|The POSTDOCket, March 2019|
by Samantha Black
It is an exciting time to be a part of the NPA as it enters a new era with the launch of its completely redesigned website! The new website is set to launch on March 14, and will be unveiled at the 2019 NPA Annual Conference on Friday, April 12.
Our new clean design is chosen to appeal to our membership by making navigation intuitive and redundant. This organizational initiative represents systemic changes to better serve our members by using a member-centric model and improved resources.
Serving Two types of Membership
At the NPA, we have two types of memberships that are the life force of our organization. Therefore, we have completely redesigned our website to streamline and customize the experience for our members.
The first central hub of information is for postdoctoral scholars. Here users will find personalized information and resources tailored to their specific needs. For postdoctoral scholars, including current postdocs and prospective postdocs, there are tools and materials to help them navigate their early career progression. These tools range from finding a mentor to career development guides.
The second central hub of information is for organizations. On the organizational side of the website, there are instructional guides and resources for administrators that help support postdocs within all sectors of the U.S. research enterprise. As the NPA grows, we recognize that many types of organizations support postdocs including academia, federal entities, industry, and professional societies. One of the most exciting aspects of the new website is that as we expand, we will publish materials that specifically apply to each of these member organizations.
Special Features on the Website
The new website will also highlight both historical and current published research conducted by the NPA on behalf of the postdoctoral community, to provide guidance for its members. This research can help prospective postdocs compare prospective institutions or give current postdocs insights into the policies and practices of their institutions. In addition, this research may be used by institutions to implement policies and practices that support postdocs.
The growing NPA Career Center will continue to be a valuable tool for both postdocs and employers looking to hire postdocs or early-career scientists. The specialty niche of postdocs can be difficult for employers to reach, but the NPA site places qualified and diverse potential employees directly into their hands.
On the new website, each committee of the organization (Advocacy, Outreach, Meetings, and Resource Development Committees, The POSTDOCket, and Diversity and International Officers) will have their own landing page full of useful information pertaining to their focus area within the postdoctoral community. These pages highlight the work of volunteers within the organization and showcase how the NPA works toward its mission of improving the postdoctoral experience through advocacy, education, resource development, and community building.
Lastly, we have completely redesigned our membership resources to make it easier than ever to become a member. If you are already a member, we invite you to share the new website with colleagues and anyone interested in supporting postdocs. Moreover, if you are coming to the NPA for the first time, take some time to explore our new website. If you like what you see, please visit our Join page to join as a postdoc or an organization.
We look forward to having you on our new website. See you then!
Samantha Black, PhD, is a program associate at the NPA.
Many Lessons Learned from Mentoring the Right Way: A Profile of the 2019 NPA Garnett-Powers & Associates Mentor Award Recipient, Edward L. Krug
by Tomas Aparicio
Scientists who have prioritized mentorship over the years can make a significant difference. Such is the case of Edward L. Krug, PhD, a professor in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Krug is the recipient of this year’s NPA Garnett-Powers & Associates Mentor Award, which will be presented at the 17th NPA Annual Conference.
A Mentorship Team is Fundamental to Career Progression
There is no doubt mentoring is essential for career development. Every successful professional has had at least one inspiring mentor during their career that guided him or her toward their chosen profession. Large organizations and businesses also recognize the importance of mentorship for professional growth of their employees. They sponsor career development activities that range from informal “coffee talks” to formal, structured mentoring programs. These gatherings connect senior and junior peers seeking to develop long-lasting personal relationships. Academia is no exception. Postdoctoral scholars are mentored by their advisors and through activities hosted by postdoctoral affairs offices and associations at their respective universities and research institutions.
Nevertheless, developing interpersonal relationships with senior scientists is not often highlighted as a priority during postdoctoral training. In these cases, scientists who have prioritized mentorship over the years can make a significant difference. Such is the case of Edward L. Krug, PhD, a professor in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Krug is the recipient of this year’s NPA Garnett-Powers & Associates Mentor Award, which will be presented at the 17th NPA Annual Conference.
Advising Others is not Only a Job, but Also a Rewarding Experience
For Krug, being awarded a prize for mentoring feels odd. He considers mentoring his job. In his own words, “It's just what I do. I know so many other people that do so much. It makes you really feel humbled to be singled out.”
