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Vol. LXII, No. 10
May 14, 2010

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NIGMS Workshop Helps Postdocs Prepare For Careers

Dr. Mark Kieran of Children’s Hospital Boston discusses the challenges of conducting clinical trials with progeria patients. Dr. Mark Kieran of Children’s Hospital Boston discusses the challenges of conducting clinical trials with progeria patients.

Dr. Marion Sewer (l), associate professor of biology at Georgia Tech, talked to meeting participants about applying for academic positions. At right are panelists (from l) Dr. Ruben Gonzalez, assistant professor of chemistry at Columbia University; Dr. Peter Agre, director of the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Sally Kornbluth, the James B. Duke professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University; and Dr. Tawanda Gumbo, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Photos: Bill Branson

A diverse group of 150 postdoctoral researchers gathered in Natcher auditorium recently for a career development workshop focused on preparing them for the next stage of their research careers. The event, geared toward individuals who are underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, featured talks by leading scientists on making the right career choice, finding a good institutional fit, applying for a position, succeeding in the job interview and seminar, negotiating a start-up package, establishing a lab, finding and being a mentor and applying for a grant. Participants also heard tips about balancing research and other commitments as well as information about non-academic scientific career paths.

“Transitioning to the first independent position is challenging for all young scientists, but for postdocs who are from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical or behavioral sciences, it can be even more daunting. The purpose of the workshop was to cover a wide range of topics that postdocs need to help them succeed in the transition,” said Dr. Judith Greenberg, director of NIGMS’s Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology and workshop organizer.

“Holding this workshop was a natural extension of our long-standing commitment to research training, career development and increasing the diversity of the biomedical research workforce,” she added.

“This conference gave me advice about getting my lab set up and about getting a productive research project going,” said Dr. Namandje Bumpus, a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute. “It also gave me a chance to interact with peers and find mentors from NIH and other academic institutions. I was able to meet a lot of people and hear a lot of points of view and perspectives—and I think that I’ll incorporate those perspectives and suggestions into what I do in the future.”

The workshop included opportunities for participants to interact with speakers and NIGMS staff, including structured “networking lunches.” “I gained a lot of insight on things that aren’t necessarily discussed in an academic setting,” said Dr. Michelle Foster, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati. “It was helpful learning about the negotiation aspects about setting up a new lab. I now feel less nervous about this upcoming transition in my life.”

“The feedback from the participants was extremely positive,” said Greenberg. “One participant summed it up by saying, ‘It was an invaluable experience, with an overwhelming amount of great information from the presenters. This conference has equipped me with a lot of contacts and information on how to succeed in my new tenure-track position that I will start this fall. As a result, I am changing my game plan for how I will approach my new position.’”—.NIHRecord Icon

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