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The POSTDOCket, May 2019
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2019 NPA Annual Conference - Addressing the Many Personal and Professional Needs of Postdoctoral Scholars

by Lisa A. Boughner

Hands on session engaging it members to learn best approaches in mentoring and teaching roles.

If you weren’t able to attend this year’s NPA Annual Conference, held in Orlando, FL from April 12-14, we’ll aim to share some of the highlights. The main goal of the NPA is to assist postdoctoral scholars both in their current roles as postdocs and also moving forward in their professional careers. This year’s conference included another fantastic collection of workshops and speakers, with topics ranging from increasing diversity among resources and postdocs, to best approaches to search for and find industry positions, to ways to improve postdoctoral resources on campuses.

With something for everyone, the Annual Conference included sessions delving into detailed examinations on better preparing postdocs to succeed in a diverse range of professional pursuits (academic and non-academic), as well as how institutions can provide personal and professional support for postdocs through to their desired professional path.

Opening day of the NPA Annual Conference.

Here we provide the reader with an overview of what was discussed at this year’s Annual Conference:

Pursuing Non-Academic Professional Opportunities

  • Increased awareness of multiple career outcomes, and how postdocs can create an individualized career trajectory to realize their personal goals
  • Recognizing the benefit of, and most effective approach to, networking and mentoring, as well as how the two are connected
  • The need for institutions to provide more in-depth career counselling specifically for their postdocs
  • Since the career path possibilities available to postdocs are diverse, the mentorship offered to and sought by postdocs should be equally diverse
  • Addressing the important distinction between HOW you do what you do, and WHAT you do
  • How to construct an “all-star” LinkedIn profile that is more appealing to recruiters
  • Differences between academic and industry roles, and how to leverage your academic research skills towards industry research
  • How to best present your skills and experiences before and during interviews.
  • Ways to improve communication by applying tactics typically associated with negotiating
  • How to align passion, knowledge, and skills with the many possible career paths available to postdocs

Best Approaches For Pursuing And Succeeding in Academic Roles

  • The need for institutions to adapt their professional programming to best address postdoctoral ‘pain-points’
  • Approaches institutions can take to prepare postdocs for positions at primarily teaching institutions or into the very few professorship positions now available
  • The need for institutions to provide more in-depth career counselling specifically for their postdocs
  • Ways institutions can help postdocs find and obtain fellowship funding
  • The possibilities to be found in non-traditional postdoctoral fellowships - how to find them, and obtain the most from them

Institutional Support of Postdocs

  • Recognizing the additional challenges international postdocs face, and how institutions can further support all postdocs
  • Developing strategies for institutions to recognize and confront the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ within their postdocs
  • Empowering postdocs to take control of their own future
  • Approaches to successfully negotiate with a perceived imbalance of power
  • How PDOs can best support their postdocs through their many challenges and how PDAs have successfully built a supportive and active postdoctoral community
  • The diverse benefits of improvisational theatre for day-to-day life and a successful future
  • The need for postdocs to develop and maintain many mentors
  • How postdoctoral offices can build their presence and resources at their respective institutions
  • Overcoming biases by building an inclusive and supportive environment, that focuses on the WHOLE postdoctoral experience, and the value of a new institutional committee focused on postdoctoral-development at all levels
  • The need for institutions to better ‘define, refine, and support’ postdocs
  • Approaches institutions can take to better support and increase the engagement of international postdocs by addressing both perceived and actual needs

Berkeley Postdocs arrived at the airport ready for NPA Annual Meeting / Source: Twitter

The above discussions were further developed during the Town Hall meeting, where attendees were invited to share their suggestions for ways the NPA can improve and better serve the whole postdoctoral community.

In addition to a fabulous conference, our attendees were able to participate in the many locational opportunities available in Orlando, Florida!! As a great ending for the conference many attendees joined an informal group to visit the nearby theme parks and restaurants!

Congratulations to all winners!

Poster awardees:

  • 1st place: Jay Vomgen from University of Michigan,
  • 2nd place: Muhammad Quadri from Tufts University,
  • 3rd place: Lise Barbe from Gladstone Institutes

Raffle winners:

  • Angela Byars-Winston
  • Natalia Martin
  • Letizia Amadori
  • Helena F. Farkosova
  • Debbie Fadool
  • Gina Bouchard
  • Allyn Howletr
  • John Weishampel
  • Tina Henne
  • Olivia Chesniak
  • Stacey Chung
  • Jenny Hoit
  • Kristen Scott
  • Lisa Boughner
  • Sarah Hokanson
  • Julie Taaffe
  • Marie McCausland
  • Kristeen Pareja
  • Poster session underway / Source: Twitter

    Finally, a closing remark from Julie Fabsik-Swarts, executive director for the NPA: “We would like to thank all the volunteers and sponsors and attendees who made this conference possible. We hope we see you all next March 27-29 in San Diego for the 2020 Annual Conference, and again in Philadelphia in 2021!”