With a long career as a principal investigator (PI), Krug over the years has become more interested in professionally developing postdocs outside of the lab. He promoted the establishment of MUSC’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs 14 years ago, where he is today the associate dean for the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Over his career, Krug acknowledges he had several role models that helped him to grow into the scientist and mentor he is today. He even considers his co-workers as mentors in some regards.
Krug dedicates his time to research activities through collaborations with other faculty and running career development programs at MUSC’s postdoctoral affairs office. This allows him to stay current both in science and in the challenges that postdocs and junior faculty face in their careers. His commitment to the advancement of postdoctoral scholars goes beyond administrative and research-related duties. He also is faculty advisor to MUSC’s postdoctoral association and regularly writes articles on career development for the MUSC PDA’s newsletter. When asked what he gets from mentoring others, his response is clear. Krug says, it is “personal satisfaction and the sense of contributing to the advancement of science on a breadth much wider than could be achieved by my own research.”
Developing as a Scientist is Entwined with Research Integrity Training
Krug spends most of his day interacting with postdocs, graduate students and faculty. He counsels them on challenges they face in their research and moving their careers forward. As the research integrity officer for the university, Krug also teaches research compliance and ethics. For Krug, thorough training in research integrity should be a must-have in any research program.
At MUSC all postdocs are required to attend a two-day retreat on research ethics. At this retreat, postdocs are taught responsible research practices and other valuable skills such as professionalism, networking, interpersonal communication, and conflict resolution. Krug advocates for in-person training to prevent misconduct practices. He adds, “if you know how to develop your career ethically, you're less likely to do something irresponsible and get in trouble.” Krug’s structured approach for handling conflict situations involve effective conversations, the use of moral reasoning and a thorough analysis of all the parameters that might impact the successful resolution of the dilemma. This is actually what a good scientist would do for a well-designed experiment.
Mentoring Empowers Independence and Better-Informed Career Choices
For Krug mentoring students and postdocs is about empowering the mentee to be autonomous in the future. He defines a good mentor as one who can listen objectively and get the mentee past his or her emotions in order to get to the issues impeding progress. Good mentors are good conversationalists and have enough learning experiences to give some context to the variety of ways a person can perceive a specific topic or issue.
Krug points out that the pressures on researchers in academic environments, as well as potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment, can have a significant negative impact on the mentoring relationship. According to Krug, "it is critical to have mentors outside of your research area to help address such situations. They're more likely to give you reliable independent advice.”
In Krug's opinion, the increasing pressure placed on PIs is a major hurdle at academic institutions preventing effective mentoring. With rising competition, PIs that run active labs have less time to dedicate to chatting with postdocs. Krug mentions that in the past “coffee mentoring,” or the informal mingling of faculty and postdocs to talk about career options, was more common. Nowadays mentoring seems to take place during PIs personal time. Krug says, “the amount of time that a PI has to be available as a mentor is really under the gun.”
Experiences in running a research lab full time for 25 years and then serving as a manager for career development programs have taught Krug many lessons. Krug offers this piece of advice to new postdocs and graduate students: develop a career plan, the earlier the better, but also increase your “perception of opportunities.” To this end, Krug suggests finding mentors outside of where you typically work so they can help you explore the full breadth of your skills set. “Discussing what you value or is important to you, and where you can contribute most to society and to your career development will help you make better decisions on your next career steps.”
Tomas Aparicio, PhD, is an associate research scientist at Columbia University Institute for Cancer Genetics, New York, NY.
2019 Distinguished Service Award Recipient, Mary Anne With: The Heart and Soul of Los Alamos National Laboratories
By Simone Otto
The NPA is proud to announce the 2019 Distinguished Service Award Recipient, Mary Anne With, program manager of the Postdoctoral Program at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). With has been a member of the NPA since its establishment in 2003, and in 28 years of service has influenced the careers of over 10,000 postdocs. NPA will present With with the award at the 2019 Annual Conference.
With is being honored for her pioneering changes to the LANL postdoctoral program, her positive influence on the postdoctoral experience at a local and national level, her advocacy for and contribution to the professional development of the LANL postdoctoral scholars, and the many opportunities she has helped create for postdoc research and career advancement.
