Scientists Simplifying Science

Author

Abhinav Dey

Abhinav Dey has 10 articles published.

Transitioning to a faculty position in Australia: Face to Face with Ranjay Chakraborty

in Face à Face by

The Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs has brought you stories of career transitions from United States, Europe and India. This time around we go ‘down-under’ and have tete-a-tete with Dr Ranjay Chakraborty (RC). Ranjay is transitioning from a postdoctoral position at Emory University (Atlanta, USA) to academic faculty position at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia). In his Face-t0-Face interview with Abhinav Dey (AD) he talks about his aspirations, his efforts and his future plans in Australian academia.

AD: How did you know it was time to move on from your postdoctoral fellowship to your first professional position?

RC: After completing my PhD at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (Australia) in 2013, I was excited to join my first postdoctoral position at Emory. In addition to geographical and cultural changes, I was looking forward to my transition from human visual optics research to visual neuroscience research in animal models. I feel, 3.5 years of postdoctoral experience at Emory provided me optimal exposure to the world of academia, and helped me better understand the bigger picture of being an academic. Of course, with time, I matured as a scientist, and started feeling more confident about looking for academic positions. By third year, I made some good publications from the current lab, and was working on an Early Research Career Development award. At that point, I started looking for academic positions (mostly outside the USA due to visa restrictions), and was lucky to get one.

AD: What was your motivation towards an academic career?

RC: I enjoyed doing vision science research during my PhD and postdoctoral fellowship. I have invested so many years in research that I was absolutely sure of continuing it, wherever I go. Although I didn’t get to do a lot, I loved teaching visual optics in India, and during my graduate studies in Australia. I was looking for a platform, where I could bring both research and teaching together. This was my strongest motivation for an academic career. In Australia, my position would also allow me to see patients in the clinic as an optometrist; something that I totally enjoyed in the past.

AD: How do you foresee the academic research environment in Australia?

RC: Similar to the US, establishing a research career in Australia is challenging. From my previous experience, I know that NIH equivalent, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Australian Research Council fundings are extremely competitive. I am looking to develop collaborations within and outside the Vision Science dept. for making competitive grant applications. I will also be looking for industrial funding.

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Image courtesy: Ranjay Chakraborty

AD: How did your postdoc training make you competitive for an academic position?

RC: My postdoc training at Emory has been truly instrumental in preparing me for this academic position. It helped me to develop a range of analytical and research skills that were crucial for this position. In addition to basic science research, I learned about academic writing, mentorship, journal and data review, data presentation, collaborative research and many other things that helped me to develop as more mature and confident professional. It has been a magnificent journey from my grad school to the end of this postdoctoral position. I am really thankful to my postdoctoral mentors Drs. Machelle T. Pardue and P. Michael Iuvone for this precious postdoctoral training opportunity at Emory.

AD: What advice do you have for postdocs to make best use of their time?

RC: This is my first position, and I am too young to advice anything in particular. Postdocs are generally very disciplined and assiduous, and they exactly know that it’s time for either “publish or perish”. One small advice – try not to restrain yourself to just “lab and experiments”. Every once in a while traveling and time with family and friends help becoming more productive and focused at work.

AD: Can you briefly describe your plans about the size and mentorship style of your laboratory?

RC: Australian academic positions have a lot more teaching load compared to the positions in the US. In the 1st year, my primary focus would be preparing the lectures, and set up the lab. I am going to take it easy, and keep my lab small at the beginning. I plan to hire a research technician to get started with my projects. I would extend my research group in the future depending on projects and funding situation. I intend to hire people who are deferential, good team players, and inherently motivated to do good research. I would design robust policies in the lab for running experiments, ordering materials, lab meetings with individual lab members/groups, data management and storage, authorships, attending meetings and developing collaborations. I would want my group to be transparent, and feel free about discussing their issues with me and each other.

AD: Do you have teaching responsibilities?

RC: As I mentioned previously, Australian faculty positions have a lot more teaching load compared to the positions in the US. I do not have a lot of teaching experience, and I look forward to this new role in Australia.

AD: Were there any specific resources such as the Office of Postdoctoral Education that you utilized to help you transition into an independent position?

RC: Yes, a number of courses/workshops from Emory Office of Postdoctoral Education have been really helpful in introducing me to several critical aspects of academic positions in the US. I was particularly benefited from K award grant writing course, laboratory management course, and responsible conduct of research ethics course offered by the Emory Office of Postdoctoral Education. I also attended workshops for “how to prepare teaching and research statements”, “how to look and apply for academic positions”, and “preparing CV and NIH statement”. These courses helped me to evaluate whether or not I really wanted to pursue academia.

AD: Do you have any advice for postdocs about grant writing and successfully obtaining funding?