    A big thank you to all sponsors who donated to the NPA’s Annual Conference! See you all next year!

    Lisa A. Boughner, PhD, is the program & engagement manager with Cheeky Scientist.

    Trans In STEM – Building a Community of Relatable STEM Mentors

    by Veronica O’Kelly-Nickerson and Selina Groh

    Trans in STEM / source: Getty Images

    Trans In STEM is a Twitter forum that formed to function as a hub of trans interests and agendas; a place where trans scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians could come together, discuss their fields and their STEM experiences, and seek advice or mentors. Trans people are not a large population and at the intersection of STEM the number of people gets even smaller. Having seen many LGBTQI+ STEM pages, there didn’t appear to be one dedicated to trans people. Trans people didn’t want to join every queer STEM page just to find one or two trans people here and there. Towards the end of November 2018, Veronica O’Kelly-Nickerson and Selina Groh, PhD, started Trans In STEM to address this disparity.

    The difficulty of being trans in STEM

    STEM is notorious for not being representative of the population. This is problematic because, as young people consider their future, when they do not see others that are similar and relatable working in positions they envision themselves entering, it may feel very difficult to enter that field.

    In addition, trans people are very aware that as recently as the late 1990s/early 2000s, being openly trans was culturally forbidden. During this time, if someone were trans and tried to come out and transition at work, the odds were very good that that person would be out of a job. What little representation that existed in STEM was actively being erased due to a lack of protections for trans people.

    While things have improved, currently only 21 states have statutes that protect against discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity in both public and private sectors. Even so, these protections have been under attack across the country and can still be worked around by an institution or individual determined to fire a trans person for being trans. With all of this considered, it is very difficult to find trans representation in STEM, even at the large research institutions.

    Whether trans people in the closet or have transitioned, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether they will have a job the following week or whether they’ll be kicked out of their homes should someone find out they are trans.

    The work of founding Trans In STEM

    When considering their futures in STEM, O’Kelly-Nickerson and Groh looked for someone to talk to that was involved in their fields of interest. They thought they had found such a person in Ben Barres, MD, PhD, but they immediately found out he had died of cancer in 2017. It was frustrating, to say the least and with no other outlet, they took to social media in a bit of a rant.

    This authentic outpouring helped connect people in STEM around this topic, even if they weren’t in closely related fields. O’Kelly-Nickerson and Groh noticed they weren’t the only people having this problem, and so decided to form a Twitter network, Trans In STEM, where trans people could connect. It was slow going at first and oddly enough Trans In STEM initially wound up with more cis people and other academic organizations following them than trans people. They were also getting requests from cis people on how to be better allies or “best practices” type questions.

    Trans Day of Visibility

    Within three months they were at about 1,000 followers on Twitter. But Trans in STEM was still having trouble engaging other trans people and building community. Trans Day of Visibility, March 31, 2019, helped increase their visibility a great deal. Trans In STEM decided to feature trans people in STEM on their Twitter feed. They had sent out a request for bios and photos a week prior. By March 31 they had maybe 12 profiles. They featured these profiles on Twitter. As the day progressed and the feed began getting more and more views, people came forward, asking to be added. Once people started seeing more and more people like themselves being featured, they were more inclined to step forward as well. When it was done Trans In STEM had 400 new followers and had 200k impressions for the post.

    STEM should strive to attract the best and brightest minds, but instead it often falls short of its true possibilities because it fails to highlight, or even see, the brilliant minds and ideas of trans people, women, POC, LGBTQI+ people, disabled people, or their work

    Fear prevents people from living authentic lives. When you are hiding who you are, it takes a toll on your mental and physical health. Trans people in STEM who are closeted aren’t operating at their full capabilities. Being in the closet may put an unbelievable amount of stress and fear on a person. Forty-one percent of trans people have attempted suicide, (although thankfully far fewer have completed suicide). Often the high rates of anxiety and depression are cited as a reason for trans people to be treated as mentally ill, but most trans people will be quick to point out that depression and anxiety are often a byproduct of discrimination faced in their daily lives simply because they are trans. Whether trans people in the closet or have transitioned, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether they will have a job the following week or whether they’ll be kicked out of their homes should someone find out they are trans.

