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Discovering Community, Careers, and More at NPA Annual Conferences
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The NPA Annual Conference will soon arrive in Cleveland, OH (April 6-8, 2018). Each year the Annual Conference offers a fantastic lineup of keynote and plenary lectures, concurrent sessions and workshops for individual postdoctoral scholars and postdoc leaders, and opportunities to meet other attendees.


But the benefits of the Annual Conference go far beyond three days of learning and networking. Here are just three examples of the lasting impacts the NPA Annual Conference can bring. Find out why these members keep coming back—and don’t forget to book your spot for the 2018 Annual Conference!


Growing a Career in Postdoc and Student Support

Julie A. Fabsik-Swarts


Sina Safayi is quite blunt about how he feels about the NPA. He states, “Going to an NPA Conference changed my life… I gained a lot from what I’d like to call the NPA University.”


Safayi is a scholar of the world, speaking four languages. Born in Iran with a DVM from Shiraz University, he continued his education and training with a PhD and his first postdoctoral position at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. In 2010, his endeavors brought him to the United States. He eventually spent more than five years as a postdoctoral scholar at Clemson University and Iowa State University.


“There was no postdoctoral office, no support, no protection at that time in Clemson,” Safayi says. Then a gift of fate intervened. Moving to Iowa, Sina helped to advocate for and create postdoctoral support. He became vice president-elect, interim president, and then president of the Iowa State University Postdoctoral Association.


In 2013, Safayi attended his first NPA Annual Conference in Charleston, SC, where he had a life changing moment learning about nontraditional career options. Recruiting conference attendees representing 12 other institutes from the Midwest region, Safayi contributed to founding and served as interim chair for the Midwest Postdoctoral Forum to support postdocs in that region by sharing their resources and best practices. They presented their regional model at the next NPA Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO. The NPA resources and events continued to expand Safayi’s network and helped him shape a vision of what a good postdoctoral program could look like.


From these conferences, he discovered a new direction for his career path—one helping graduate students and postdocs. He started the first postdoctoral career development program in Asia at a newly founded international university in Japan, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. His skills continued to develop. After a year he returned to the United States to take a position supporting graduate students at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School, where he is now leading a new career development office. He believes that his work with graduate students—the future researchers and possible postdocs of the research world—makes a big difference in their future.


The NPA continues to be part of Safayi’s own development. He has been very involved with the NPA since his first Annual Conference in Charleston. “I have been a member of each subcommittee of the NPA Meetings Committee. I believe in the mission.”


Safayi looks forward to attending his next NPA Annual Conference in Cleveland, OH, continuing a tradition that has been influential in his career path. As of November, he already had his registration, plane ticket, and room reservation. Safayi is ready to learn something new and move his life and his programs to the next level.


Julie A. Fabsik-Swarts, MS, CFRE, CAP, is the executive director of the National Postdoctoral Association.


Catching a Passion for Policy

Adriana Bankston


The NPA Annual Conference in 2014 was the first conference I ever attended as a postdoc that was not related to my bench work. At that meeting, I discovered how much more I enjoyed talking about postdoc issues than bench research. Over the years, the Annual Conference continued to be a place where I learned more about this topic and made connections with other professionals in this space.


I became more involved with NPA committees. Because of my interest in postdoc training, I presented a poster and co-moderated a lunch round-table in 2015 for the Resource Development Committee. I then led the committee as interim co-chair until February 2016. As I became more interested in postdoc policies, I joined the Advocacy Committee and contributed to a collaborative POSTDOCket article on proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 2016. Currently I lead a committee effort to keep track of updates on policy, diversity, and other postdoc-related issues throughout the year. Combining my interests in postdoc training and policies, I moderated a plenary session on postdoc tracking at the 2017 NPA Annual Conference. I also participated in a collaborative workshop on enhancing postdoctoral training.


These experiences have collectively piqued and fed my interests in postdoc issues. Those interests have now become my career interest, which I hope to develop and grow for years to come. This led me to connections with other organizations, including Future of Research (FoR), where my volunteer efforts are focused on gathering and presenting data on postdoc policies as a science policy researcher. I look forward to discussing our data on the landscape of postdoc salaries at the 2018 NPA Annual Conference poster session.


Adriana Bankston, PhD, is a bench scientist turned science policy researcher. She is a member of the board of directors at the Future of Research (FoR), a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion, engage and empower early career scientists with evidence-based resources to improve the scientific research endeavor.


Building a Community and a Business

Josh Henkin


As I prepare to head to the NPA Annual Conference for a fourth time, I look forward to seeing friends and colleagues who have welcomed me into the NPA community. I have built meaningful relationships that have positively improved and enhanced my personal and professional endeavors. I attend the NPA Annual Conference as a member of the NPA Board of Directors. I am also present in the capacity of a career coach, seeking to grow my business of providing career development training and resources for postdocs and postdoc offices and associations.


The NPA Annual Conference is a unique event that fosters an environment encouraging personal interactions with fellow attendees who all have a vested interest in postdocs. I have bonded with postdocs who I continue to communicate with and follow through their professional careers. I meet postdoc office directors and postdoc association leaders who, after attending my workshops at the Annual Conference, invite me to speak at their institutions. And I meet new peers who share my passion and interest in the professional development and training of postdocs, with whom I have established close friendships and business collaborations.


Lastly I get the chance to interact with all of the devoted NPA leaders and staff. They are the foundation of the NPA and critical to the continued success of the organization. I am privileged to be a member of this community and love witnessing the energy and excitement that NPA members bring to this annual event.


Josh Henkin, PhD, is the founder of STEM Career Services, a career coaching company aimed at helping STEM graduates launch and sustain careers outside of academia. He is also a member of the NPA Board of Directors and an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Career Development Center subject matter expert.


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