Strong Work Ethics at the Core of LANL’s Postdoctoral Program
For With, there cannot be enough hours in the day. She acquired her strong work ethic from her father, who was her inspiration. He was a self-made businessman and the breadwinner of his family from a very young age. From him, she says she learned that “in order to achieve you have to work hard and never expect things to be given to you.”
With has worked hard from the day she joined the postdoc program at LANL in 1991. At that time, the program was located in the Human Resources Division. She knew she could do more for the postdocs and advocate for more change if her department was moved to a science based organization. This was the first of many important changes to come.
By positioning the postdoctoral program this way, With leads the postdoctoral committee and its rigorous review process that guides the selection of the best and brightest postdoc candidates to join the over 400 postdocs working at LANL, and from here she can begin the work of advocating for postdocs before they even meet her.
Through her constant hard work, With has brought many pioneering programs to LANL. Blas Pedro Uberuaga, PhD, a scientist at LANL and former chair of the laboratory’s postdoctoral review committee, said, “If I could characterize the postdoc program at LANL in one word, it would be dynamic. Mary Anne is never willing to coast on past success.”
Taking a Chance on Caring: an Inspiration to Others
It is this willingness to take chances to move forward, combined with a strong personal caring for each individual postdoc that marks With as a true leader.
For instance, in 2006, noting the lack of communication and coordination between the national laboratories postdoctoral programs, she worked with the NPA to come up with ideas for a unified program. From these discussions, she established a national laboratory postdoctoral program forum for postdoc program coordinators from all of the DOE laboratories.
The members of this forum have put together a national lab resource guide, and share information on how to get an office or a program started. These exchanges have made With a national leader, often consulted about best practices.
But for With, the touching moments are when she receives letters from postdocs who have passed through LANL, talking about the impact she has had on their lives and families, and the important ways she helped them become connected to their local and scientific communities. Although there have been opportunities to move up throughout the years, she loves what she is doing and intends to go on helping postdocs as long as she is able.
This caring is appreciated by everyone around her. “Her encouragement and belief in my abilities has been a foundation I have turned to,” said Antonya Sanders, MBA, senior planning and program analyst at Aramco Services Company, who previously worked in the Postdoc Program Office. “Her knowledge of the program and the laboratory, along with her strong ethics to be helpful and do her best, were inspirational to me early in my career but also through the years.”
“What stands out the most to me is Mary Anne’s dedication to the postdocs themselves. She knows them all. She knows their science and she knows their interests outside of the lab,” said Uberuaga. He added, “She knows the postdoc program so well that she can recall important statistics in terms of program performance, gender diversity, and the types of science that are most represented.”
Dedicated and Thoughtful to Every Component of the Process.
This is how Sanders describes With. It is this deep knowledge and caring that has led her to be such a brilliant advocate for the postdocs at LANL. She feels honored to work among the talented postdocs that pass through her institution, and feels they deserve recognition. This caring is her motivation for initiatives that range from the career development offerings, such as CV writing, behavioral interviewing, and giving an effective seminar, to extraordinary, such as the Science in “3” initiative, in which the postdocs are challenged to sell their science in 3 minutes or less at a Scientific American level, with no questions, to a panel of external judges.
Realizing that not all postdocs would remain at the institute, she started an external career fair to provide LANL postdocs and students an opportunity to connect with companies and form networks and forge relationships that could strengthen their careers, including employment opportunities.
In addition to helping improve postdoc programs nationally through her establishment of the National Lab Postdoc Program Resource Guide, she also created an annual survey, program exit survey, and a program database to track extensive program demographics.
“At any and all opportunities,” Uberuaga adds, “Mary Anne will describe the great science that the postdocs are doing to anyone who will listen. She makes sure everyone is aware of the importance, breadth, and impact of the science that the lab’s postdoc population is engaged in. Through her hard work (it is amazing how responsive Mary Anne is, at all times of day, to even the most mundane of queries), she has built a program that is stands out in both its commitment to postdocs and the lab.”
Never Let There be Limitations
When asked if she had any advice she could share with others, With said, “Don’t limit yourself to the general description of the position you are seeking.” The program she started with is worlds away from the program as it exists today. This is due to her willingness to seek support when she saw the need for change, and to provide support when the postdocs at LANL sought to make changes.
