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2015 Annual Meeting - Innovation in Action Sessions
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Saturday, March 14

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Innovation in Action sessions

Advocating for Postdocs: Strategies for Involvement at the Local and National Level

During this session, participants will learn how to serve as effective advocates for the postdoc community at both the institutional and national level. Using the Midwest Academy Strategy chart, participants will develop advocacy plans for four key issues affecting the postdoctoral community, ranging from postdoc stipends to building the business case for the establishment of a postdoc association. These plans will determine the goals - short and long-term - for an advocacy campaign; recognize organizational and resource considerations; identify constituents, allies and opponents; establish targets; and discuss tactics for achieving goals. Participants will also learn about the NPA Advocacy Committee and how they can contribute to its ongoing efforts.

Moderators: Tracy Costello, Ph.D., Vice Chair, Advocacy Committee, NPA, MD Anderson Cancer Center; Juliet Moncaster, Ph.D., Chair, Advocacy Committee, NPA, Boston University School of Medicine; Christopher L. Pickett, Ph.D., Policy Analyst, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Yvette Seger, Ph.D., Director of Science Policy, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), Vice Chair, Board of Directors, National Postdoctoral Association; Jennifer Zeitzer, B.A., Deputy Director, Office of Public Affairs and Director of Legislative Relations, FASEB

Engaging with Professional Societies to Meet the Diverse Needs of Today’s Postdocs

As a distinctive type of transitioning early career researcher, postdocs have unique needs, and discipline-specific professional societies are great resources for helping postdocs meet those needs. Professional societies can help postdocs engage in science at the national and international level; gain teaching, policy, and administration skills necessary for the next steps in their career; further their career development; and discover career options inside and outside academia.

To begin this session, the facilitators will briefly review resources, opportunities, and programs offered by professional societies to help postdocs make the next career step, including “non-traditional” postdoctoral scholarships. For the remainder of the session, society representatives will facilitate small group discussions that will ultimately help societies improve resources, opportunities, and programs for postdocs. The goal of this session is for postdocs and postdoc associations to brainstorm resources, opportunities, and programs that societies generally do not offer, but are necessary to meet the diverse needs of today’s postdocs. In addition, to ensure beneficial experiences, societies want to hear some of the key characteristics of programs and opportunities (offered by any society) that are helpful to postdocs. The ideas and recommendations that emerge from this workshop will be shared with the NPA and other professional societies so that the needs of postdocs can be broadly communicated.

Moderators: Anne Deschamps, Ph.D., Senior Science Policy Analyst, Office of Public Affairs, FASEB; Rachel Horak, Ph.D., Education Fellow, American Society for Microbiology; Melinda Lowy, M.S., Senior Program Manager, Higher Education Programs, American Physiological Society; Cynthia Simpson, M.Ed, C.A.E, Chief Business Officer, Association of Women in Science

The Future of Research: How Postdocs Can Lend Their Voice to the Scientific Endeavour

The landscape of scientific research and funding is in flux, affected by tight budgets, evolving models of both publishing and evaluation, and questions about training and workforce stability. As future leaders, postdoctoral researchers are uniquely poised to shape the culture and practice of science in response to these challenges.

Local cooperation between PDAs in the Boston area has been facilitated by the development of the Boston Pan-PDA Council, which includes postdoctoral researchers from institutions in the Boston area and meets regularly. From this a group of postdocs in the Boston area invested in improving the scientific endeavor organized a meeting aimed at giving a voice in response to recent concerns voiced by senior academics, particularly about the future of biomedical research in the United States.

The Future of Research symposium ( was held in Boston University on October 2 – 3, 2014. The aim of this symposium was to give voice to graduate students and postdocs in the ongoing dialog about policies that shape the scientific establishment, as well as the opportunity to discuss these issues with concerned senior academics. In particular, four postdoc-moderated workshops were held, focused on training, workforce stability, funding structure, and the metrics and incentives in place in the research system. The recommendations from this meeting are reported in a recent paper (

In this session, we will adapt the methods used in the original workshop to prioritize the proposed solutions. We will also seek to identify actionable steps for individual postdocs, PDAs, PDOs, other administrators, and professional societies to take in enacting these and other solutions. As such, we welcome participation from all stakeholders.

