Monday, March 7, 2016

The BSD PDA at the 2016 National Postdoctoral Association Annual Meeting!

This past weekend the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) held their annual meeting in Grand Rapids, MI on “Supporting Postdocs, Promoting Discovery”.  Five BSD postdocs traveled to the meeting to talk about the BSD PDA Survey Committee’s 2016 National Postdoctoral Survey, Future of Research symposia with colleagues from New York and Boston, and to present posters on FOR Chicago and Outreach efforts. 

The leaders of the BSD PDA Survey Committee, Erica Westerman, Joe Pierre, and Sean McConnell facilitated the workshop, “Creating a National Postdoctoral Survey: A Way of Seeing an ‘Invisible’ Population”. First, Erica Westerman introduced the need for a national postdoc survey and shared some of the data analysis from past BSD PDA surveys to highlight the kinds of information that could be gained nationally. The BSD PDA Survey Committee has surveyed our postdoctoral population since 1999-2000.  Nancy Schwartz, Dean of Postdoctoral Affairs, gave specific examples of how the BSD PDA and Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs have utilized survey data to inform divisional and institutional postdoc policies (e.g. salary/benefits, mentor training for postdocs, and the complaint resolution process) over the past 16 years.  Joe Pierre and Sean McConnell led a discussion with the audience of postdocs, administrators, and postdoc advisors on the process of creating a national survey and ideas on how to disseminate the survey to postdocs.

Kyle Dolan, co-lead organizer of Future of Research (FOR) Chicago, worked with postdocs Rodoniki Athanasiadou (New York University, NYU Postdocs Interdisciplinary Symposium) and Sarah Mazzilli (Boston University, FOR Boston) to hold an Innovation in Action session on “Creating Policy-Focused Regional Symposia for Grassroots Advocacy”. In this session, the audience learned from regional Future of Research leaders on what goes into planning a FOR symposium. In small groups, the attendees worked on different aspects of planning a symposium on postdoc advocacy with actionable ideas to bring back to their region or home institution.

Kristina Martinez, PDA President and co-chair of the Teaching and Outreach Committee, presented the poster “Scientific Outreach: University of Chicago Lab Tour for South Side Chicago Youth,” authors were Kristina Martinez, Abby Stayart, Nate Boylan, Andrew Chidester, Cara Froyd, Laurie Risner, and Nancy Schwartz.  Kyle Dolan presented the poster on “Postdoctoral Advocacy in Action: Lessons from the Future of Research Chicago Symposium,” authors were Kyle Dolan, Rianne Ellenbroek, Erin Heckler, and Nancy Schwartz.  Kyle Dolan won the first place award for this poster!

Nancy Schwartz was a plenary speaker on the “Managing Your Postdoc: Mastering the Core Competencies” panel and moderated sessions on postdoc career development collaborations with the PDA/OGPA, UChicago GRAD and myCHOICE and with the NRMN CIC Academic Network. In addition to all of her work supporting postdocs here as Dean of Postdoctoral Affairs, Nancy Schwartz has also been involved on the national level advocating for postdocs for many years.  Nancy served on the founding NPA Advisory Board among her many other advocacy efforts to support postdocs. In recognition of all these, Nancy Schwartz received this year’s NPA Distinguished Service Award! She gave an inspiring acceptance speech thanking the nominating committee and lauding all postdocs involved in active PDAs, especially giving a “shout-out” to the Future of Research organization while reminding the audience that “we are all postdocs”.

Overall, the annual NPA meeting was a very informative weekend where the BSD PDA presented their work and shared ideas with other postdocs and PDAs from around the nation.  We brought back many new ideas that we will discuss at the next PDA Steering Committee meeting and at the Friday seminar series on April 15 in conjunction with the Public Affairs Committee who will present their experiences from the AAAS Annual meeting!

If you are interested in learning more about the annual NPA meeting, the agenda is on the NPA webpage or you can look up #NPA2016 on Twitter.  Because the University of Chicago is a sustaining NPA member, all postdocs are eligible for free affiliate membership which will give you greater access to the web resources.  You can learn more about the BSD PDA on our website or by attending our next meeting!