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2018 Annual Conference - Saturday Sessions
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Saturday, April 7


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


A Data-Driven Approach to Understanding U.S. Postdocs

Sponsored by Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Intended Audience: ALL


PRESENTERS: Erin Heckler, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Washington University in St. Louis; Sean McConnell, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago; Erica Westerman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dept of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas


The postdoc community is an essential component of the academic and scientific workforce. As economic and political pressures impacting the academic enterprise continue to change, the postdoc experience has evolved from short, focused periods of training into often multidisciplinary, extended positions with less clear outcomes. Over the past several decades, few data have been available that capture the shifting postdoc workforce and experience. We will present comprehensive survey results from over 7,600 postdocs based at 350 academic and non-academic U.S. institutions in 2016. In addition to demographic and regional cost of living information, we will discuss multivariate analyses examining the factors that influence postdoc career plans and mentorship satisfaction in this population. We will place specific emphasis on our analysis of gender dynamics and the experiences of national versus international postdocs. Two findings of particular interest are: 1) our data suggest that academic research positions remain the predominant career choice of postdocs in the United States, although unequally between postdocs of different gender and residency status; and 2) receiving mentorship training during the postdoctoral period has a large, positive effect on postdoc mentorship satisfaction. These and other data provide an evidence basis for informing national research policies and improving the overall postdoctoral experience.


Building Stronger Partnerships Between Career Services & Postdoc Associations

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO


PRESENTERS: Natalia Martin, Ph.D., Research Associate, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department, Michigan State University; John Vasquez, M.H.S.A., PhD Career Services Fellow, The Graduate School, Michigan State University, PhD Student, Educational Administration, College of Education, Michigan State University


The NPA believes that appropriate training of the next generation of independent scientists requires that institutions set policies to encourage individual responsibility, foster effective mentoring, and recognize the value and contributions of postdoctoral scholars. This commitment includes providing professional development opportunities, including education on the myriad career options available to them upon completion of the postdoctoral training. This includes providing “2.9 Provide professional development and advanced training for postdocs” and “2.12 Provide career counseling and development services.”  The PDA at Michigan State University has partnered with the PhD Career Services offices to provide new and innovative programs and workshops for postdocs on campus. This includes a pilot program called the Postdoc Job Search Boot Camp Program which was aimed at 1) helping postdocs becoming independent, self-directed job-seekers and not need to rely solely on their faculty/PI for their professional development needs; 2) build an individual’s capacity for seeking out resources for expanding and supporting their own career development; and 3) building a community of support for job seekers. In addition, other programs and processes are in developing to survey and provide feedback to the PDA and institution on the needs and services for postdocs at Michigan State University. The goal of this workshop is to highlight and share best practices of this collaboration.


Exploring and Planning Your Humanities or Social Sciences Career Path Using ImaginePhD

Intended Audience: IP, PDO


PRESENTERS: Teresa L. Dillinger, Ph.D., Academic Administrator, Professional Development Programs, Graduate Studies, UC Davis


Launched in fall 2017, ImaginePhD is a free and confidential career exploration and planning tool for humanities and social science doctorates. Powered by the Graduate Career Consortium, and created by more than 80 graduate-level career & professional development leaders across the United States and Canada, this platform provides a unique opportunity for doctorates to assess their skills, interests and values, map those onto career paths, and create an individual development plan that supports postdoctoral program completion and professional/personal development.


Even if you entered your postdoctoral program with a particular career path in mind, understanding oneself is important for all job searches. ImaginePhD provides several features to enhance your self- knowledge. It also helps you identify a variety of career pathways so you can uncover opportunities.  Postdoctoral training does not always include information about these opportunities but early identification can help you to identify “transferable” topics or research methods for your research.  ImaginePhD enables you to identify skills gaps in communication, networking, leadership, etc., while you are still a postdoc so you can build additional professional development experiences into your planning.  If you are a member of a PDO, this workshop will also help you determine ways to incorporate ImaginePhD into your programming and advising.


To make the most of this session, please bring a laptop or tablet.