    Working towards a more inclusive STEM community

    The trans community needs assurances that we can live our lives without fear. Until states, nations and research institutions provide trans people with even these most basic of protections, a basic level of safety and security in their career and home, it will remain hard to deal with the challenges of being trans in STEM. In addition, a mountain of smaller challenges, like getting reference letters using the right pronouns while waiting on a name change; changing your name once you’ve published; pushing for diversity committees or being part of such a committee; and finding relatable, supportive, mentors will remain. No one should have to use online forums to find out if a campus is safe for them or if a program is truly welcoming. The only thing that should matter is where the research they want to be a part of is being done and how to get there.

    STEM should strive to attract the best and brightest minds, but instead it often falls short of its true possibilities because it fails to highlight, or even see, the brilliant minds and ideas of trans people, women, POC, LGBTQI+ people, disabled people, or their work. Diversity is our biggest asset. We have to ensure the safety of our communities and programs for all people. Without being able to do this simplest of things, how can we expect people to be able to come up with unique ways to solve problems, designing experiments, or add to the body of human knowledge? If we can’t and STEM unfortunately continues to remain homogenous, it is all humanity that pays the price.

    If you’re interested in connecting with the Trans In STEM community, you can message them on Twitter. They also maintain a private Trans In STEM Facebook group open to members of the trans community.

    Veronica O’Kelly-Nickerson, co-founder of Trans In STEM and a research scientist studying “the identification of signaling molecules/pathways that regulate airway mucin secretion,” is part of a team that develops novel and efficacious delivery strategies of therapeutic agents in obstructive lung diseases at the University of of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

    Selina Groh, PhD, is a co-founder of Trans In STEM and currently works as research associate in vertebrate palaeontology at UCL in London. His research focuses on the evolution of crocodiles and their relatives, as well as the methodology used in evolutionary studies.

    Out in the Open: The Debate over Plan S

    By Stephanie M. Davis

    Debate over Plan S / Illustration Alexandra Taraboletti

    Mr. Editor, Tear Down This Paywall!

    On February 28, 2019, the University of California (UC) system published a statement regarding their refusal to renew their subscription to Elsevier, the world’s largest scholarly publishing company. This decision resulted from the failure of UC officials and Elsevier to negotiate a deal to make all manuscripts published by UC researchers available free to the public. According to the statement, Elsevier would only publish these articles open access if the UC system paid additional publishing fees on top of their subscription fees.

    This decision to boycott Elsevier due to its refusal to comply with open access requirements is not unusual; in fact, research institutions in Germany lost access to Elsevier publications from July 2018 until January 2019 due to difficulties reaching an open access deal. Research institutions in Sweden and most recently, Norway, have also cancelled their subscriptions over these disagreements with Elsevier.

    These conflicts in regard to open access publishing reflect the growing frustration with publishers that keep publications locked behind a paywall—a practice that, according to UC-Berkeley professor Robert May, PhD, makes knowledge “accessible only to those who can pay.” Although open access publication has increased over seven percent from 2012 to 2016, the paywall has continued to face backlash among researchers. This backlash has aided the rise of cOALition S, which seeks to encourage open access publication for scientific papers and make the paywall obsolete.

    Conflicts in regard to open access publishing reflect the growing frustration with publishers that keep publications locked behind a paywall—a practice that, according to UC-Berkeley professor Robert May, PhD, makes knowledge “accessible only to those who can pay.”

    Plan B, or Plan S?

    In September 2018, cOALition S, along with the European Research Council and the European Commission, publicly announced its strategic plan for ensuring that the majority of scientific manuscripts are published in open-access journals (Plan S). In the absence of Plan S, European scientists who receive government funding have the option to publish their results in subscription-only journals, fully open-access journals or hybrid journals, which contain open access and subscription-only content. Once Plan S is enacted in January 2020, scientists receiving funding from agencies that support Plan S will be required to publish their results in fully compliant open access journals. In addition, Plan S also seeks to limit the costs of article-publishing charges associated with publishing open access.

