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2018 Annual Conference - Friday Sessions
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Friday, April 6


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Please note the following intended audience abbreviations: IP - individual postdoctoral scholar; PDA - postdoctoral association; PDO - postdoctoral office; ASSOC – association & societies; INDUS - industry; ALL - for everyone.


Collaboration and Cooperation: A Holistic Approach to Postdoctoral Training

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO


PRESENTER: Sudha Krishnamurthy, Ph.D., Program Director, Office of Postdoctoral and Graduate Student Affairs, Gladstone Institutes


Currently, the United States has one of the stronger postdoc training infrastructures than a number of other countries. Today’s research however requires people with varied training, knowledge expertise and diverse backgrounds to work cohesively towards different careers. We at Gladstone Institutes approach the training of our postdocs more holistically. Collaborating across different platforms and expertise areas, we have partnered effectively to provide our trainees to experience being a mentor, science communicator, editor, entrepreneur, granstman, outreach and educators. In addition, a vested faculty, partners in the University of California (UC) system and the NPA have made it a rewarding experience to establish these programs. This has resulted in the development of a curriculum of programs to effectively prepare postdocs for various careers and additional skills in their current roles. Our strategy has been to build a milestone curriculum around the NPA’s Core Competencies that enhances our postdocs’ research skills, career development, and professional skills while addressing specific issues of early-, mid-, and late-career trainees. Postdocs participate in a curriculum of workshops, panel discussions, seminars, and networking opportunities designed to advance lab management skills, grantsmanship, writing and communication, teaching, individual development plans, academic and industry career exploration, as well as work/life and cultural considerations. We are currently validating this approach with incoming, and current postdocs by enabling them to choose their own customizable postdoctoral training program (PTP). Our ultimate goal is to develop an adaptable web interface so that each incoming postdoc could customize, revise, and develop their own PTP. Our hope is that every institution would eventually adapt this tool for their postdoctoral trainees to enable a more thoughtful and holistic approach to training.


Developing and Implementing an Online Standardized Postdoc Appointment Management System

Sponsored by Moffitt Cancer Center

Intended Audience: PDO


PRESENTERS: Clare McCabe, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Vanderbilt University; Irene Mckirgan, M.S.M., Assistant Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Vanderbilt University


Effectively identifying, managing and tracking an institution’s postdoc population can be challenging and daunting. Contributing factors include inconsistent appointment processes among departments and schools, lack of training among staff and faculty, different postdoc titles, compensation benefits, and eligibility requirements. The transitional nature of a postdoc position is unique and does not typically fit within most institution’s existing structures and policies. As a result, a range of disparities can exist resulting in a significant impact on a postdoc’’s experience and outcomes in an institution.  In fall 2016, Vanderbilt created the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) to provide operational oversight for all postdoctoral scholars, fellows and trainees as well as faculty and staff administrators who work with the postdoc population. One year after the creation of the OPA, a standardized process and web-based program for managing postdoc appointments and reappointments was launched. This initiative also addressed a range of important issues relevant and integral to appointing and managing postdocs, such as establishing unified benefits, policies and requirements. Pilot-tested in two schools, the final product launched was a result of a year-long planning and development phase involving faculty, staff and postdocs from ten schools and colleges working together to develop standard components while recognizing the unique features of schools and disciplines.


Diversity 101: Why Should we Care, the Role of Implicit Bias and Privilege, and What are Some of the Solutions

Intended Audience: ALL


PRESENTER: J. Marcela Hernandez, Ph.D., Administrative Director,  Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, The Ohio State University


Corporations, nonprofits, and governmental organizations as well as colleges and universities value and want a diverse workforce. As a prospective employee you will be asked about ways in which you support diversity regardless of whether or not you belong to an underrepresented group. Therefore, they also will look positively upon job applicants that have training in this area. This workshop will explore why diversity is important and will familiarize participants with the concepts of implicit bias and privilege. This is a great opportunity for participants to start training in this very important area of professional development. They will understand some of the challenges and the possible solutions, and how they can help to address the problem of underrepresentation.


Engaging Faculty to Advance Postdoctoral Career Success

Intended Audience: ASSOC, PDO


PRESENTERS: Nisha A. Cavanaugh, Ph.D., Manager, Postdoctoral & Academic Programs, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute; Bruce H. Mandt, Ph.D., Director, Postdoctoral Office, Career Development Office, University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus


