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2017 Annual Meeting - Friday Sessions
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Friday, March 17


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

A Culture of Accessibility in STEM

Intended Audience: PDO, ASSOC

PRESENTER: Mahadeo Sukhai, Ph.D., Head, Variant Interpretation Group, University Health Network


Persons with disabilities are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research training programs, at the graduate and postdoctoral level, and extending into the professoriate and the workforce. While a definite “pipeline problem” exists for students with disabilities entering STEM at the undergraduate level, multiple approaches are required to address this gap. First, students with disabilities ought to be encouraged to enter STEM programs, while, second, the significant barriers to full participation and success that exist within the research training environment ought to be addressed. Two significant transition steps - doctoral to postdoctoral training, and postdoctoral to faculty transition - prove crucial in increasing the representation of persons with disabilities in STEM specifically, and the research enterprise generally. For the postdoctoral scholar, disclosure of their disability, advocacy around accommodation, and the stresses associated with potentially being a trailblazer in their field, pose significant challenges. On the other hand, the postdoctoral mentor faces challenges in understanding how to effectively mentor and supervise the postdoctoral scholar with a disability, in parsing the essential requirements of the discipline, in communicating these requirements to the postdoctoral scholar in an appropriate manner, and in implementing accommodations. This presentation will focus on principles of effective mentorship and supervision of postdoctoral scholars with disabilities, and provide a framework that postdoctoral offices, associations and professional societies can use to work with these postdoctoral scholars in ensuring their full participation in the research enterprise and their discipline. Furthermore, we will review disability-related accommodation in the context of the postdoctoral scholar and early career researcher, by identifying the institution’s legal obligations, as well as the responsibilities of the postdoctoral mentor, the postdoctoral office, and the postdoctoral scholar. Accommodations as creative adaptations of the laboratory or fieldwork research environment, in the context of the essential requirements of the discipline or field, will also be discussed. Finally, we will present a model for the application of universal design principles to the postdoctoral training environment, in order to ensure the full participation and success of postdoctoral scholars with disabilities.

Career Development: Learning from the NIGMS IRACDA Program

Intended Audience: ALL


PRESENTERS: Ed Krug, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs and Professor, Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology, Medical University of South Carolina; Alberto Rascón, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, San José State University; Noah Whiteman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley


MODERATOR: Jessica Faupel-Badger, Ph.D., M.P.H., Program Director, Postdoctoral Training Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, NIGMS


The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports 22 postdoctoral training programs known as the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA/K12). The IRACDA programs support between 6-18 postdoctoral scholars at each site for a period of three years and require the scholars to dedicate 75 percent of their time to a traditional mentored research experience and 25 percent to gaining additional career skills, including learning the latest teaching methodology and conducting a teaching practicum at a partner minority serving institution. The structure of the IRACDA program provides many opportunities for scholars to learn a variety of transferable skills necessary for a successful career post-fellowship. It also provides the postdoctoral fellow a diverse mentoring team. In this session we would like to elaborate on these additional skills and discuss how these can be developed in any setting and can apply to experiences outside of a focus on formalized teaching in the classroom. Specifically, from the viewpoint of an IRACDA mentor, an IRACDA alumnus, and an IRACDA program director we will address:

  1. Balancing postdoctoral research with other career development activities
  2. Successfully negotiating time for other experiences during one’s postdoctoral fellowship
  3. Time management techniques and other hallmarks of successful IRACDA fellows
  4. The importance of multiple mentors from varied careers to promote development of transferable skills

Furthermore, recent data from 450 IRACDA participants (63 percent female, 17 percent Hispanic, and 19 percent African-American) from 1999-2014 show that over 70 percent of IRACDA alumni are currently employed in a wide-range of academic institutions. We will share these data and further explore the elements of the IRACDA model that align with these career outcomes. Throughout this session we will look for audience participation and feedback on how to realistically implement the career development lessons learned from IRACDA and advise postdoctoral scholars who are looking to gain additional experiences for the next steps in their careers.

Elective Modules to Broaden Training Experiences for Postdoctoral Scientists

Intended Audience: ALL


PRESENTER: Kimberly Petrie, Ph.D., BRET Director of Career Development, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine


Many postdoctoral programs do not provide significant exposure to professional skills and experience relevant to non-faculty careers. To address this gap, the BRET Office of Career Development at Vanderbilt School of Medicine developed ten non-credit short courses, called Modules, relating to four theme areas: business/entrepreneurship, communication, teaching, and clinical research. Over 400 biomedical sciences postdocs and grad students have participated in modules since they began in 2014. These modules included technology commercialization (offered 3x), summer intensive for entrepreneurship (2x), business principles for scientists (1x), effective oral communication (3x), strategies for strong writing (2x), biomedical research and media (3x), EQ=IQ=career success (2x), STEM teaching in K-12 schools (2x), introduction to principles and practice of clinical research (3x), and clinical microbiology: applying your PhD to patient care (2x). In this session, we will describe our approach and teaching partners, share how we manage the courses, and describe module syllabuses and outcomes. In particular, we’ll highlight our approach to providing meaningful and efficient exposure to business through the summer intensive and business principles modules. These modules combine didactic exposure to business concepts with practical team-based projects. In the summer intensive, participants formed teams to develop a commercialization plan for a hypothetical technology; the seven-week course culminated in a mock pitch competition. In business principles, which received a 2016 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Innovations in Research Education Award, teams of trainees solved a real business problem encountered by one of Vanderbilt University’s institutional shared resource core facilities. Both business modules were rigorously evaluated using quantitative and qualitative assessments to assess the impact of the course on trainee knowledge and career trajectories.  Eight modules were developed as part of the Vanderbilt University (Augmenting Scholar Preparation and Integration with Research-Related Endeavors) ASPIRE program (est. 2013 with a National Institutes of Health [NIH] Broadening Experience in Scientific Training [BEST] Award, 1DP7OD018423), and two were developed with a 2015 “Career Guidance for Trainees” grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.  Nevertheless, with long-term sustainability in mind, most of these courses operate at little to no cost beyond staff time to oversee them. We hope that based upon this presentation, participants will come away with ideas for how they can introduce impactful professional skills development programming into their career development programs.

