Trainees honored during NIEHS Postdoc Appreciation Week
By Kelly Lenox
The week of Sept. 21 was packed with activities at NIEHS, celebrating the contributions trainees make to the institute’s mission. The variety of events underscored the many roles postdoctoral trainees and all other fellows play at NIEHS, as well as the range of available career options. Postdocs serve a vital role at NIEHS, providing much-needed research support in the labs, while honing their scientific skills.
Organized by the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA; see sidebar), in collaboration with Tammy Collins, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows' Career Development (OFCD), the celebration began three days early, as individual labs and research groups held lunches and other smaller gatherings Friday, Sept. 18.
In conjunction with the sixth annual observance of Postdoc Appreciation Day sponsored by the National Postdoctoral Association, NIEHS kicked off the week with an NTA General Assembly meeting, a traditional game of trivia, and pizza provided by the institute’s lead researchers.
Collins introduced trivia game emcee Bill Schrader, Ph.D., NIEHS deputy scientific director, making note of his Sept. 30 retirement. “He’s done an excellent job for the trainee environment here at NIEHS,” she said.
Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS and National Toxicology Program director addressed the gathering, saying “You play an important and valued role in the success of our research.” She went on to encourage the trainees to seek mentoring advice from other lead researchers, staff scientists, and postdocs throughout the institute.
Preparing for careers
The week offered trainees several opportunities to jumpstart preparation for the career search they will eventually face. Tuesday afternoon, OFCD sponsored a two-part workshop, Leveraging LinkedIn, with topics that ranged from networking and visibility, to privacy concerns. Collins also conducted an orientation for new fellows, to provide them with information that will help them make the most of their time at NIEHS.
Wednesday saw the launch of a 10-week course, offered via videoconference from the National Cancer Institute, on preparing for careers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
And the popular Brown Bag Lunch series kicked off on Thursday, with a choice between two lunchtime talks — one focused on biotech careers, and the other aimed at those interested in academic positions.
The week’s festivities wrapped up with an international potluck meal, to celebrate the diversity of the institute’s trainees. Postdocs brought dishes representing various foreign cuisines, such as China, Israel, and Argentina, as well as some U.S. dishes, including a Kentucky Derby Pie and North Carolina barbecue.