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Lunch and Learn: Journey to Embryologist

sung-tae-kim.jpgAs part of The Center for Reproductive Science’s Lunch and Learn series, Dr. Sung Tae Kim, PhD and IVF Lab Director at University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland, OH, introduced trainees to the field of embryology in his presentation entitled, “Journey to Embryologist: From School to IVF Lab.” Dr. Kim recounted his journey to becoming an IVF lab director, current requirements for becoming an embryologist, and advice to trainees who may be seriously considering this career path. 

Dr. Kim’s first steps toward embryology started during his education in South Korea, where he completed his undergraduate, master’s and PhD. Thereafter, he began accumulating laboratory experience and rising through the ranks starting as junior embryologist, then to mid-level embryologist, and senior embryologist. Years later, Dr. Kim found himself travelling halfway around the world at Vanderbilt University for a post-doctoral position in reproductive and developmental biology. At present, in addition to his duties at the fertility center, he serves as an Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where his research efforts tackle a wide range of fertility related questions.

In his talk Dr. Kim summarized many relevant criteria and career statistics. He noted that most people enter the field at the trainee level where they learn the basics of semen analysis and freezing. Entering their second year, individuals may be promoted to junior embryologist and can assist in surgical sperm extraction and egg retrieval. Each subsequent year adds more responsibilities, technical experience and techniques, and pay increases. Senior scientists with 5+ years of experience can find themselves making close to $90-100k per year depending on the practice. Most embryologists feel a high level of job security and job satisfaction; though, many individuals also report a medium to high stress level and trends show a higher-than-average turnover rate for scientists within the first three years. Due to exponential growth of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies field within the last few years entry level embryologists are in high demand. 

First year MS-RSM student Paige Naples, who hopes to pursue a career in embryology, says she found that the conversation was helpful and offered a lot of insights and new information that she had never heard before. She appreciates coming away with advice on “how to start and get a job” and “how I should be documenting my progress.”