Multiple Approaches to Mentoring and their Value to Trainees

Intended Audience: IP, PDO


PRESENTERS: Natalie Chernets, Ph.D., Administrative Postdoc, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences, Thomas Jefferson University; Lisa Kozlowski, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Student and Postdoctoral Affairs, Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences, Thomas Jefferson University


Postdocs know that they must find a good mentor, however, the myth persists that one mentor should address all postdoc needs. These postdocs then feel stuck if the mentor they choose doesn’t address their needs and they don’t know where to look for additional mentors. Many professional organizations attempt to fill this need for additional mentors by organizing mentor-mentee interactions at national conferences and coordinating online platforms for long distance connections (i.e. National Research Mentor Network (NRMN), Association for Women in Science (AWIS)). Institutions and local chapters of professional organizations can establish a variety of methods to help trainees connect in person with mentors and form meaningful relationships.


In this presentation we will discuss the 1) career path specific mentoring circles at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU); 2) task-specific mentoring circles at TJU; 3) AWIS, Philadelphia chapter mentoring circle program; and 4) Mentors in Motion program at TJU.


Each program requires different time commitments and was created to address a variety of needs for trainees. We will examine the advantages and limitations of the different models from our experience and perspectives. Additionally, we will share the motivation for trainees to join a mentoring circle or Mentors in Motion and discuss how to establish your own mentoring programs."


Essential Business Strategy Skills & Concepts for Postdocs Leaving Academia

Intended Audience: IP


PRESENTERS: Jenny Rae Le Roux, Managing Director, Management Consulted; Josh Henkin, Ph.D., Founder, STEM Career Services, Treasurer, Board of Directors, NPA


Postdocs often lack training to translate research expertise and academic success into transferable business skills. This workshop will foster leadership and skills development by providing expert instruction in four key areas postdocs need to develop when breaking into a business-related endeavor.  


Business data visualization: how do postdocs present data that allows business leaders to take actionable steps?

  • Storyboard
  • Highlight recommendations after every step
  • Prioritize key data
  • Graphics > words

People Management

  • Learn how to convey people management skills in story form during interviews and articulate them on a resume.
  • Identify “sweet spot” between over and underselling expertise
  • Activity: Break up into groups to practice learned skills and identify one's own “sweet spot”
  • Highlight measurable team improvement
  • How to drive progress on projects
  • Separate individual work from “team-work”
  • How to share conflict resolution stories  

Business Terms to Know: A solid grasp of business terms and ability to speak this different “language” to technical and nontechnical audiences is vital to succeed in business. Learn key terms and underlying concepts that postdocs will have to understand and communicate.


The Art of Quick Decision Making: How do postdocs prioritize and synthesize information quickly to make decisions?

  • The priority test
  • Activity: In a business scenario, do you pick option A, B, or C?
  • 80 percent solution often > 100 percent solution

Examining Sexual Harassment in the Postdoctoral Community: NPA 2017 Survey Results

Intended Audience: ALL


PRESENTERS: Tullia C. Bruno, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Board Member, NPA Board of Directors, NPA; Kate M. Sleeth, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Administration and Student Development, City of Hope


MODERATOR: Stephanie K. Eberle, M.Ed., Director, BioSci Careers, Stanford University, Vice Chair, NPA Board of Directors, NPA


Training as a graduate student and postdoc represents a time where clear power differentials exist, and the trainee is vulnerable to abuses such as sexual harassment. There are reports of sexual harassment in the trainee population, but small sample sizes limit the studies' power. In June 2017, the NPA conducted a comprehensive survey of workplace sexual harassment among postdoctoral scholars, which included 2,734 responses. One unique feature of the survey's demographic is that 90 percent of our respondents were sexually harassed as trainees (53 percent as graduate students and 35 percent as postdocs). While there are other reports that examine sexual harassment in the trainee population, our sample size and targeted population offer a larger-scale empirical evidence on sexual harassment in the postdoctoral community. In this session we will compare our results to other published studies and highlight the major findings from our survey that are unique. In particular, we compare victim and offender demographics and report the predominance of victims not reporting sexual harassment incidents.  


Recruitment Strategies for Strengthening and Diversifying Postdoctoral Training: Three Institutional Experiences and Perspectives

Intended Audience: PDO


PRESENTERS: Sofie R. Kleppner, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs, Stanford University; Jeffrey Mason, Program Director, Office of Postdoctoral Research, The Ohio State University; Michele S. Swanson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Studies, University of Michigan Medical School


Diversification of the professoriate is critical to a creative and sustainable academic enterprise. Ensuring such depends on training graduate students from a variety of backgrounds, and on encouraging them to pursue postdoctoral training in preparation for academic careers. Unlike faculty hiring and graduate admissions, however, postdoctoral positions are not centralized, and recruitment efforts are not common. Three institutions have developed recruitment strategies to expand and diversify their postdoctoral populations: Ohio State University, University of Michigan, and Stanford University. Each institution has its own framework for supporting postdoctoral training, and therefore a unique perspective from which to guide a deep discussion about the relative advantages and disadvantages of planning specific recruitment events. In this workshop, we will discuss our approaches, experience, and lessons learned. Participants will work together to identify resources, challenges, strategies, and desired outcomes applicable to their own institutions.


