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Trainees Assembly Holds Spring Meeting

By Laura Hall
May 2010

John  Pritchard, Ph.D.
"You folks are just absolutely critical to the success of this organization of NIEHS and DIR, in particular," Pritchard said to the trainees. "It's good to know that we're in good hands." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Allison Schorzman, Ph.D.
"The NTA is run by the trainees for the trainees with the mission to foster the professional development of its members," said NTA Steering Committee Co-chair Schorzman. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Diane Klotz, Ph.D.
"I'm not trying to take you away from your science when I encourage you to go to our workshops," said Klotz. "My philosophy is that spending one hour in a workshop learning to do something is worth the time to avoid the weeks you would otherwise have to spend surfing the internet or making phone calls to find out the same information." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Trainees came to the Spring NTA meeting to learn about the NTA, the training available to them, and the upcoming events.
Trainees came to the Spring NTA meeting to learn about the NTA, the training available to them, and the upcoming events. (Photo Courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Juan Xing, Ph.D., left, and Sungyong Hwang, Ph.D., right
Visiting Fellow Juan Xing, Ph.D., (left) and Sungyong Hwang, Ph.D., (right) a postdoctoral fellow, are trainees of the Calcium Regulation Group. "In addition to getting updated on the upcoming training events, it was fun to get a door prize for the first time," said Hwang. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

In the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) spring meeting April 19, trainees learned about how NTA functions, new programs, and upcoming events. Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Acting Scientific Director John Pritchard, Ph.D., welcomed the trainees and told them that providing a good training experience for them is a really important activity. "You are our product every bit as much as our research itself is," he said.

Postdoctoral Fellow Allison Schorzman, Ph.D., who is co-chair of the NTA Steering Committee, opened the meeting and gave an overview of the NTA mission. She explained the opportunities within the NTA for participation in planning activities and becoming a liaison for the NTA to the NIEHS administration.

Schorzman also explained about two new upcoming programs -- a networking lunch and a trainee-mentor program in which a senior trainee agrees to mentor a new trainee. The mentor will advise the junior trainee and answer those newcomer questions. The program is benefits both parties -- giving the senior experience in mentoring and helping the newcomer to settle in.

In the networking lunch program, trainees can sign up for a brown bag lunch with outstanding scientists in different fields to learn more about different career paths. "Currently, we're planning to invite tenure-track principal investigators, individuals from regulatory affairs, communications, science writing, and possibly people from industry," said Schorzman.

Schorzman pointed out the need for a steering committee representative from the Laboratory of Neurobiology and requested volunteers to form an International Fellows subcomittee to be led by Visiting Fellow Raj Gosavi, Ph.D., who is the NTA International Fellows Liaison for NIEHS.

The meeting continued with Office of Fellows' Career Development (OFCD) Director Diane Klotz, Ph.D., giving an overview of the many kinds of training that NIEHS offers its trainees. We want you to have those "translatable, transferable" skills as well as scientific training, she said.

Klotz explained how NIEHS is committed to help prepare the trainees to make the transition to independence in their chosen career path. The OFCD provides opportunities for self-assessment and career development, as well as training in communication skills, leadership, and management.

Some of the previous NTA courses were so well received that they will be repeated and expanded in the near future. Upcoming training includes a financial workshop, a 10-week course, "Teaching at the College Level," a five-day grant-writing workshop, and a one-day personality and behavioral assessment workshop. This assessment workshop will be followed up with individual training sessions on leadership and management issues tailored to the trainee's planned career path. Klotz also informed the trainees of a new upcoming online system that will help track the training they have taken.

Deputy Scientific Director Bill Schrader, Ph.D., urged the trainees to take advantage of the NIH videocast seminars, particularly the bioinformatics seminars and the Demystifying Medicine series on clinical medicine. "If you're going to be in the health sciences, it's more and more important that you have some understanding of how your work fits into the context of disease," said Schrader.  

The meeting ended with answers for trainees' questions, snacks, prizes, and a request for volunteers at the Career Fair on April 30.

(Laura Hall is a biologist in the NIEHS Laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology currently on detail as a writer for the Environmental Factor.)

Upcoming NTA Events

  • May 19 - Next Steering Committee Meeting, Executive Dining Room
  • May 28 - Next Fellows Coffee Hour, Module F-2 Break Room
  • August 14 - Trainees' Summer Family Picnic, Lake Crabtree County Park
  • October - Next General Assembly Meeting, To be announced
  • November 4 - NIEHS Science Awards Day*, Rodbell Auditorium

*The NTA Steering Committee will select the Mentor of the Year

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