The need to provide postdocs broad-based career readiness training is now widely recognized. Professional societies (e.g., the NPA), funding agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health Broadening Experience in Scientific Training programs), and individual institutions advocate for, support, and implement a myriad of career development programs. Although many postdocs recognize the need for, and benefits of, this additional training, their active participation in career development programs often remains a challenge. Many factors can affect postdocs’ participation, but one of the most significant among them is faculty mentor support. Faculty mentor support is even more critical for international postdocs who also have visa considerations. As such, gaining faculty support becomes essential for career development programs to successfully achieve their ultimate goal of augmenting the training of tomorrow’s career scientists. By promoting a conversation around faculty engagement, this workshop aims to 1) increase consideration of the important role that faculty members play in the success of postdoctoral career development programs; 2) heighten awareness of how the role of “mentors” and the apprenticeship model has changed over time; 3) discuss how to be responsive to faculty; and 4) compile faculty engagement strategies that can be applied at attendees’ home institutions. To accomplish these objectives, this workshop will involve brief presentations, small group work, and large group discussions. The strategies that come out of this workshop will help PDOs and administrators more effectively serve their local postdoctoral communities, and hopefully, will help promote the discussion of faculty engagement on the national level.


Getting Involved in National Associations and How It Can Help You and Your Institute

Intended Audience: ASSOC, IP


PRESENTERS: Annita Achilleos, Ph.D., Research Associate, Baylor College of Medicine; Jennifer McBride, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine; William Muñoz, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, Stowers Institute for Medical Research


National associations are developing new resources for career development and outreach at an astonishing rate while still maintaining their prior roles for advocacy and the advancement of their respective fields. These expanded roles must fulfill the needs of the association members to ensure their competitiveness. Postdocs can ensure their needs are met by active participation in their national associations’ committees, outreach, and networking at the association’s conferences. This participation provides opportunities for postdocs to gain valuable leadership, networking, and management skills on an international scale. Despite these obvious advantages for postdocs it can still prove difficult to achieve a large breadth of participants serving the association. This session will focus on how various national associations have successfully integrated postdocs into their organizing, planning, and outreach committees, while also providing a forum for discussion on new ideas to further postdoc involvement. We will also highlight the advantages that more direct lines of communication with associations can provide to people in their early career and their institute.


Industry Postdoctoral Council

Intended Audience: IP


PRESENTERS: Stephanie K. Eberle, M.Ed., Director, BioSci Careers, Stanford University, Vice Chair, Board of Directors, NPA; Julie Fabsik-Swarts, M.S., CFRE, CAP, Executive Director, NPA; Josh Henkin, Ph.D., Founder, STEM Career Services, Treasurer, Board of Directors, NPA


The newly created Industry Postdoctoral Council invites individuals who work for or with a postdoctoral program in a for-profit company to attend a group meeting. Agenda items include 1) ways that the Industry Council will function within the NPA; 2) resources needed for Industry Council postdocs and PDOs; and 3) professional development track for Industry postdocs at the 2019 Annual Conference.

Building Startups: You Too Can be an Entrepreneur

Intended Audience: IP, INDUS


PRESENTERS: Jun Axup, Ph.D., Scientific Director and Partner, IndieBio


Dreaming about starting your own company? With the lowering cost of development and increasing amount of resources, entrepreneurship is now more accessible than ever. Through startups, graduate students and postdocs around the world are taking their careers into their own hands and solving problems they are passionate about. Come learn about how you can turn your idea from the bench into a product on the market and transition from scientist to entrepreneur.

Careers, Funding, and Mobility in a Global Research Landscape

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO

PRESENTERS: Viktoria Bodnarova, M.A., Regional Representative, EURAXESS North America; David J. Proctor, Ph.D., Board of Directors, International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICORSA); Sina Safayi, D.V.M., Ph.D., Assistant Director of Career Development, MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences


For many postdoctoral researchers, even those with an international background, research careers outside the United States or Canada remain terra incognita. How do other research systems compare to those in North America? How do I find and pursue opportunities in a foreign context? What resources are available to help me explore, plan, and undertake a move overseas? What are the most important issues to consider when planning this move? While planning an overseas move can be daunting, such careers offer unique and rewarding opportunities that  can boost careers and enhance research outcomes. In addition, global opportunities are a path to funding or structural support for many research endeavors within the United States, and collaborative research with international researchers and institutions can be an enriching professional and personal experience. This discussion-focused workshop seeks to answer questions and offer advice on how to prepare for success outside the U.S. research ecosystem - and identify global opportunities to enhance research within the United States - by drawing on the lived experiences of internationally mobile researchers and their domestic and international careers. The audience will be strongly encouraged to contribute their own insights into international opportunities.

Marketing Yourself Online in Today's Employment Market & Job Search

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO

PRESENTER: Eric Vaughn, M.Ed., Life Sciences Career Coach, University of Rochester Medical Center


Do you want more employers to notice you? How do you currently promote yourself? The world of seeking employment opportunities has changed dramatically over the last ten years. Having just a CV and/or resume is not enough in today's competitive employment market. Developing your online marketing strategy is key to assisting you in getting the word out about your brand and what you can offer a company or organization. This interactive workshop will examine different ways of promoting yourself online to organizations, hiring managers, recruiters, etc. Participants will learn about all the current functions available through LinkedIn and how to make your profile stand out and allow for potential new contacts from those recruiting for talent. We will also examine the importance of utilizing online media including Twitter, blogs, and personal websites. Participants are encouraged to bring a mobile device to the presentation (smartphone, tablet or laptop).