Shadi Deyeh, PhD, a previous LANL distinguished Oppenheimer postdoc fellow and now principal investigator, Integrated Electronics and Biointerfaces Laboratory,UCSD, remembers, “When my colleagues and I proposed to start a postdoctoral research day to offer postdocs the opportunity to present their research at LANL on an annual basis, and to provide an environment for enhanced collaboration and technical discussions among postdocs, Mary Anne promptly lined up meetings with upper management, sought resources for supporting the initiative, and gave postdocs the opportunity to develop and lead the initiative – an excellent example being a leader that nurtures and multiplies the leadership in others.”
Under her leadership, a number of Distinguished and Named Fellow appointments have been established. These prestigious appointments are awarded thru a rigorous review process and approximately 40 are selected annually, including Director’s postdoc fellow appointments. . With recognizes talent, and will fight to get it the recognition it deserves, as demonstrated thru the creation of the Distinguished Performance Awards, Distinguished Mentor Awards, and multiple publication awards that grant recognition to the postdocs and mentors she works with at LANL.
But more than that, she knows each individual postdoc, as if they were family. Because they are that close, With tries every day to go beyond the expected—because she knows that hard work pays off in the end—and that is how she has made her mark. As Uberuaga said, “Mary Anne is one of those people that make an institution run. The Postdoc Program is an enormously vital part of work and life at LANL and that is a direct consequence of Mary Anne’s efforts.”
Simone Otto, PhD, is the editor in chief of The POSTDOCket, online monthly newsletter of the NPA. A former IRTA fellow at NIEHS, she is now a regulatory scientist at Camargo Pharmaceutical Services, LLC
By Claudia Späni, Lisa Boughner, Tullia Bruno
There is only one month left until the 17th NPA Annual Conference, taking place in Orlando, FL from April 12-14, 2019 at the Rosen Centre Hotel! We offer a wide variety of opportunities for networking and enhancing professional development and leadership skills. In this article, we would like to highlight a selection of the on-site workshops that will be offered for a wide range of participants.
Accelerate to Industry: Cross-functional Teamwork – A workshop for all participants
Laura Demarse, PhD, assistant dean for professional development at NC State University, and Chris Smith, PhD, postdoctoral affairs program manager at North Carolina State University will introduce the NC State Graduate School’s Accelerate to Industry (A2i)TM program. This new model for workforce development establishes several activities intended to enhance employment and career success of graduate students and postdocs. This workshop session will also include a hands on exercise to simulate interdisciplinary project work in a high-stress work environment. Participants will work in teams to execute the project deliverables requested by project leaders followed by a conversation to debrief on the participants’ perceptions, assumptions, and other features that impacted the progress of the project.
From Here to Independence: Design Thinking for Postdoctoral Development – PDO workshop
This workshop will share two different strategies on how to give postdocs tools to maximize their postdoctoral training and move toward an independent career. First, Bruce H. Mandt, PhD, director of the Postdoctoral & Career Development Office at the University of Colorado Denver-Anschutz Medical Campus will conduct a career exploration activity to help participants identify three potential career paths. In the second part of the workshop, Robin Colomb Sugiura, MA, associate director for programs & outreach, and Sofie R. Kleppner, PhD, associate dean for postdoctoral affairs will share their approach for career selection from Stanford University. Their curriculum is based on “Designing Your Life” by Burnett & Evans and uses a number of tools that push postdocs to query themselves as they design several potential training plans, which are ultimately discussed in small groups with institutional resources. A big thank you to the University of South Florida, which is sponsoring this workshop.
Imposter Syndrome: Confronting the Career Development ‘Monster’ Hiding Under the Bed – Postdoc workshop
Ericka M. Boone, PhD, director of the Division of Loan Repayment at the Office of Extramural Research at the NIH, will be talking about a very hot topic—imposter syndrome. Research is dominated by highly intelligent, driven people that live in fear of being “exposed as a fraud” because someone, somewhere will discover they’re not quite as smart or talented as they should be. This is impostor syndrome, which can negatively impact job performance and career development. This workshop will provide attendees empowering techniques on how to recognize impostor behaviors and confront the “impostor” hiding within.