Moderators: Kearney Gunsalus, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University; Kristin Krukenberg, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School; Gary McDowell, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar, Tufts University; Jessica Polka, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School

I'm So Much More Than Just a Researcher

The general job description for a postdoctoral fellow is a recipient of a doctoral degree who enhances their research and professional skills through a temporary period of mentored research or training. Most postdoctoral experiences are 100 percent research-focused. A recent decreasing trend in science funding and increased rate of earned doctoral degrees, competitiveness is increasing for any career option. How does a postdoc become a unique, strong and well-rounded job candidate? Ideally, postdocs should also be acquiring general skills in the areas of mentoring, management, writing, advising, service, communication, and teaching that can be applicable to any career. To attain these skills, a postdoc must be looking for development opportunities, willing to participate in them, and able to communicate their interests and developmental needs with their principal investigator (PI) or faculty supervisor.

This session will discuss how to make a postdoctoral experience more than just research. Just a few of the questions to be addressed and strategies to be discussed are:

• How to effectively communicate with PIs about developing skills not focused on research.
• Identifying options generally found in a university or national lab setting to do this (or how to create additional opportunities).
• Identifying options generally found in a non-university setting.
• Advantages and liabilities of underrepresented minority populations.
• How to balance being a leader/role model without spreading yourself too thin.
• Searching for and acquiring independent funding sources.

Moderators: Jennifer Aumiller, M.Ed., Director, Career Development and Alumni Relations, School of Medicine, University of Maryland; Joslynn S. Lee, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate, University of Minnesota Medical School - Duluth

Establishing an Institutional Mentoring Program for Postdocs

The importance of mentoring to successful career growth is widely recognized. Many organizations may wish to establish mentoring programs for postdocs, but may not know where to begin. For a program to take hold at the institutional level, there are certain considerations to address. In this interactive session, attendees will address such topics as establishing needs, identifying key stakeholders, getting "buy-in" at the right levels, establishing program guidelines and meeting the needs of both postdocs and their mentors.

Moderators: Kristene “Tina” Henne, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Program Lead, Argonne National Laboratory, Board of Directors, NPA; Giselle Sandi, Ph.D., Director, Research and Teaching Mentoring Programs at Rush University Medical Center, Board of Directors, NPA

Developing strategies to implement a STEM outreach program in your PDA

The vast majority of the jobs of tomorrow will require individuals that are knowledgeable in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), yet the United States is not currently equipped to meet this demand. Students who are most likely to major in STEM fields and continue on to earn college degrees are those whose curiosity about STEM careers is piqued at an early age. At the K–12 level, student interest in STEM can be enhanced through hands-on learning activities, projects with real life context and relevance, and being in contact with role models and mentors who are working in these fields. However, the majority of students do not know anyone working in STEM, nor do they understand what people in these fields do. Many scientists and universities have recognized the need for these students to be exposed to STEM careers, and postdocs can serve as potential mentors to these students if given the opportunity through a STEM program at their institution.

During this workshop, participants will learn how to develop a STEM outreach pilot program for K-12 level students.  This will include (1) defining their K-12 student audience, (2) drafting a viable curriculum plan and (3) identifying funding sources and institutional support for the project. Further, this session aims to not only discuss ways that postdocs can become involved in K-12 STEM outreach at their home institutions, but also how to transition volunteer opportunities in this area into a viable career path. 

Moderators: Tullia C. Bruno, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Immunology and Microbiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine; Kimberly X. Mulligan, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach

Conflict Prevention and Resolution Strategies

During this session, participants will identify various sources of conflict and the specific issues that postdocs face relative to the rest of the university/lab workforce. Participants will then learn about and share various strategies, programs, and policies for preventing conflict and resolving conflict when it arises including seminars, grievance policies, peer mentoring, ombudsmen, and communication techniques. Participants will also hear about the departmental and institutional allies and co-sponsoring that may help in preventing conflict as well as resources available through the NPA.

Moderators: A-J Aronstein, Associate Director of Graduate Career Development and Employer Relations, University of Chicago; Daina Ringus, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, University of Chicago; Michael Tessel, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Graduate Career Development, University of Chicago; Toby Treem Guerin, J.D., Managing Director Center for Dispute Resolution, Clinical Law Instructor, Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland

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