Think Beyond Your Skill Set and Identify Your Unique Value

Intended Audience: IP, PDO


PRESENTERS: Diane M. Klotz, Ph.D., Director, Office of Education, Training, & International Services, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute; Nisha A. Cavanaugh, Ph.D., Manager, Postdoctoral & Academic Programs, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute


Throughout their training, doctorates and other professionals are reminded of the importance of developing the skill sets required for their chosen careers. Paramount to being competitive for a job is the ability to successfully demonstrate both acquisition and mastery of those skills on resumes and during interviews. Often, however, we fail to effectively communicate how we are unique from others who have mastered the same skills. In this workshop, attendees will gain an understanding of the unique contributions they bring to their roles through their innate qualities. Through two self-assessments to 1) identify core motivating priorities and 2) clarify talents/strengths, attendees will gain a holistic understanding of their unique value. Using provided language that describes their priorities and talents, attendees will apply this understanding to develop individual value statements to assist them in effectively communicating their unique value. While particularly beneficial for students and postdocs soon to transition to their selected career paths/new positions, the information and insight gained from this workshop will benefit anyone wondering how to best articulate their professional uniqueness. In addition to benefiting the individual participant, PDO administrators will gain an example of exercises they can use to guide their trainees towards an understanding of the deeper value they will provide their future employers beyond the skills they have worked so hard to develop.


Using Design Thinking to Illuminate Your Next Career Steps

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO


PRESENTERS: Barbara J. Natalizio, Ph.D., Program Officer, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Chinonye "Chi-Chi" Nnakwe, Ph.D., CEO and Founder, Inclusive Innovation Solutions LLC and Adjunct Faculty, Grove School of Engineering, City University of New York (CUNY)


Do you want to learn the secrets of how the most influential companies propose the best innovative and creative ideas and how you might apply that approach to improving your life? Then join us for an exploratory and empowering workshop inspired by the New York  Times Bestseller Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Postdoctoral scholars often find themselves in the perplexing and difficult situation of having prepared for an academic career over many years of study and training, only to realize that the reality is that tenure-track positions are scarce. The challenging question that these individuals face is: “What do I do now?” Design thinking is a process that has been successfully used to approach complex problems and explore innovative solutions. In this session, the presenters will introduce  the fundamentals of the design thinking methodology and principles. They will then lead the attendees through a collaborative, interactive session that will encourage attendees to take a creative approach to identifying fulfilling career choices and designing joyful lives.


Becoming the Boss of Your Career

Intended Audience: IP


PRESENTERS: Brittany L. Carpenter, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Van Andel Research Institute; Erica A. Siebrasse, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Affairs Specialist, Van Andel Research Institute


As a postdoc, you are immersed in your field of study and are continuing to refine skills in and outside the lab. This critical training process will enable you to make a successful transition into your independent career. However, taking charge of your career can be challenging amid the many demands on your time and may not be in line with your mentor’s expectations. This workshop will focus on practical and actionable strategies for setting and achieving your career goals and effectively advocating for your career to your mentor(s), colleagues and institutional leadership. Participants will develop their own goals, draft plans for achieving them and practice navigating conversations they may encounter while advocating for those goals. The ultimate goal of this workshop is to encourage, support and empower postdocs to take charge of their careers. The session leaders (a current postdoc and a postdoc professional development specialist) will use examples from the life sciences, but the content will be directly relevant to other disciplines. Participants will be encouraged to share their own experiences and participate in interactive discussions. Career advocacy is a skill necessary for all professionals to successfully transition to independent careers, so all are welcome to attend and participate.


Meeting the Challenge of Being an International Scholar in the U.S.