This is just a small selection of more than 24 workshops that will be offered at this year’s dynamic conference. The full program of the conference, including keynote address and plenary speakers, can be found here. We hope to see you in Orlando!
Claudia Späni, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University and the meetings liaison on NPA Board of Directors; Lisa Boughner, PhD, is a program manager and engagement manager at Cheeky Scientist and the co-chair elect for the NPA Meetings Committee; Tullia Bruno, PhD, is a research assistant professor of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Center and is the strategic planning chair on the Board of Directors of the NPA.
By Claire Horner-Devine
The myth of the guru mentor.
One individual cannot provide all the mentoring support that another individual desires or needs. Let’s repeat that. No one person can serve as a sufficient mentor to meet a postdoctoral scholar’s every mentoring desire or need. In fact, there is no “single guru-mentor,” for anyone. An important role that postdoctoral supervisors, and PDO staff and faculty can play in the career development of their postdocs is to provide a framework for mentoring and empower postdocs to develop their own mentoring network comprised of multiple mentors.
This is especially important for postdocs belonging to systematically marginalized social identity groups (including but not limited to women, people of color, and individuals with disabilities) who are navigating an academic environment that was not built with them in mind and who often have less access to informal networks, a relatively high sense of isolation, and exacerbated feelings of loneliness that are common in academia. In what follows, we outline five important steps that postdoctoral supervisors and PDO staff and faculty can take to support their postdocs in getting the mentoring they need to thrive in their careers.
Center mentoring needs and desires on the mentee.
Step one: Help postdocs understand that they should put an end to their search for a guru mentor and instead develop a mentoring network.
A mentoring network made up of multiple mentors can serve postdocs well as they navigate the transition from graduate school to independent researcher and professional. Rather than creating a mentoring network based on the availability of particular potential mentors, an effective network is one centered on the mentees and on what kind of mentoring they want and need to excel in their career.
Step two: Engage postdocs in conversations around identifying their mentoring needs and desires.
Ask, “What do you want or need to thrive and be successful?” Don’t tell. Ask. Asking is a way to communicate your respect for all that they know about themselves and their careers and to empower them to take charge of their career development. These conversations can be effective in one-on-one formats as well as through personal reflection and small group discussions. Some common mentoring needs include professional development, sponsorship, intellectual community, and access to opportunities, among others (see figure). Additional needs might include emotional support, accountability, role modeling, honest feedback on ideas and writing, or access to a third space.
This counterspace, where you can be fully yourself—living and expressing your professional and social identities at the same time without question—can be especially important to postdocs from systematically marginalized groups. From critical race theory, counterspaces are supportive, identity-affirming community spaces, in which individuals belonging to systematically marginalized groups have their experiences and skills validated. Counterspaces can provide opportunities, as Macy Wilson, PhD, described, for women of color to talk “about how to survive and thrive in predominantly white and male spaces.” A recent study found that women have different networking needs than men, and that women with a tight female-dominated inner circle had a job placement level 2.5 times higher than those with a male-dominated inner circle. This close circle of women gave them access to “gender-specific private information and support.” While this study did not address race and ethnicity, it is possible to hypothesize similar findings for women of color.
Identify and develop a mentoring network.
Once postdocs have identified their mentoring need and desires, they are ready to identify their current and potential mentors.
Step three: Collaborate with postdocs to identify anyone in their lives who is already serving as a mentor, discuss which mentoring needs and desires are being met, and strategically assess who else they might add to their network to provide them with the broadest level of support.
Ask, “What is a strategic and intentional way to get the support you want?” Mentors can be located within a postdoc’s current institution as well as at other institutions or even outside of their field. And just as there is no single “guru-mentor,” there is no set model for who can be an effective mentor. While some mentoring needs can be met through relatively traditional hierarchical relationships or by more senior colleagues (for example, role models, sponsors and advocates), peer mentoring can be an important node in a mentoring network. Peers and near-peers can meet important mentoring needs including accountability, writing support, and problem solving. Friends and family can be also serve as mentors who offer emotional and social support as well as accountability.
Make it happen.
Step 4: Step into conversations with postdocs about how to initiate, develop, and sustain a rich variety of mentoring relationships.
