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NPAW 2017: The Year of Self Care and Social Media
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Shakira Nelson, Catherine Zander, and Jennifer Aumiller


September 18-22, 2017 brought the 8th annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW). Since its inception, the goal of NPAW has been to recognize postdoctoral scholars in the United States and around the world for their incredible contributions and dedication to their work and communities. During NPAW, universities and institutions have found unique and exciting ways to show their appreciation and recognition. This year was no exception, as a multitude of activities were held for postdocs that served to enhance their professional and personal lives.


There was a great emphasis on professional development to help prepare postdocs for the next steps in their careers. Oral and poster research presentations highlighted the great work done by postdocs at the Indiana University School of Medicine and at Rosalind Franklin University. The University of California (UC), Merced, held grant writing workshops. The Scripps Research Institute and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston held interview skill workshops and training. Thomas Jefferson University helped their postdocs prepare individual development plans (IDPs). The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) held programs to teach postdocs how to get the attention of hiring managers. Iowa State held programs that helped postdocs encourage their mentors/PIs to help them achieve their next position.



Many programs included preparation for more traditional academic roles, but other events highlighted other careers for postdocs. The Office of Faculty Affairs and Mentoring Programs at Rush University held a session on how to become a medical science liaison. The Emory University Office of Postdoctoral Education hosted a panel of successful medical writers teaching about their careers.


Social programs included barbeques and ice cream socials, such as at the University of Pittsburgh, Stony Brook University, and the University of Waterloo. These events are always popular for the postdocs and their families. This year, Stanford University even had a “Bring Your Child to Work Day.” These types of programs are the cornerstones of a professionally successful and family-oriented scholars’ experience.


Personal wellness events were also a big hit. Hikes were organized by Dartmouth College Postdoc Association/Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and the University of Washington. There were yoga classes at institutes such as Stanford University, University of Michigan, and UC Irvine. Oregon Health & Science University offered free chair massages and acupuncture. At UC San Diego, they held a seminar on life balance. The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had therapy dogs, resiliency programs, and free massages.


There was an increase in programs on being a researcher in the digital age: from creating a reputation on social media (American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), photo shoots for professional headshots (Research Institute Trainee Association at Nationwide Children’s Hospital), to a purely entertaining scavenger hunt using Twitter (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).


A total of 114 universities and institutions in 37 U.S. states, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, and Germany, held more than 390 events. This 16 percent increase from reported participation in 2016 speaks to the dedication to postdocs and increased recognition of their hard work and contribution to the research enterprise. We thank all those who reported events for helping inspire us and others and letting everyone know how much postdocs are valued.


Finally, at the NPA, we continue to be impressed by the inventiveness and care put into NPAW. We want to applaud all institutes, but especially those who focused on the mental health and wellbeing of their postdoc community. We hope that we are seeing a shift in the community and will continue to see great efforts to care for each other. In future years, we hope to see even more institutions take part and to see programs and attitudes that are continue after NPAW has come and gone. In closing, thank you all for recognizing and celebrating the importance of postdocs at your institutions and universities.


Shakira Nelson, PhD, is senior scientific program administrator at the American Association for Cancer Research, and co-chair of the NPA Outreach Committee. Catherine Zander, PhD, is an American Society of Hematology Congressional Fellow/AAAS Science and Technology Legislative Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, and the vice-chair of the NPA Outreach Committee. Jennifer Aumiller, M.Ed, 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.


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