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Opportunities to Celebrate Postdocs during National Postdoc Appreciation Week
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Shakira Nelson, Jennifer Aumiller, Catherine Brooks Zander

 

National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW) is an important event that recognizes postdoctoral scholars and their contributions to research and discovery. NPAW is a wonderful way to let postdocs know that they are valued and recognized at their institution. Institutions across the United States—and beyond—are organizing events for this year’s celebration September 18-22, 2017.

 

At the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the postdoctoral office (PDO) focuses on regularly displaying how important each postdoc is. During NPAW, the PDO uses this opportunity to attract more stakeholders around campus to become involved, either through supporting scheduled NPAW activities or helping to plan new ones. NPAW also helps to spread more awareness about the importance of the postdocs at the institution. Most importantly, collaborating closely with the postdoctoral association (PDA) to create robust activities during NPAW is essential.

 

At the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the PDA and PDO collaborate to organize NPAW activities. UAB NPAW goals focus on fostering a community between the postdocs, their mentors, their peers, and the university. There is tremendous support across campus. At UAB, a diverse group of postdocs represent the gambit of family situations; socials after work hours are difficult for those with children and other personal obligations to attend. Because of the attention that the university pays to NPAW, many postdocs take part in events, which are both social and skill oriented. Similar to the University of Maryland, NPAW at UAB is the best opportunity to reach out, connect with, and advise postdocs.

 

Cultural consideration in celebrating NPAW

 

This year, the last half of NPAW overlaps with Rosh Hashanah. This may affect the ability of some to attend NPAW events held September 20-22, 2017. NPAW events are intended to support and show appreciate for postdocs around the country and the world. Ultimately, the specific dates of NPAW events are not as important as the events themselves. Organizations can and are encouraged to plan events for dates that work best for their postdocs' schedules. Events need not happen September 18-22 to celebrate the intent of NPAW!

 

UAB has several types of programs during NPAW. These include preparing postdocs for the next career step and programs that allow postdocs to discuss their achievements outside of their fellowships. These two programs have proven essential to professional growth, while highlighting those who have taken career steps outside of the traditional path. Arguably the most popular events are more social and group focused programs. Examples of activities include providing breakfast outside of the buildings, offering postdocs a chance to grab a bagel, coffee, or doughnut on their way in. For postdocs with kids, zoo days, pizza parties, and game nights have been planned. There have also been postdoc awards lunches, with two groups of lighthearted awards: those nominated by peers and those nominated by mentors. Among these awards are the Community Minded Award, the Doctor Congeniality Award, and The Dory Award. Uniquely, UAB held a formal prom in 2016, where postdocs dressed in gowns and suits and had silly photo sessions with props, as well as a DJ and drinks named for famous scientists.

 

The activities described above are just a few of the fantastic opportunities institutions that are looking to start NPAW activities on campus or for new ideas can use. The NPA offers fantastic resources for PDOs and PDAs, including the NPAW toolkit. In this, the NPA offers ideas for events and marketing, access to flyers, and much more. The NPA website also lists past events that other institutions have reported, another great resource to utilize.

 

These resources are provided to help all those who are interested in celebrating NPAW, from those who have celebrated for several years and have existing programs, to those who are starting out and would like to bring NPAW to their campuses. NPAW is a great opportunity for PDOs and PDAs to promote community, showcase their programs, and to assist others in their planning for future years. 

 

Don’t forget to share your institution’s NPAW events with NPA! Send us your 2017 event information, and we’ll add it to the growing list of events on the NPA website.

 

Shakira Nelson, PhD, is a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, and co-chair of the NPA Outreach Committee.

 

Jennifer Aumiller, MEd, is the director of the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars and Career and Professional Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and co-chair of the NPA Outreach Committee.

 

Catherine Brooks Zander, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Laboratory Medicine, and vice-chair of the NPA Outreach Committee.

 

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