Not all postdocs already know how to develop strong mentoring relationships, but all can benefit from discussing how to be strategic and intentional about initiating new relationships and nurturing existing relationships. Many, if not most, mentoring relationships do not develop formally—as in “Will you be my mentor.” However, when mentoring relationships develop organically, that development can still be strategic and intentional. For example Kerry Ann Rockquemore, PhD, from the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity wrote about how to maximize mentoring conversations and strongly suggested avoiding using the word “mentoring” or asking someone to be your mentor. A great step for those seeking mentorship is to dig into resources about what defines a good mentoring relationship and learn how others have benefited from a wide range of mentoring relationships.
Keep it going.
Step 5. Remind postdocs (kindly) that the need for multiple mentors never ends and that relationships change.
They must revisit their mentoring needs, desires, and network regularly as they navigate their careers. A PDO can institutionalize mentoring network checks through workshops, one-on-one conversations, and articles about the importance of upkeep to mentoring relationships and networks. If you are a faculty member supervising postdocs or work in a postdoctoral office, please join us for a workshop at the upcoming 2019 NPA Annual Meeting.
Claire Horner-Devine, PhD, is the founder of Counterspace Consulting and a co-director of four, federally funded, national programs (BRAINS, WEBS, LATTICE and WFAB) designed to accelerate and improve the career advancement of early-career researchers from underrepresented groups in STEM. She currently serves as one of the two Diversity Officers for the NPA. Horner-Devine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accelerate to Industry: A new Approach to Academic and Private Industry Collaboration to Improve the Career Readiness of Graduate Students and Postdocs
By Christopher Smith
The changing career landscape for graduate level scientists has led to a need to reform training and career preparedness for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. North Carolina State University’s Graduate School (representing ~10,000 graduate students and 400+ postdocs) undertook this challenge by building the Accelerate to Industry (A2i)™ program.
Laura Demarse, EdD., assistant dean of professional development and external relations, deems A2i an “educational imperative” to prepare trainees to be competitive in a 21st-century workforce.
“Our mission is to show NC State graduate students, postdocs, and alumni the wide range of available industry careers and to help them secure industry jobs. We also empower them to hit the ground running in the corporate environment by developing and demonstrating key competencies that are not usually learned through graduate training,” said Demarse.
Specifically, A2i seeks to establish several scalable interventions intended to:
Career Preparedness Depends on Collaborations between Academia and Industry
A2i activities are designed to increase trainee awareness of industry careers and “culture.” They also help them develop key competencies highly valued by industry including
The key to the A2i program is building partnerships with industry sponsors located within the Raleigh-Durham metro area and its renowned Research Triangle Park. These sponsors help to financially support A2i programming, which benefits them by giving them the opportunity to access and interact with the incredible talent available at NC State University.
The program began with three founding industry sponsors: Eastman, ABB, and LORD Corporation. It has been facilitated by these corporations’ presence on NC State’s Centennial Campus, a unique public-private initiative working to increase research innovation and economic development. New industry partners are constantly being added and recruited. The recent addition of MedPharm and collaboration with its CTO, Jon Lenn, PhD., and senior director of research biology & innovation, Jon Volmer, PhD, will provide more diverse insights into how graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can leverage their skills in a corporate setting.
The Graduate School at NC State works closely with graduate level representatives from the founding industry sponsors to develop and assist in delivering A2i's content. These representatives include Barclay Satterfield, PhD, external innovation leader at Eastman; Nic Kraft, PhD, university relations program manager at ABB; and Seth Carruthers, PhD, global chemical technology director at LORD. Through these collaborations, A2i now offers a suite of diverse programming to its trainees that ranges from internships to site visits and semester-long development series.
Industry Immersion Week Prepares Trainees for the Corporate Arena
The signature event of A2i is the Industry Immersion Week that takes place in late summer. This event is designed to make trainees more “industry ready” and allows trainees to interact with industry professionals from a variety of fields and expertise. Industry professionals provide participants feedback on their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and elevator pitches. They also educate participants on key business competencies such as
Participants learn to work in teams to better understand project management, leadership, and effective communication skills and develop strategic skills that are not a part of traditional academic training. While branded as industry immersion, the skills developed during this week are also applicable to academic career success. Thus, Industry Immersion Week seeks to close the gap in participants’ initial self-reported lower confidence in their strategic, people skills relative to traditional academic skills. This can be shown visually by opposing strategic skills and academic skills and evaluating the percent of postdocs who have a chance to develop this skill while performing the duties of their postdoc.