    The percentage of articles published open access has increased from 2012 to 2016 / Source: Nature International Journal of Science

    Proponents of Plan S, such as Stevan Harnard, PhD, professor of psychology at Université du Québec à Montréal, claim that open access makes research “accessible to more potential users” and motivates scientists to perform research “so that it can be used and built upon.” Other supporters of Plan S argue that it will improve access to the literature for researchers in less wealthy countries and institutions, which are disproportionately affected by paywalls. Currently, Plan S has obtained support from several national funding agencies and nonprofit organizations such as the NHS National Institute for Health Research, the Swiss National Science Foundation, Wellcome and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    “S” is for Skeptical

    Although several organizations have expressed support for Plan S, other scientists have been vocal in offering criticism of Plan S. An open letter entitled Reaction of Researchers to Plan S: Too Far, Too Risky, has garnered the support of over 1700 researchers from all career stages. The Springer Nature publishing company argued that highly-selective publications, including its flagship publication Nature, have higher publishing costs due to their high rejection rate. That is, a very high percentage of the submissions they process do not get published, and that increases their operating costs. Although some of these costs could be recuperated through article-publishing charges, these charges would have to be very high, which could draw backlash from potential manuscript authors. However, the loudest criticism against Plan S originates from publishers of nonprofit society-focused journals. In a recent op-ed, Marcia McNutt, PhD, the current president of the National Academy of Sciences, explained that the costs of converting hybrid society journals, which include the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, to fully open-access publications, would be financially devastating to scientific societies. McNutt further argues that a smooth transition to more open access publishing should require the input of “a broader group of stakeholders” and not occur to the detriment of nonprofit society publishers.

    Results of a survey on Open Scholarship Initiative members and Plan S. / Source: OSI Policy Perspective I. 2019.

    Other concerns over Plan S stem from the role that journal revenue plays in funding society activities. According to Universities UK, society journal revenues fund between twenty to forty percent of spending on other activities. This fact was emphasized by several leaders from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), the International Union for Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR), and the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists (ASCEPT) in a letter to Science news. The authors explain that a difficult and expensive transition for society journals would divert funds away from meeting programming, travel awards, and other activities designed to benefit members of those societies, specifically graduate student and postdoctoral members. Furthermore, the authors of this letter argue that Plan S places a disproportionate emphasis on whether researchers publish open access while ignoring the quality and scientific rigor of the journals chosen by these researchers.

    The Future of Plan S

    Although open access publication appears to have strong support, critics of Plan S argue that the shortage of Plan S compliant-journals and the rapid timeline will lead to a chaotic transition. For instance, a preprint article written by Jan Erik Frantsvåg and Tormod Strømmeshowed showed that only fifteen percent of journals listed in the Directory for Open Access Journals fully comply with Plan S requirements. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the Implementation Guidance from Plan S that affects articles that have already been published. Plan S will only affect manuscript submissions going forward as of January 2020. Furthermore, the response to Plan S remains divided among advocates of open access publishing. Only thirteen percent of members of the Open Scholarship Initiative support implementing Plan S as is, with twenty-four percent supporting minor changes. These results suggest that several individuals agree with the principles of Plan S while disagreeing with its execution. In spite of the controversy, one thing remains certain: Plan S has encouraged important discussions regarding how to increase openness and transparency in publishing for the benefit of future scientific progress.

    Stephanie Davis, PhD, is the chief operating officer of the University of Kentucky Society of Postdoctoral Scholars, the current chair of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Young Scientists Committee, and a member of the Future of Research Board of Directors. She also serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Science Policy and Governance.

    New Logo, New POSTDOCket Editorial Structure, Better Community Focus

    By Simone Otto and Ian Street

    The POSTDOCket has a new logo. Check it out in full on our webpage!

    With the new website and a new logo, The POSTDOCket is also adopting a new structure to better serve the role of the committee and build the community of those giving us ideas for the articles we publish. By turning out internal structure on its head, we hope to better serve the editors that work hard to publish each month as well as the wider community of postdoctoral scholars.

    Mentorship and Sponsorship

    Our committee, including an editor in chief, a deputy editor, a graphics editor and six associate editors, has decided to better serve our readers by eliminating our top-down organization for a topsy-turvy restructuring that will feature all our associate editors being encouraged to develop stories, put them in the copy and cross-edit each other’s work. By doing this we hope to increase the diversity and reach of our stories as well as the meaningfulness of a volunteer position within The POSTDOCket.

    Pitch your story to The POSTDOCket / Source: Shutterstock

    In addition to their new focus mentoring our associate editors, our top editors have revamped their duties to create domains of focus, with Simone Otto, editor in chief, taking in the role of Meetings, Outreach and Resource Development editor, while Ian Street takes a more active role as the Advocacy, International and Diversity editor. Finally, our graphics editor will continue her amazing contributions to our publication each month.

