2015 Biomedical Postdoctoral Research Symposium – Talking Science with Penn Postdocs

The University of Pennsylvania Biomedical Postdoctoral Research Symposium (or “the symposium” as it’s fondly called by Penn postdocs) is an annual event organized by postdoctoral researchers, for postdoctoral researchers. This year, Penn postdoc Paul Regier gives us an inside look at the Symposium, his experience with it, and what postdocs got out of this day-long research fest.

platform zenobia Dayana Rivadeneira, Ph.D. (top) and Zenobia Cofer, Ph.D. (bottom) present their research at the 2015 Biomedical Postdoctoral Research Symposium. (Image Credit: L. Hantsoo)

Brief Report

By Paul Regier, Ph.D.

I presented a poster for the first time this year at the annual University of Pennsylvania Biomedical Postdoctoral Research Symposium. In addition to presenting my recent findings in the clinical addiction research field, I talked to a few colleagues about their experience and what they hoped to get out the symposium.

Megan Keiser, Ph.D., presents her poster at the 2015 Symposium. (Image Credit: Paul Regier)

Megan Keiser, Ph.D., presents her poster at the 2015 Symposium. (Image Credit: Paul Regier)

One of the organizers, Brian Fuglestad, told me some of the goals of the event. He said the organizing committee, part of the Biomedical Postdoctoral Council (BPC), hoped it would be an event to promote postdocs at UPenn who come from different backgrounds and work on diverse projects. Specifically, they hoped the symposium would be a chance for postdocs to network with colleagues they might not encounter in a typical research setting. The interaction with colleagues from numerous backgrounds has the added advantage of establishing potential collaborations.


_IMG_20151007_123550835 The informal setting allows postdocs to discuss their research during a poster session or over lunch. (Image Credits: Paul Regier)

Fuglestad added that the symposium occurs in an informal setting, providing an unintimidating environment in which to share research. Science can sometimes take place in a sheltered space, so making research accessible to colleagues allows for postdocs to receive feedback on their work from scientists outside their field. This might allow them to discover new ways to approach an experiment or interpret results from a different perspective, and perhaps provide ideas for future research.

This all sounds very positive, but did the scientists attending and presenting at the symposium expect similar outcomes? I talked to some post docs to see whether their experience matched up with the goals of the organizers.

In short, it did.

The main goals mentioned by postdocs were to meet other researchers, get feedback on their experiments, and set up potential collaborations. Some echoed the organizer, saying the symposium allowed for presentation of their research in a setting that wasn’t intimidating. There appeared to be little deviation from that which was expressed by the organizers. True, some said they came exclusively for the cash prizes, but this just shows the effectiveness in planning the event, bringing in participants that might not normally attend.

The symposium is run by other postdocs, so it’s perhaps unsurprising the goals of the organizers and participants aligned so well. But, the strength of an event lies in the actual outcomes. We would be interested in hearing from attendees of the symposium about their experiences. Did posters and presentations receive critical but helpful feedback? Was it good practice for larger conferences? Are their any collaborations that stemmed from the event? Leave your thoughts below in the comments section!

Dr. Kristen Long delivers the Kumar Memorial Lecture. (Image Credit: L. Hantsoo)

kumar Dr. Erin O’Shea (Top), Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology; Chemistry; and Chemical Biology at Harvard University wrapped up the symposium with her Keynote Address. Dr. Kristen Long (Bottom) delivers the Kumar Memorial Lecture. (Image Credits: L. Hantsoo)

Symposium Snapshot:

The full-day event on October 7 included poster sessions and talks by postdoctoral researchers, as well as a Keynote Address and reception. The Keynote address, “Encoding and Decoding Information in Transcription Factor Dynamics,” presented by Erin O’Shea, Ph.D., of Harvard University, focused on how cells respond to stress such as glucose limitation, osmotic stress, or oxidative stress. The Kumar Memorial Lecture, given in memory of former Penn postdoc Sanjeev Kumar, Ph.D., is selected on the basis of excellence in scientific discovery. This year’s Kumar lecture was presented by Kristen Long, Ph.D. , for her work on reprogramming inflammatory monocytes to mediate anti-tumor activity in pancreatic cancer. Awards were also given for posters and talks judged by faculty to be the best presentations. An award was also given for best scientific image; this year’s was an image of cells during synovial joint formation in the mouse, snapped by postdoc Rebekah Decker.

Kumar Memorial Award – Kristen Long, Ph.D.

Poster Presentation – Amita Bansal, Ph.D. and Thomas Bebee, Ph.D.

Platform Presentation – Kathryn Driesbaugh, Ph.D. and Rabe’e Cheheltani, Ph.D.

Distinguished Mentor Award – Rebecca Simmons, M.D.

Art in Science Award – Rebekah Decker, Ph.D.

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