Obscure major gives CMU grad confidence in job market

After years of studying in one of the most specialized majors offered at Central Michigan University, recent graduate Ashley Eichhorn could have her work cut out for her as she searches for a job.

Yet Eichhorn is surprisingly confident in her ability to find a job in the Michigan area soon with all the skills and résumé plugs of being a microscopy major.

Microscopy, which is the use of microscopes, is rare in that it is not usually offered as an undergraduate major in college. Providing students with biology fundamentals, lab work and technology skills, the program has attracted a small, but dedicated group to CMU.

“You just prepare specimens to be able to study them,” Eichhorn said. “I would really like to work in forensics and examine crime scene data.”

Eichhorn explained that microscopy is a hands-on major, which makes it appealing to companies over more theory-based undergraduate programs. Large companies hire microscopy students to test the quality or functionality of their products.

“You can do anything from medicine to airplane windows,” she said.

When Eichhorn came to orientation as a freshman, the relatively unheard of major gave her the best career option in her eyes, making the decision all too easy.

She said CMU’s program helps students become attractive candidates for jobs after graduation due to the extensive biology background it requires, as well as all the hands-on experience with expensive equipment.

Eric Linton, associate professor of biology, asks that his students complete several projects, most of which require practice with various makes and models of microscopes.

“We direct them toward lab skills,” Linton said. “They have a whole long list of techniques, lab skills and equipment.”

Linton worked with Eichhorn during her time at CMU and said he was always satisfied with the level of work she provided when it came to microscopes.

“Students learn how to prepare the samples and use the microscopes,” Linton said. “She did a really nice job on that.”

Students can add being able to list each type of microscope and piece of equipment to their résumé, which not only increases the chances of getting hired, but also has the ability to eliminate the need for extra training on the job, Linton said.

Small major, hard work

As of fall 2013, there were 23 students signed as microscopy majors.

While she was a student, Eichhorn took advantage of the opportunities offered by the Microscopy Student Association, a registered student organization.

Casey Ten Brink, New Era junior and president of the RSO, exudes the same confidence when she talks about her future as a microscopy major.

“I can do anything from medical lab work to forensics work to agricultural,” Ten Brink said. “Microscopy is used a ton in forensics.”

Ten Brink, who hopes to secure a job with a police department in the Lansing area, helped organize an exhibit for the Charles V. Park Library to showcase the work of microscopy students in the form of microscope photographs. The Microscopy Student Association also gives students the opportunity to travel to conferences, and is hoping to install a résumé workshop this year as well.

Eichhorn, who is working with Career Services to begin her job search, said the education and guidance she received from CMU has been instrumental in preparing her for the job market.

“I spent an entire summer on Beaver Island researching zooplankton, and then looking at them under microscopes,” she said.


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