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NPA Looks to the Future with New Board Members
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Simone Otto

 

One of the fundamental parts of running a national association like the NPA is the direction and oversight the group gets from a duly elected Board of Directors. Drawn from its membership, these volunteer leaders are primarily postdoctoral scholars and former postdocs dedicated to steering and energizing the NPA, keeping it focused on improving the postdoctoral experience throughout the United States. Appointments last three years, allowing new members to bring new focus on establishing strategic objectives and setting policies to guide the work of NPA staff and committees.

 

This year, the NPA welcomes two new members on the Board of Directors, Claudia Späni and Natalia Martin. Späni works at Northwestern University doing research in neuroscience, immunology, and human biology. Her most recent publication is “Sex-related responses after traumatic brain injury: Considerations for preclinical modeling.” Martin works at Duke University in immunology. Her work focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which the metazoan nervous system and innate immune system influence each other. The POSTDOCket posed a few questions to our newest members to introduce them and would like to share their responses below.

 

Claudia Späni

New Board of Director member, Claudia Späni

Claudia Späni

Why did you want to join the NPA Board and what do you hope to achieve?

As an international postdoc, I was very thankful for the services of the NPA, and, after two years as an NPA member, I felt it was my time to give something back not only to the NPA but also to the whole postdoc community. I know from personal experience some of the challenges postdocs have to overcome and I am very thankful for the chance to have an impact and give postdocs all over the United States a voice.

 

What is one of the most important issues facing postdocs in 2019?

In my opinion, a really important issue is scientific integrity. We should discuss the ethical responsibilities scientific research brings with it much more often, and find ways to improve transparency and ethical guidelines.

 

In your words, what value does the NPA add to the postdoctoral experience?

The NPA not only provides the postdoc community with valuable information but is also, at the same time, a place to make life-changing connections, for example, at the annual conference. In addition, the NPA gives all the postdocs in the United States a united voice and a place to turn to in times of need.

 

What one piece of advice would you like to give to our postdocs?

Have fun! I truly believe that you only achieve great things if your passionate about it. Of course, postdocs work long hours, but always remember the curiosity and the enthusiasm that guided you to choose research in the first place.

 

Natalia Martin

New Board of Director member, Natalia Martin

Natalia Martin

Why did you want to join the NPA Board and what do you hope to achieve?

I have been fortunate to have an excellent postdoctoral experience: I was supported by my many mentors (not just my research advisor) and had many opportunities for professional growth and freedom to pursue the career path of my choosing. However, this is not the experience of many of my peers. The opportunities I had as a postdoc and the people who made those possible reinforced my beliefs that the postdoctoral phase, and the training opportunities offered to postdocs during this stage, are pivotal for a successful career. Being aware of the significant differences between my extremely rewarding postdoctoral experience and the one of many of my peers, strongly motivates me to advocate for a more equal and improved postdoctoral experience nationwide.

 

What is one of the most important issues facing postdocs in 2019?

I think one of the biggest issues affecting postdocs is that, even though the postdoctoral experience is a training phase, it is not always seen as such. Changing the culture of individuals involved in the United States research enterprise, as well as improving mentoring relationships, is essential to allow all postdoctoral scholars to thrive. But it is one of the biggest challenges.

 

In your words, what value does the NPA add to the postdoctoral experience?

I think the way we think about the postdoctoral experience is undergoing a much-needed change and this is happening at a different pace in different institutions. The NPA is leading and promoting this change. The NPA provides the support needed to both the postdoctoral scholars and the institutions to improve the postdoctoral experience by increasing postdoc recognition, promoting well-being, and providing professional development opportunities to postdocs.

 

What one piece of advice would you like to give to our postdocs?

Take charge of your career; nobody will do it for you! It’s never too late to start. Seek opportunities (and mentors) that will help you take your career where you want it to go. Be brave and have the hard, but necessary, conversations (people might surprise you). 

 

Simone Otto, PhD, is the editor in chief for The POSTDOCket and a special volunteer at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

 

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