Celebrating the Postdoc: Postdoc Appreciation Week at Penn

Brief Report by Uschi Symmons, Ph.D., @usymmons

UPenn celebrates National Postdoc Appreciation Week. (Image Credit: L. Hantsoo)

UPenn celebrates National Postdoc Appreciation Week. (Image Credit: L. Hantsoo)

If you have a TV, you’ve probably heard about SharkWeek, the DiscoveryChannel’s week-long programming each August dedicated to sharks, to help conservation efforts. You’ve probably also come across Wildlife Conservation Week, an annual event in spring to raise awareness for dwindling natural habitats. But did you know that this week (September 21-26) marked National Postdoc Appreciation Week?

Similar to its namesakes, the aim of National Postdoc Appreciation Week is to create awareness. Certainly, postdocs don’t seem like a species in decline, but at many institutions their work and presence stays under the radar, and training opportunities remain limited. And so, to counter this trend, joining other universities and postdoc associations around the US, the Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs (BPP) at Penn and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) put together a wonderful series of events to celebrate and appreciate their postdocs. Due to the papal visit, the events on campus were held a week early this year, kicking off with talks and an ice cream social on Tuesday and closing with a reception last Friday afternoon.

The events at Penn this year were focused on communication and career planning. As Morgan Kibler, Academic Programs Coordinator for BPP and one of the lead organizers, explained: “The events were designed to help the professional development of postdocs, to prepare them for formal and informal interviews, and how to communicate effectively in different settings.” Put together by Mary Anne Timmins, M.Ed., Administrative Director of the BPP and David Taylor, Ph.D., Assistant Director of CHOP’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the program was intended to complement scientific training opportunities. Mary Anne told me their aim was to provide opportunities for postdocs to train non-academic skills before they need them, as they move to the next stage in their career.

In addition to the talks and workshops, there were also plenty of social events, from ice-cream socials to a family BBQ and a closing reception, which provided platforms for postdocs to mix and mingle, and get to know each other.

In case you missed events last week or are eager for more: the BPP and the associated Biomedical Postdoc Council (BPC) organize events all year round. You can find a schedule on their websites here and here. Also, as this year’s events draw to a close, the organizers are already thinking about next year, and are happy to receive input from the postdoc community. As Mary Anne put it: “If you have any ideas – let us know!”

And, of course, it’s not too late to celebrate your postdocness this week – Penn is even giving you Friday off to do so 🙂

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