    Meetings, Outreach and Resource Development focused Domain

    Resource development, meetings, and outreach are central to the function of the NPA, so much a part of everything we do that we might be inclined to overlook their importance. Under the new direction we are taking, we want to shine a light on not only NPA meetings, but meetings around the nation that might be important to postdocs along with sharing best practices on how to organize a meeting; we want to expand what we cover in outreach and how we cover it by talking about how issues pertinent to postdocs and PDOs and PDAs are covered by social media and how to co-opt the tools of social media to jump-start your career or your PDA/PDO; and we hope to find new and exciting ways to share our efforts in developing resources for postdocs of all kinds, including myPDA and myPDO monthly blogs, updated resources on our website, and coverage of and connection to resources being offered by our member PDOs.

    Otto will be leading POSTDOCket coverage of the meetings, outreach, and resource development themes as well as working closely with the committee responsible for content development in these areas. In addition, Otto is working to developing methods to collect and analyze feedback on POSTDOCket articles so that we can better understand the topics important to our readers.

    Advocacy, Diversity, and International focused Domain

    The postdoctoral scholar stakeholder community, including the NPA, is involved in addressing, policies, programs, and changing the present culture of academia for the better. The Advocacy committee, Diversity, and International Officers, and The POSTDOCket are interested in bringing relevant stories to the wider community of postdocs, PDAs, and PDOs.

    Street, POSTDOCket deputy editor, will be leading POSTDOCket coverage of these inter-related topics, along with the NPA committees and officers responsible for developing content and resources in these domains. As a committee, The POSTDOCket is interested in publishing stories relevant to postdoc communities everywhere. If there is a novel program, an issue you are addressing, or culture of inclusiveness being developed, we are interested in learning about and reporting on it.

    In addition, Street is taking on responsibility for working with our new associate editors to mentor them in the editing process, from collecting story ideas and pitches through placing a completed story in the copy and cross-editing each other’s work.

    To improve communication further, The POSTDOCket is starting a monthly PITCH MEETING. These will occur via a Slack Channel on a Wednesday evening once a month, at 8:00 pm Eastern time. Sign up to join our new monthly PITCH MEETING!

    We have also had feedback that The POSTDOCket articles aren’t relevant to scholars beyond the life sciences. If that is the case, then we want to hear from you: what is relevant to your community of postdocs? Volunteers and the postdoctoral stakeholder community working to better life locally for postdocs are narratives we are here to tell the wider postdoctoral community. If your local postdoc association or office has an email newsletter, please add The POSTDOCket Committee email to that list.

    Pitch in and Pitch your Story!

    The POSTDOCket is and has always been interested in hearing from postdocs, PDOs and PDAs, as well as any other stakeholder in the community. Up until now, we have been open to contact via email at It is possible to message our editors directly via their LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. It has always also been possible to request a follow-up phone call or video conference.

    However, to improve communication further, The POSTDOCket is starting a monthly PITCH MEETING. These will occur via a Slack Channel on a Wednesday evening once a month, beginning May 15, at 8:00 pm Eastern time. To sign up to join our new monthly PITCH MEETING on our Slack Channel, please fill in this brief form. Alternatively you can contact us at At this meeting, we hope to have a round table discussion of ideas that could be published, as well as connect potential authors with people who have an idea for content but are low on time. All ideas presented at this meeting will be followed up on to the best of our ability. Once you are a part of the slack channel, please feel free to post ideas at any time outside of the meeting; however, they will only be discussed at the meeting with editors of The POSTDOCket.

    Simone Otto, PhD, is the editor in chief for The POSTDOCket and regulatory scientist at Camargo Pharmaceutical Services, LLC. She is also secretary for the Carolinas chapter of the American Medical Writers Association.

    Ian Street, PhD, is the deputy editor of The POSTDOCket. He has a doctoral degree in plant biology from Washington University and was a postdoc in the Schaller lab at Dartmouth College. He is currently a virtual lab manager at HappiLabs. He writes and edits at his science blog, The Quiet Branches, as well as Botany One. He is also a cohost of The Recovering Academic podcast.

    Key Takeaways from the 2019 NPA Annual Conference

    By Ian Street, Alex Taraboletti, and Kristen Scott

    The 2019 NPA Annual Conference brought together postdoctoral scholars and other stakeholders in the postdoc community to share resources, ideas, and knowledge about the current state of the community. The NPA also officially announced a new web design, a sign of the continued evolution of the organization and the whole postdoctoral scholar community. The Annual Conference was a place to show off initiatives that will enhance the innovative work postdocs do already.

    We would like to tell you the story of this event but we also encourage you to, go look at #NPA2019 on Twitter and Instagram, and the @nationalpostdoc accounts on those respective sites for a bigger picture of all that went on during the conference. What follows are some highlights from the plenary and keynote talks and some related notes from a few of the wonderful concurrent sessions.

