NIAMS Trainees Gain Professional Development Skills at Retreat
Each summer, labs across the NIH welcome college students and recent grads eager to jumpstart their biomedical research careers. The junior scientists dive into lab work and conduct innovative experiments designed to fill knowledge gaps in their chosen area of study. For NIAMS trainees, the institute’s annual IRP Scientific Retreat offers important professional development opportunities.
The retreat brings together NIAMS investigators, trainees and staff to discuss research and clinical advances in diseases of the bones, joints, muscle and skin. This year speakers also touched on topics such as cancer, inflammatory responses to disease states and public health efforts.
The 2-day event can invigorate senior scientists but it can be intimidating for trainees in the early stages of their research careers, when they are still learning how to formulate research questions and manage projects. Yet, the retreat offers junior scientists a chance to learn about interdisciplinary approaches and get exposure to diverse fields of study. Casting a wide net helps spark creativity and might help trainees identify new approaches to apply to their own research.
“I enjoyed being exposed to a wide variety of cutting-edge research in rheumatology and related fields,” noted Karyssa Stonick, NIAMS summer trainee from Portland State University in Portland, Ore. “The environment allowed my curiosity to flourish.”
Trainees also learned effective communication skills by observing oral presentations from intramural researchers and keynote speakers who are experts in their respective fields. Each talk showcased how investigators in different disciplines creatively explain difficult concepts and ask questions to gather knowledge and clarify ideas.
“I witnessed numerous examples of quality science communication, which is invaluable to my growth as a scientist,” said Danielle Reed, NIAMS postbac trainee from Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.
Trainees also engaged senior scientists in informal discussions, which can open doors to research collaboration.
“I really enjoyed being able to join the poster session breakout rooms and interact with the researchers on a more individual basis,” said Stonick. “I was able to practice networking and make new connections.”
The retreat concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing trainees who asked the best questions and delivered exceptional poster presentations.
NIAMS trainees left the meeting with an enhanced set of professional skills to carry with them as they embark on their respective scientific journeys.