RC: I do not have any major funding to myself, so I am not the best person to advice on that. But, from my postdoctoral experience at Emory, I have learned that early grant applications based on solid pilot data are imperative to applying for successful academic positions. Early applications within the first two years of postdoc (such as departmental grants) do not have to be too extensive, but they set you up for the habit of grant writing. Of course, publications are equally important. As we all know, first 4 years of postdoc are critical for several early career grants in the US.

AD: Do you have any advice for postdocs making the transition to an independent career?

RC: As I mentioned earlier, the key is to decide whether or not you really want to pursue an independent career. If you do, it doesn’t harm to start applying sooner. With a clear and well-structured research aim, decent publications, adequate skill sets, and strong references you could have a decent chance to get a tenure-track position, perhaps stronger than you might think!

Ranjay Chakraborty was interviewed by Abhinav Dey. Abhinav is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University and a Young Investigator Awardee from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. He is also the co-founder of PhD Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs and ClubSciWri

(https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhinavdey)

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Featured image source: Pixabay

 

From cloning genes to directing X-rays: Face to Face with Nishant Kumar Varshney

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Dr Nishant Kumar Varshney is working as a Beamline Scientist on an Indo-Italian Macromolecular Crystallography beamline XRD2 at Elettra Sincrotrone, Trieste, Italy, which will be open to Users in start of the 2017. The Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs caught up with him about his career and experience while working in an unconventional postdoctoral career of a Beamline Scientist after a PhD in Structural Biology.

He did his bachelors in Chemistry from DU and Masters in Marine Biotechnology from Goa University in 2005. Completed his PhD in 2013 from Biochemical Sciences Division, CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, India on structure-function relationship of three enzymes that has industrial and therapeutic applications. During his PhD, he received Commonwealth Split-Site Scholarship to work for an year in York Structural Biology Laboratory, University of York, UK, where he developed his interest in the field of Structure Based Drug Discovery field.

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In Nishant’s (NKV) words, “First, I would like to thank Abhinav Dey (AD) for adding me to CSG group and now giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts about new Indo-Italian joint venture at Elettra Synchrotron, Trieste, Italy which we Inaugurated last month.”

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(XRD2 Beamline; Picture source: NKV)

AD: During your graduate school, when did you realize you wanted to try a different research-based career than conventional postdoc?

NKV: Actually the thought and the opportunity came after the PhD, when I was working as Research Associate (RA) in National Center for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune. During my PhD, I was working both at the bench (cloning, expressing, purifying and setting up protein for crystallization) as well as collecting data at our home source for my proteins and sometimes helping other collaborators. Like most of the graduate students, I dreamt of getting a conventional post doc position abroad and coming back after few years for some decent permanent position in India. It was during RA-ship, that I saw the ad for a Beamline Scientist position at the new Indian beamline at Elettra. I thought of it as a good opportunity to not only learn about the working of beamlines but also having plenty of time to play and learn with data collection strategies to get best out of your protein crystals. Moreover, the idea of helping different users with different projects and, if possible, making some worthy contribution to their projects excited me too.

AD: What is your typical work day like?

NKV: Most often our day starts with a black filter coffee at 9 🙂 and ends around 6pm. Currently, we are at the final stages of commissioning the beamline and implementing an automated instrument on the experimental table. Since working at the beamline is a first time for me, my work schedule usually revolves around my local supervisor and Head of our group, Maurizio. We help our supervisors with the work and learn out of it. Everyday there is something new to learn. We set small targets with deadlines and sometimes we work till late to meet those deadlines. Also being an industry, there are many other usual administrative/non administrative appointments also to be taken care of.

AD: Do you think having a PhD was an advantage for you in the current job?

NKV: Yes. Experience and a degree in structural biology were the essential educational qualifications for this job. I was brought into the field of X-ray diffraction, protein crystallization, three-dimensional structures etc. in practice during my PhD only. Having hands-on experience with these techniques and a visit to a Beamline in Diamond, UK during my Commonwealth Scholarship tenure gave me experience and confidence to apply for this job. Some technical terms and what’s behind the walls of Experimental Hutch was totally new to me in the beginning but I think I am getting better day-by-day.

AD: How was the transition from a bench to a synchrotron?

NKV: I would say transition was not that easy. Coming from enjoying a mostly wet lab, handling buffers/proteins and transitioning to the technical aspects of a synchrotron where I was expected to understand as well as install beamline components, alignments, installing vacuum etc. was initially too much technical for me. Mathematics has not been my strongest subject so I am still trying to get better with the numbers.

AD: What would you recommend as first steps for students/postdocs interested in pursuing a fellowship in handling this kind of job?

NKV: If one is coming to synchrotron as a user, I would say, apart from having familiarity with data processing programs and knowing your proteins, you need not to worried about what’s behind the walls of Experimental Hutch. Beamline staff should teach you how things work at the Experimental table and how to collect data. But if someone wants to be a Beamline Scientist or a Beamline Postdoc, first step is to develop your love for the technical aspects of a beamlines. Brushing up your Physics or say Biophysics will also help you to understand your work. It is also important to keep in mind that it is not a 9-5 job and you should be ready to devote long days sometimes.