Supporting the Needs of Postdocs: Highlights and Best Practices from 2017 NPA Institutional Policy Report

Intended Audience: ALL

PRESENTERS: Tracy Costello, Ph.D., Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Moffitt Cancer Center, Chair, Board of Directors, NPA; Kryste Ferguson, M.Ed., Manager of Membership & Special Projects, NPA

Moderator: Mary Anne Timmins, M.Ed., Administrative Director, Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs, University of Pennsylvania


The data from the NPA’s latest publication, Supporting the Needs of Postdocs, provides a snapshot of where PDOs are today as well as information about postdoc policies at their institutions. This session will provide highlights from the published data as well report on additional analyses investigating the impact of how measurable factors (such as the number of postdocs at an institution) play a role in the depth of postdoc policies, benefits, and training programs that an institution may offer. We will highlight some best practices by selected institutions in these different areas and provide comparisons between the 2013 and 2016 NPA Institutional Policy Survey data where possible. We seek to host an engaging Q&A session on this unique dataset and look forward to community input to improve the next survey.

Why and How to Tell Your Science Story

Intended Audience: ALL

PRESENTERS: Mallory Fix, M.S.Ed, TESOL, Applied Linguist, Founder, language connectED; Rebecca Toner, M.A.Ed., TESOL, Applied Linguist, Chief Learning Officer, language connectED


The job market is a scary one for postdocs: not enough research positions, not enough teaching positions, not enough funding in general. One way to attract future employers or grant funders is to tell your research story. What is it that you DO? How can you make a general audience understand the importance of your work? In this workshop, participants will explore techniques in storytelling in order to gain the attention of diverse audiences. No matter the platform for communication - in the lab, at a conference, in the classroom - researchers must be able to tell their story in a clear and effective manner. As the audience further understands the science, they also become more excited by it and interested in learning more. Clear and effective communication can open many doors for researchers. By inviting audience members to understand the importance of and increase their own interest in a new field of science, researchers could be invited to do more talks or even inspire that potential funder. Telling a story is the first way to grab the attention of any audience. Participants will (1) identify the benefits of telling a story to explain their research; (2) analyze features of effective stories; (3) complete a four-step “tell your science story” outline and practice telling stories in small groups; (4) address storytelling challenges that may arise for non-native English speakers; and (5) brainstorm ways to implement similar postdocs at their institutions.


Postdoc Session: Conversations That Result in People Wanting to Build Professional Relationships With You - A Musical Fairytale of How a Postdoc “Networks” to Achieve the Perfect Job

FACILITATORS: Mary Mitchell, President, The Mitchell Organization; Josh Henkin, Ph.D., Career Counselor/Founder, STEM Career Services, Treasurer, Board of Directors, NPA


Join us for a story about how a postdoc learns to network for his or her first job outside of academia. This “fairytale” will instruct and amuse all comers. You will leave the workshop with concrete skills and tools to confidently network for jobs and and enhance your professional career growth through relationship development.

As postdocs enter a new organization and seek to meet new people or to build relationships to expand their professional network, they’re inevitably asked one question: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” The traditional “elevator pitch”—a 30-60 second introduction about oneself—is commonly practiced, memorized and delivered to initiate this conversation. But what happens next?

The follow-on conversation is an organic discussion between two or more individuals that can heavily influence the outcome of a relationship, a business deal or a future interaction. This conversation cannot be rehearsed like the introductory elevator pitch. It needs to be customized to the person(s) you are speaking with in a way that lets them see your authenticity and easily glean the features and benefits of you, the speaker. In a very short time, you must be able to quickly establish a relationship with a new person and show them why it’s important to remain connected to you. Once this occurs, this new contact will want to include you in their network and help you achieve the outcomes you desire. The session will wrap up with a recap of relationship building tools and a discussion of suggestions to follow up with new contacts.


myPDO Session: Career Planning for Us

FACILITATORS: Lori Conlan, Ph.D., Director, Office of Postdoctoral Services and Career Services Center, Office of Intramural Training and Education, National Institutes of Health


As postdoc administrators we focus on the careers of our trainees, and may lose sight of our own goals to grow our own careers. In fact, over many NPA meetings, many of us who manage postdoc offices have asked, “What’s next…or will I be running a postdoc office forever?” We have interviewed PDO alumni to understand what skills are necessary if you want to: a) grow your current role, b) move within your institution, or c) forge a new career path. This session will provide an understanding of how we can expand our own skills, interests and values to enhance our jobs.

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