    Joshua Weiss, PhD delivers his plenary talk “Negotiation With an Imbalance of Power.”

    Negotiation is Exploration

    Joshua Weiss, PhD, delivered the first keynote speaker of the conference entitled “Negotiation With an Imbalance of Power,” speaking to the position in which postdocs often find themselves. He started with the idea that, particularly when there’s a perceived power imbalance, postdocs should remember that their negotiating partner is sitting with them for a reason. The key fact to take away was that in negotiations, there are stated positions (wants) and interests (why you want what you want), and needs (that are non-negotiable, such as core skills and values—not to be undervalued). Getting to interests, yours and the party you’re negotiating with, is key to creative solutions. Getting to interests takes work and reflection.

    Getting to interests, yours and the party you’re negotiating with, is key to creative solutions. Getting to interests takes work and reflection.

    Interest-based negotiations are more common than most think, they occur in most of our lives every day and realizing that can boost a postdoc’s confidence in negotiating. Preparation for negotiation, finding the interests of all parties involved, is also critical for a smooth negotiation. Seventy-five percent time spent preparing, fifteen percent time spent negotiating, and ten percent time for implementation is what Weiss cited in his talk. Further, combining all three Aristotelian ideals of Logos (thinking), ethos (credibility), and ethos (empathy) can help address a power imbalance, as most negotiators focus on logos only. Making credible arguments, speaking the language and telling a narrative that resonates with your negotiator, and finding a resonant messenger can all make a difference. Last, know and find your best alternative to negotiated agreement (BATNA)–if an agreement couldn’t be found, what is your best alternative to that agreement? This is key to know to have some idea of what your stakes are and what you’ll fall back on, but also can help frame a negotiation. Last, in negotiations, always look for the eighteenth camel.

    The next day, Diane Klotz, PhD, and Josh Henkin, PhD, reinforced Weiss’ talk in their workshop “Find Your Voice! Apply Negotiation Tools to Improve Communication and Address Conflict.” Henkin and Klotz started with the ideas behind principled negotiations, namely separating people from problems, focusing on interests, inventing options for mutual gain, and insisting on objective, fact-based, criteria. They focused on the getting to interests, and similar to Weiss, reiterated the point of asking questions to fully explore the true interests of parties at the negotiation. Doing this ground-work helps communication. A person’s interests can be multiple whereas their position tends to be singular.

    Angela Byars-Winston, PhD delivers her plenary talk “Improving Mentoring at All Levels to Enhance Postdoc Career Development and the Diversification and Growth of the Scientific Workforce”

    Being the CEO of You, Inc.

    "My worth is bigger than my work," is the quote that resonated at the second plenary talk. “Improving Mentoring at All Levels to Enhance Postdoc Career Development and the Diversification and Growth of the Scientific Workforce” at the Annual Conference was delivered by Angela Byars-Winston, PhD, from the Division of Internal Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her talk got to the crux of why career uncertainty and anxiety are high among postdocs, how to better align our identities with career paths, opening new possibilities, career resilience, and how serendipity plays a role at any career stage. The key is developing career readiness, or “know-how” skills in career development, not the “know-what” skills that get extensive attention already.

    "My worth is bigger than my work," is the quote that resonated at the second plenary talk.

    Throughout her talk, Byars-Winston asked questions that postdocs might consider when working on developing career readiness. “What is your why? What is driving you?” she asked the audience. As a template, she suggested going back to look at grad school application statements and cover letters, a time when most current postdocs staked claim to a clear motivation for earning a graduate degree. Other questions she had in her slide deck to get at the same thing were “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and “where do you see yourself in five years?”—questions that she noted often provoke anxiety.

    While these questions are intended as food for personal reflection, it also seems likely considering these with a network of trusted mentors would help anyone act as the “CEO of You, Inc.” and understand their broad worth, outside of any particular work they are currently doing. Another point in her talk was the four components of career readiness, or getting to knowing “there’s a bigger reason why we are here than our current roles.” These included career identity, career exploration, career planning, and career decision-making.

    Byars-Winston’s message about deepening mentoring resonated through several sessions at the Annual Conference that were deep dives into meaningful career exploration and mentoring paradigms. The scholarship of effective mentoring she focused on still needs to make it further into the culture of academia, including to postdocs who are both mentors and mentees. Byars-Winston acknowledges that our careers paths are complex. While know-what skills are key, know-how skills are more important as is a great network of mentors at any career stage.