Lilian Matallana, PhD, a research associate in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State, participated in the first Immersion week in 2017. She helped plan the event in 2018. One of the program elements she truly values is how trainees can focus on career exploration and learn how to build a portfolio that they can use to show their value while on the job market. Furthermore, “attending this event with [other] trainees at a similar point in their development helps in identifying a peer support group that one can utilize after the week is over for advice and feedback during the job search process,” Matallana said.
Naim Montazeri, PhD, assistant professor of food virology at the University of Florida, found the professional skills he obtained during the Industry Immersion Week beneficial. Montazeri added that the event “helped me build confidence for transitioning into my new academic career and enabled me to interact more effectively with people in my workplace, industry, and beyond.”
Your School May Be the Next Partner: A2i Plans Expansion Across the United States
NC State has been actively working to expand A2i programming across the United States and licenses the materials it has developed for free to other universities. Currently, four other universities (including the University of Florida and the University of Arkansas) are running A2i programming at their institutions. Discussions are underway to grow that number in the coming months.
In response to this increased interest from academic partners, A2i is offering a “train the trainer” program at NC State June 12-14, 2019. Through this workshop, individuals can learn more about running the A2i program at their home institutions. It is open to all interested parties. Registration for the workshop begins on March 15, 2019. Check out the A2i Summer Institute website for the latest details.
This planned growth of A2i academic partners speaks to the larger goal of building a national network where data can be collected on how training initiatives translate into future employment. This A2i network will also work to advance academic understanding of how trainees' career paths are influenced when they are informed about careers that apply entrepreneurial skills and given training to develop those skills. Furthermore, given the scalable nature of A2i, other institutions can implement the components that best suit their needs based on their available resources.
“The initial success of A2i and the ability to readily partner with corporate sponsors has produced a new comprehensive model of how to supply graduate students and postdocs with the information they need to be successful in industry and beyond. Our goal is grow this initiative across the country and beyond to promote and to increase career success across these groups,” according to Peter Harries, PhD, interim dean of the Graduate School at NC State.
Christopher Smith, PhD, is the postdoctoral affairs program manager at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
By Mark Bayer
Bringing about change can be a long, laborious process with advances and setbacks along the way. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the most effective policy makers, advocates, and communicators are shared by scientists. Scientists just need to learn to re-calibrate these qualities in a realm that may be unfamiliar.
It started with a telegram.
My mom learned of the suffering by a young family in Moscow. They wanted to leave the Soviet Union, hoping to start a better life in another country. But for nine years, the soviet regime refused to grant them permission to emigrate.
The husband held a doctorate in zoology. He led a group at an institute specializing in medical parasitology and tropical medicine. The wife also had her doctorate and was a notable etymologist—which is to say someone who studies the origins of words. The Gorbachev administration forced his resignation and he was working as an elevator operator. The son was kicked out of school Their phone calls were monitored. Desperate, they went on a hunger strike.
My mom organized a campaign to free them. She coordinated telegrams from all 50 US states urging Soviet President Gorbachev to release the family, wrote to President Reagan, and met with our congressperson. She mobilized young people to mail postcards and she publicized the case in the media.
Three months later, the Uspensky family was freed.
It’s impossible to know what effect, if any, my mom’s efforts had on the outcome, but the lesson for me was clear: one person can have an impact, make a difference, change the world.
Scientists Are Uniquely Qualified Change Makers
Bringing about change can be a long, laborious process with advances and setbacks along the way. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the most effective policy makers, advocates, and communicators are shared by scientists. Scientists just need to learn to re-calibrate these qualities in a realm that may be unfamiliar.
Patience. Efforts to overturn outdated policies or produce results from communication techniques can be incremental and painstakingly slow. After 9/11, I spearheaded passage of the first ever law to require screening of all the billions of pounds of air cargo carried on passenger airlines. A five year endeavor, we had to adjust to frequent twists and turns throughout the process before ultimately succeeding in getting our bill signed into law.