Managing Professional Networks in a Global Scientific Community

Intended Audience: ALL


PRESENTERS: Viktoria Bodnarova, Regional Representative, EURAXESS; Gerrit Roessler, Ph.D., Program Director, German Academic International Network


Careers in science and research, in today’s world, are globally mobile and internationally connected. While digital communication, from email and Skype to social media and open access, makes it easier to collaborate and connect across vast distances, the cultivation of meaningful professional networks remains difficult. This workshop aims to provide concrete tools and strategies to develop and grow professional networks, both individually and institutionally, and how to maintain them in a globalized science community. Presenters will analyze case studies, discuss good practice examples, and give advice on how to utilize professional contacts. Building and maintaining networks, is not a skill that is generally part of doctoral or postdoctoral training. Especially for internationally mobile researchers this is a tremendous challenge. Moreover, networking is not only a task for individual researchers but also for scientific communities, as well as advocacy and interest groups. Meaningful professional networks will help achieve personal career and development goals as much as for the community as a whole (collaboration, mentoring, informational resource, social capital). This workshop aims to raise awareness of these aspects and aid in utilizing them effectively. Individual researchers, as well as community leaders are invited. At several points in the workshop participants will be asked to discuss their own networking strategies and challenges in small groups and present their results. They will also perform network analysis with networking charts and similar tools.

Pregnancy, Parenting, and Postdocs

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO


PRESENTERS: Jessica Lee, J.D., Staff Attorney, Center for WorkLife Law, UC Hastings College of the Law; Mary Ann Mason, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of the Graduate School, UC Berkeley, Faculty Affiliate, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology


This session will provide participants with the opportunity to explore the legal and practical issues impacting postdocs who become parents during their appointment. The Pregnant Scholar Initiative works with universities nationwide to advise administrators, postdocs, and students of the Title IX requirements relating to pregnancy and parenting, including the right to maternity accommodations and leave. Our efforts, including a nationwide study of the experiences of postdoc parents, have given us profound insight into the policies that work to retain postdoc parents.  In this session, we will review the results of our nationwide survey, discussing the common experiences of postdoc parents, and how institutions respond. Participants will also learn the core legal framework that applies to pregnant and parenting postdocs, regardless of their funding source. Key areas of focus include: 1) The results of our nationwide survey, including an analysis of common trends in institutional policies and their impact on postdoc populations; 2) The core legal framework that applies to pregnant and parenting postdocs under federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title IX, Title VII, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); 3) The impact of recent changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and employment law on postdoc parents; 4) Policies of federal research funders on pregnancy and parental leave; 5) Practical steps that institutions can take to ensure compliance with legal standards and support their scholars; and 6) Practical steps that postdocs can take to better navigate new parenthood during their postdoc appointment.

Career Connections

Intended Audience: IP

A speed networking and  information session for companies to showcase their opportunities and interact with postdoctoral scholars. This will be a round-table, speed meet-and-greet session, where companies will give a five-minute presentation and each postdoc will introduce themselves. Postdocs will rotate to a new table every 15 minutes.

myPDO Session: Demystifying the Postdoctoral Experience: A 360° Analysis

Intended Audience: PDO and ASSOC


MODERATOR: Kerry Kauffman, Ph.D., Senior Program Coordinator, Associate Member Council, American Association for Cancer Research


FACILITATORS: Leslie Beckman, B.A., Program Manager, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston;Lori Conlan, Ph.D., Director, Office of Postdoctoral Services, Office of Intramural Training and Education, National Institutes of Health; Keith Micoli, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Program Director, New York University School of Medicine


How does innovation occur? What are the barriers to our own development and progress? This workshop will look at if, and how, the postdoctoral experience has changed or grown over the last 15 years. Are we currently better off or worse? Where do we want to be in 15 more years, and how do we get there? The existence of the NPA grew out of changes occurring across the training environ and to address both the quality of the overall experience and the eventual need for postgraduate trainee career progression. The NPA’s 15th anniversary offers the opportunity to engage and begin assessment around the culminating flux of past, present, and future interests and concerns of the postdoctoral community. Based on both trainee and institutional perspectives and expectations regarding the postdoctoral experience, participants in this hands-on workshop will have the opportunity to collectively assess and articulate the most important parts of the postdoctoral experience over the last 15 years, reflect on where we stand today, and develop a relevant pathway to support and tackle barriers for postdoctoral fellows and organizations over the next 5, 10, and 15 years.

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