    Design Thinking, Navigating Paths to Industry, and Working on a Team

    The keynote speaker at the 2019 conference was Bahija Jallal, PhD, chief executive officer of Immunocore. Due to a work emergency, she gave her talk entitled “From the Bench to the Boardroom: Unlocking a World of Possibilities” remotely from the United Kingdom. Her focus was on lessons learned from her story of moving from academia into industry. “When you’re going for your career, don’t focus on titles. Titles don’t mean anything. Follow your heart. Look at the content of the job and what you will be learning,” Jallal advised.

    Focusing on learning and growth as future leaders and innovators (not just in academia) as well as following one’s heart when career decision points come were her key messages. Scientists and scholars have real skills to contribute, to innovate, and to build the future world. "I was in a good position. But, I started to feel comfortable. I still felt that I needed to learn more. I needed a new challenge. So, I knew that it was time to move," Jallal continued, using her own story to illustrate her point about always being open to learning.

    While focusing on an individual path, Jallal also talked about being a part of collaborative teams. “Never forget that when you leave the lab, it’s never just about you. You are only as good as your team,” Jallal said. She firmly believes that a diverse and inclusive team leads to faster and greater innovations, and seeks to build those teams from the beginning of a project or company.

    Because of past innovation creating new niches and opportunities, the scientific jobs out there are greater than they have ever been in the past. Jallal stressed that disrupting the status quo is what leads to new growth. To the postdocs at the conference, her message was “You can be the disruptor wherever you go, because you are the next generation that will lead us to new advancements.”

    Being open to possibilities and opening ecosystems was the subject of several concurrent sessions at the conference. Several focused on paths to industry, identifying strengths and where in the problem solving cycle those strengths lay, design thinking, mentoring, networks, improv to enhance communication and build teams, a great workshop tackling Impostor syndrome, and addressing biased comments as an active bystander to promote inclusivity in academia. All of these sessions and more were covered by attendees on Twitter under the #NPA2019 hashtag.

    Taking Messages Home

    The conference ended with a Town Hall with collecting ideas to consider to make the NPA and the postdoc experience better. For all those that attended the Annual Conference, presented posters, workshops, connected, and started something or continued to build something to enhance the postdoc experience, it was a successful event.

    Ian Street, PhD, is the deputy editor of The POSTDOCket. He has a doctoral degree in plant biology from Washington University and was a postdoc in the Schaller lab at Dartmouth College. He is currently a virtual lab manager at HappiLabs. He writes and edits at his science blog, The Quiet Branches, as well as Botany One. He is also a cohost of The Recovering Academic podcast.

    Alex Taraboletti, PhD, is the Graphical Editor of The POSTDOCket and the Co-Chair of the PDA at Georgetown University. Her research focus is on radiation injury and its impacts on oligodendrocyte metabolism and consequential cognitive damage. She is an avid artist, and is always looking to grow in the burgeoning field of #sciart.

    Kristen Scott, PhD, is a research scientist in the laboratory of John Cleveland, PhD, at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute where she works to understand the fundamental differences between normal and cancer cell metabolism and how to exploit these differences for development of new cancer treatments.

    NPA News and Committee Corner

    The Committees of the Membership, along with the International and Diversity Officers, are at the core of the NPA. They work to develop events and resources that support the postdoctoral community, and their work would not be possible without volunteers. Volunteering with an NPA committee is a great way to gain professional experience at the national level, while giving back to the postdoctoral community. Here are some highlights of what committees and officers have been up to and how you can get involved.

    Advocacy Committee:

    As of right now, the Advocacy Committee is working on specific aims for the next year and is actively interested in recruiting new members. Advocacy is taking a hard look at current events related to sexual harassment in academia and the effects this has on the workplace environment, as well as on the career trajectories of its victims. They are also researching resources for mental health and wellness for the new NPA website.

    Diversity Officers:

    The Diversity Officers are looking to analyze the current literature that looks at data and interventions that target various nodes of transition points along the academic path for diverse populations, particularly at the postdoc transition point. NPA Diversity Officers would like to start putting together a short series of literature reviews highlighting recent work that discusses these interventions and what recommendations are suggested by the collective scholarship around this topic. Diversity is seeking to recruit volunteers help research and coauthor these reviews!

