Postdoctoral scholars at the University of Iowa played an important role in establishing a collaborative platform for career development and networking among several Midwestern academic institutions.
UI postdocs hosted the Midwest Postdoctoral Symposium in Iowa City on May 2 at the UI College of Public Health Building. The symposium featured career and professional development training for 93 postdocs from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Illinois (Chicago).
“The academic take-home from the symposium for postdocs was networking for research purposes and presenting their research,” says Phillip Gander, president of the University of Iowa Postdoctoral Association and postdoctoral research scholar in neurosurgery. “We focused on professional development issues, such as how to promote yourself to the media and what it is like to have a job in academia compared to industry.”
Daniel Reed, vice president for research and economic development at the University of Iowa, was the keynote speaker. Reed, formerly Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Technology Policy and Extreme Computing, spoke about career environments in both academia and industry.
The symposium also promoted awareness for the Midwest Postdoctoral Forum (MWPDF), a model for a regional collaboration among postdoctoral communities and between postdoc offices. The MWPDF was created in June 2012 in Ames, Iowa in response to a scarcity of networking opportunities among postdoc communities. The MWPDF includes Iowa State University, University of Iowa, Ames National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Mayo Clinic, University of Kansas Medical Centers, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Wright State University.
The forum’s board consists of individual representatives appointed from member postdoctoral associations. These representatives provide leadership and continuity to the MWPDF.
The board meets regularly, either via e-conference or at regional events. This forum has become a valuable platform for sharing:
- Experiences—adapting successfully implemented policies used by individual members at other member institutes
- Information—circulating announcements regarding local and regional events
- Resources—opening local events to postdocs from member institutes and sharing the costs between neighboring institutes by hosting concurrent career development workshops.
“Successfully conducting the first Midwest Postdoctoral Symposium this year allows us to establish a collaborative platform in the Midwest that provides more opportunities for career development and networking for the postdoctoral scholars,” says Sina Safayi, president of Iowa State University Postdoctoral Association and postdoctoral research associate in veterinary clinical sciences.
“For years to come, such commitment from member institutes will not only serve the postdoc community but also advocate for it on both regional and national levels,” says Safayi.
“I am very happy with the success of the first symposium, and we received quite positive feedback from both the participants and contributors,” Gander says. “A good quality event is something the rest of the forum can build upon and is necessary if we are to keep the forum active and productive.”
Safayi and Gander believe this forum could serve as an effective model for other regions in the United States, ensuring more networking and career development opportunities for the postdoc communities.