Sponsored by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Intended Audience: IP


PRESENTERS: Philip Clifford, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research at the College of Applied Health Sciences, Director of Mentoring for the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science, University of Illinois at Chicago; Brendan Delaney, J.D., Immigration Attorney, Frank & Delaney Immigration Law, LLC, Advisory Council member, NPA; Sina Safayi, D.V.M., Ph.D., Assistant Director of Career Development, Grad School, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


When it comes to career planning, international scholars have additional significant challenges to consider: 1) cultural adjustment: it is important to know how to effectively go through the four stages of cultural adjustment (the honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance); to communicate and perform effectively; and to develop and establish an efficient network from scratch in the United States to ultimately secure the next career chapter; 2) immigration status: it is essential to be aware of the various immigration and visa options that are relevant at different points of one’s career. Knowing about the main avenues that international scholars face in navigating the visa and immigration obstacles, enables them to craft an effective career plan for the U.S. job market; and 3) funding opportunities: grantsmanship is one of defining factors for scholars’ career success, yet seems to be a limiting factor for internationals. Being able to identify and navigate the available funding resources will facilitate a successful transition to the next career chapter. This will be an interactive session to aid attendees in addressing the main challenges faced by international scholars in the United States. It will provide practical ways to navigate these challenges in pursuing successful careers.


National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs – Investing in the Future of Researchers

Intended Audience: IP


PRESENTERS: Ericka Boone, Ph.D., Director, NIH Division of Loan Repayment


The purpose of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) is to attract and retain promising early-stage investigators in research careers by helping them to repay their student loans. High levels of student loan debt – amassed during long periods of education and clinical training – are an often-cited barrier discouraging many newly-trained scientists from entering productive careers in health-related research.  In exchange for conducting research in NIH mission-critical areas – including clinical, pediatric, health disparities, contraception and infertility and AIDS research – the LRPs can repay up to $70,000 over two years in student loan debt. To date, more than 15,000 researchers have participated in the LRPs and have received more than $700 million dollars in loan repayments. As tomorrow's medical breakthroughs will be made by investigators starting in their research careers today, the LRPs represent an important investment by NIH in the future of health discovery and the wellbeing of our nation.


Spouse and Partner Support for the Postdoctoral Community

Intended Audience: IP, PDA, PDO


PRESENTERS: Rita Brown, M.A., Instructor, Berkeley Spouse & Partner Program, University of California, Berkeley; Laeticia Wilkins, Ph.D., Co-Chair, Berkeley Spouses, Partners and Parents Association, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Berkeley


MODERATOR: Sam Castaneda, Director, Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs Program,  University of California, Berkeley


Spouses, partners and dependents of postdocs are the new invisible community. They follow their loved ones to distant and foreign lands. But in almost all American research institutions, the spouse/partner of the postdoc, as well as their children in particular, remain neglected. Moreover, their challenges are ignored. The spouse/partner sacrifices their professional and personal identity. They become isolated and often depressed with nowhere to turn. The timing of a postdoctoral career abroad often coincides with the peak in an individual’s reproductive life stage. However, they lack childcare support and an understandable and easy-to-access health care. This is on top of the pressures caused by social, financial and cultural challenges. As you can imagine, this all hurts postdoc families and ultimately compromises the postdoc’s research. If a postdoc's spouse is happy, the postdoc is happy. When the postdoc is happy, the faculty sponsor/PI is happy. When the faculty sponsor/PI is happy, EVERYONE is happy. It's that simple. UC Berkeley is one of few research universities/institutions that provides career and professional development counseling as well as family resources to the partners and spouses of postdocs. Why?  Usually, the spouse/partner is a professional as well and is confronted with many challenges that they never imagined. By bringing together institutional and community resources, a strong and vibrant program can be melded so as to provide programming that is sorely needed.


Strategies for Increasing Participation in PDA Leadership and Events

Intended Audience: PDA


PRESENTERS: Francesca Cignarella, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, Washington University in St. Louis; Jessica A. Hutchins, Ph.D., Director of Curriculum and Graduate Programs, Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis


Participation in PDA events and group governance can be a challenge at many institutions. Building consistent postdoc engagement takes time and strategy. This workshop will help you identify challenges to postdoc involvement with your institution’s PDA and develop a plan to address them. Representatives from the PDA and PDO at Washington University in St. Louis will share best practices that they have found to effectively increase postdoc involvement in PDA leadership and events. This interactive session will take postdoc involvement at Washington University in St. Louis as a case study. In 2016-2017, the Washington University Postdoctoral Society (PDA) successfully increased participation at its events and built online social media engagement with postdoctoral trainees from a wide variety of departments at Washington University in St. Louis. This resulted from restructuring PDA officer positions and committee responsibilities, increasing visibility through communications, and productive collaborations with the university’s PDO. You will have the opportunity to consider strategies and assets that you can take back to your institution to start improving postdoc participation.