    International Officers:

    The new NPA website launched, including new and updated content for international postdocs. Check it out:

    Two talks directed to international postdocs issues were held at the 2019 Annual Conference. Session were entitled: "Help me Help you: Providing Resources to International Postdocs to Assist With Professional (and Visa) Issues, Beyond Their Research Responsibilities" and "Responding to the Needs: Tailoring Programming to International Postdocs for Measurable Outcomes." Check more details on the presentations and presenters here:

    The International Officers presented a poster during the 2019 Annual Conference and had great discussion with current and potential volunteers. Anyone who would like to volunteer for the International Officers taskforce can join here:

    Meetings Committee:

    The Meetings Committee has just wrapped up a successful Annual Conference, and is currently taking stock of the highlights and lessons learned from this past year. These thoughts will be compiled and passed on to the new committee co-chairs for the 2020 conference in San Diego. Our new committee leaders are already thinking about the structure of the next conference and are interested in recruiting volunteers who would like to be a part of putting together this amazing event.

    Outreach Committee:

    The Outreach Committee have a newly appointed co-chair, Chanelle Case Borden, PhD, program manager at the National Cancer Institute. With their leadership positions now filled, Outreach Committee volunteers are jumping in to begin preparing for National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week (NPAW). One new highlight of NPAW2019 will be the awards that will be offered for outstanding activities or events.

    The POSTDOCket Committee:

    In addition to having a whole new look on our new website, The POSTDOCket is turning over a whole new leaf. We have plans to institute a monthly PITCH MEETING, where we invite members from the community, from NPA committees and Board of Directors, from our list of volunteer authors, and from PDOs and PDAs to come together in a monthly meeting to discuss articles they would like to see published in The POSTDOCket—please let us know if you are interested in attending! In addition, we are changing the structure of how The POSTDOCket is managed from a top-down structure to a many-hands type structure. Ian Street, PhD, has taken on the new role as Advocacy, International and Diversity topics editor, while Simone Otto, PhD adds on a focus as the Meetings, Outreach, and Resource Development editor in addition to here current role as editor in chief. We are also adding on one or more new associate editors in the coming month and attempting a new approach towards fostering and mentoring volunteers within The POSTDOCket Committee. Finally, we are currently considering new alternatives for getting and measuring feedback on articles that are published in The POSTDOCket.

    Resource Development Committee:

    The Resource Development Committee’s next myPostdoc monthly webinar, “Putting Your Narrative to Work: Developing a "New" Professional Identity for Your Career Transitions” will be on June 5 at 1 pm ET with John Vasquez, PhD, career consultant, The Graduate School, Michigan State University.

    May’s webinar was on “Building Professional Relationships” with Erica Gobrogge, PhD, postdoc affairs specialist at the Van Andel Research Institute. Gobrogge facilitated an interactive webinar and postdocs created a networking “action plan” to implement. NPA members can view past webinars in the myPostdoc archive. These webinars are held the first Wednesday of the month at 1 pm Eastern Time on personal and professional development topics for the NPA’s postdoc membership. Do you have a topic you would like to see us cover? Email the committee at or learn more about the committee here.

    NPA in the Community:

    NPA Board Appoints Meetings Committee Co-Chair Elect

    The NPA Board of Directors has appointed Lisa Mustachio, Ph.D., as co-chair elect of the Meetings Committee. Mustachio will join Rajan Chaudhari, Ph.D., in planning the 2020 Annual Conference.

    Welcome to our new Website!

    The NPA has relaunched its website! Our redesigned site features a clean design, chosen to appeal to our membership by making navigation more intuitive. This organizational initiative represents systemic changes to better serve our members by using a member-centric model and improved resources.

    NPA Announces Partnership with GCC

    The NPA has partnered with the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC) to support graduate students and postdoctoral scholars across the United States. This partnership will provide both organizations with opportunities to support the growing research community.

    Coalition for National Science Funding Letter on FY2020 Appropriations

    The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) has released its letter on FY2020 appropriations. To read the full letter, please visit this link.

    Posters Recognized at the 2019 Annual Conference

    The NPA selected three poster session winners at its 17th Annual Conference, held April 12–14, 2019, at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, FL.

    Thank you to new and renewing Sustaining Members of the NPA!

    Sustaining Members are a vital part of the NPA. Sustaining Members represent a range of professional societies, postdoc associations, postdoc offices, and other organizations that serve the postdoctoral community. Students, postdocs, faculty, and staff at NPA Sustaining Member institutions are eligible to join the NPA, at no cost, as Affiliate Members. Check to see if your institution is an NPA Sustaining Member.

    Welcome new members!
    • Loyola University of Chicago
    Thank you renewed members for your continued support!
    • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
    • Massachusetts General Hospital
    • Medical College of Wisconsin
    • Pennington Biomedical Research Center
    • Society of Toxicology
    • The University of Texas at Austin
    • University of Illinois at Chicago
    • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
    • University of Texas Medical Branch

    Associate Editor

    Thank you!
    • Kayla Herbell