role: Research group leader using high-throughput ecotoxicology to develop alternatives to animal testing.
Find them at: Linkedin

1) Name one thing you wish someone had told you when you were a graduate student.

You are giving your best and this is good enough. Your supervisor does not have the only truth. Mental health problems are normal. And, unfortunately, harassment during PhD studies is very common.

2) You’ve worked with, mentored, and managed recent graduates. Name one thing you wish more recent graduates would know or do when they enter the workforce. 

Please stop sending me blind applications that are copy-paste and could fit into a 100 research labs! It will certainly not lead to a position for you. Rather take the time and write 10 tailored applications, in which you write why you like the research of that lab. 

Along the same lines: I see a lot of CVs filled with a lot of vague language (“I made a positive impact on the project.”). Be specific about what you did (“I generated toxicity data for 100 chemicals, using method X, analyzed the data, and presented it to colleagues.”) We wanna hire people who have specific skills, can think creatively, and get the job done. You learn a lot of transferable skills in your PhD – show them!

3) You completed your doctorate in Germany and then a postdoc in the United States. Name one thing that surprised you about the difference in graduate school and/or postdoc training between the two countries.

The obvious difference is that in mainland Europe, you do a 3 (to 5) year PhD after having completed a Masters. There are nearly no classes, only research. But, I had the impression US students are more independent, have to make their own research plans and budget their money for the entire time. This was certainly not like this for me. It was much more guided, within quite tight lines. Therefore, I had to learn to be more independent after my PhD.

Thank you for sharing your experience and providing advice for recent graduates Dr. Nyffeler! The differences in approach to graduate school in Europe vs. the United States are very interesting and I can say from my work coaching graduate students that your advice for improving CVs is universal.

If you’re a recent graduate, whether an undergraduate or graduate student, help future employers hire you by making it clear how you are a good fit for the role you are applying for!

Wishing You All the Best in Your Academic Success.
Dr. Cristie Glasheen, Your Graduate Student Success Coach.

Interview Disclaimer

We aim to share diverse perspectives and experiences. The views, opinions, and experiences shared by our guests in this interview series are solely their own. Their participation is not an endorsement of our services, products, or views, nor does it imply an endorsement of their services, products, or views by us.