Curiosity. To uncover opportunities for changing faulty laws or regulations and communicating effectively in highly charged political environments, asking “why?” needs to shape messaging - “Why are things done this way?” “Why aren’t you concerned about risks associated with the current policy?” “Why does that policy maker support changing the status quo?”
Tenacity. The policymaking process is designed to be inefficient. It enables a broad spectrum of stakeholders to express opinions and shape formative policies as they move through a labyrinthian process. Vigilance (to detect attempts to undermine your efforts) and endurance (to stay focused on the goal despite the circuitous policymaking route) are valuable assets.
Research. “Know your audience” is a typical directive for those wanting to communicate science effectively. But what specifically should you know about your audience? The answers are non-obvious and multifaceted. Including factors such as, How do you assess an audience’s knowledge of a topic to tailor your remarks accordingly?
Ask “How can I change what’s wrong?”
Public policy is my tool for “changing what’s wrong”. During a 20–year Capitol Hill career that included Chief-of-Staff in the Senate and House of Representatives, I targeted policies that were, from our perspective, harmful, counter-productive, or just plain wrong. It was my responsibility to help derail those policies, while also developing new legislation and policy initiatives to improve the lives of all Americans. Policy has been my path for making a positive impact on the world; for others, it’s science. Both can feel more like a calling than a career, more like a way of life, not just a livelihood.
National Medal of Science Recipient, Lucy Shapiro, PhD, is a developmental biologist who personifies the philosophy in science of doing something to deliver widespread public benefits. Shapiro fights emerging infectious diseases and infectious disease resistance that threaten human health. In her lab, she’s discovered new ways to overcome resistance that is systematically rendering antibiotics useless. Working with her husband, Harley McAdams, PhD, a physicist and professor of developmental biology, and their joint research team, she can quickly pinpoint genes that almost any microbial species needs for survival. This enables the targeting of the functions these genes control and the creation of new antibiotics “resistant to resistance”. Shapiro, McAdams and their team have several such antibiotics in clinical trials.
In her 2015 commencement address at Stanford Medical School, Shapiro urged graduates to ask, “How can I change what’s wrong?”
At Bayer Strategic Consulting, I’m fortunate to work with inspiring scientists—physicists, neuroscientists, archeologists, and others—dedicated everyday to asking, and answering, that question.
Accomplishing Change is Difficult
Whether working with immune cells or to cure cancer, making crops more drought resistant through gene editing, or examining Renaissance literary texts, scientists understand a long uphill climb may be required to achieve success. Likewise, navigating the policy terrain to make desired changes can be as exhausting as it is frustrating. It often seems Newton's first law of motion applies to public policy as well as it does to physical objects; once established, a law, regulation, or policy tends to stay on the books, unchanged, unless acted upon by an outside force.
Through consulting and my When Science Speaks podcast, I teach motivated scientist how to generate and apply that external force for change. I share insider skills and behind the scenes knowledge gained during two decades on the front lines of major policy battles in Congress like the Affordable Care Act and homeland security after 9/11. My audience and colleagues are passionate, committed groups of scientists at professional societies and universities as well as individual graduate students and postdocs interested in science policy and science communication.
The aim is to help scientists leapfrog up the learning curve so they can reach their goals while avoiding mistakes and distractions that would slow their progress.
A Job, A Podcast, and Policy
Throughout my time on Capitol Hill, I worked closely with the AAAS fellows selected to serve in our office. I recognized a shared devotion to making the world a better place that contributed to fellows’ decision to apply for the fellowship program and also fueled their scientific research.
Consulting and hosting my podcast enables me to help scientists develop and strengthen their policy and communication muscles, whether they exercise them in the lab, library, boardroom, or halls of Congress.
“Careers in science and engineering are essentially hope-filled endeavors that can improve people's lives and result in knowledge that all people can share.”
Hope, knowledge, and improving people’s lives is an apt description for the work of scientists and engineers that can be applied beyond science: it is also the aspiration of all those shaping policy for the betterment of our world.
Mark Bayer is the president of Bayer Strategic Consulting and host of the podcast When Science Speaks
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