AD: Having gone through interviews as an applicant yourself, what are a couple of things that could help a PhD standout from the crowd?

NKV: Especially for a job at the Beamlines, working knowledge of the beamline, however little it may be, through regular visits to the synchrotron for data collection and processing the data on your own will make you stand out. Familiarity with different programs for data collection to structure deposition will help you for the job. Apart from that, one should enjoy working with the users and be ready to help them to sort out the technical as well as practical problems outside the normal office hours.

AD: Was there anything (positive or negative) that you were surprised about this job/profession that you didn’t expect until you were in it?

NKV: As a matter of personal opinion, anyone who starts the unconventional career, will wish to have a sense of stability in his/her tenure. As I am working in an Italian Industry, as a visiting Scientist on an India-funded project, there is always an insecurity regarding the length and timing of the next extension. Moreover, the absence of funds available for in-house research and for attending/presenting work in the conferences was not what I expected.

AD: Please tell us about the new Indo-Italian venture and what do you foresee of this collaboration for the development of science in India?

NKV: Till the date, India is either renting beamtimes for macromolecular crystallography e.g. BM14 beamline in ESRF or funding visits to other beamlines of the world. This is the first time when India is a partner right from the design, construction, commissioning and maintenance of two beamlines at synchrotron. The XRD2 and Xpress beamlines are a part of a scientific partnership between India and Italy under a project administered through the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bangalore with financial support from Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India and Elettra Sincrotrone,Trieste. The Xpress experimental station has been constructed to study the structure of materials under high- pressure using the technique of X-ray diffraction of samples subjected to the action of two diamonds that can exert higher pressures to 50 GPa. In this way the researchers will be able to access the possibility of synthesizing new superconducting materials, harder and more resistant. This beamline will also be applied in other areas, such as mineralogy and geophysics. XRD2 is a dedicated beamline to determine three-dimensional structures of proteins and biological macromolecules with application in biology, medicine, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. XRD2 is an highly automated and tunable beamline with state of the art instruments which will allow to collect faster X-ray diffraction data from protein crystals in highly automated way better than collected using home source. With 50% share in the project, now Indian crystallographers and High Pressure diffraction groups will have plenty of beamtime accessible to them. Once the proposal has been accepted, DST will provide the travel and daily cost funds.

AD: What are the career possibilities after being trained at the cutting edge of your field?

NKV: The field of macromolecular crystallography is still in a developing stage. There is lot to explore and develop in the field right from the data collection step to relate the structure to its function. With the experience at the synchrotron, prospects of developing your own research in the field are always open. Working in Pharmaceuticals Industries mainly involved in Structure based Drug Discovery is another option. With all the knowledge of the structural biology, a career in academics is also a possibility. Moreover, with the advent of Free-Electron lasers and new developments in alternative techniques, three-dimensional structure determination of macromolecules using serial crystallography and Cryo-Electron Microscopy and Cryo-Imaging techniques are the new open fields where experience in structural biology is a desirable qualification.
I hope, these facilities will be very beneficial to our Indian researchers.

 

 

Nishant Kumar Varshney was interviewed by Abhinav Dey. Abhinav is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University and a Young Investigator Awardee from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. He is also the co-founder of PhD Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs and ClubSciWri

(https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhinavdey)

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Featured image source: Pixabay

Transitioning to Academia in India- Face to Face with Punit Prasad

in Face à Face/That Makes Sense by

Punit PunitInstt

Most of the graduate school training during PhD and postdoctoral tenure is focused on shaping the minds to tread the academic path. The trainees, therefore, always look forward to academia is their natural progression to move up the academic ivory tower. However, in today’s funding scenario the limited academic options are making PhDs re-think their career path. As scientists by training we are never expected to follow herd instinct, even when it comes to picking and choosing classical vs unconventional career options. You will find resonance in to this fact when you read Punit Prasad’s interview with Club SciWri. Punit recently transitioned from being a postdoc at Karolinska to a Faculty position at the Institute of Life Sciences (Bhubaneswar, India). But before deciding in favor of academia he did test the waters in industrial research, until he found his true calling in academia. Find out more about his planned roadmap to an academic career and start gearing-up early if you believe that academia is the place where you want to be!

  1. How did you know it was time to move on from your postdoctoral fellowship to your first professional position?

There are several points that I considered when I thought of applying for a professional position:

  1. Number of years into post doc: It should be 3 years and above such that your application gets some weightage. I gave my first talk for faculty position when I completed 3 years. At this point I was not expecting an offer but wanted to get exposure and experience on my future applications.
  2. Number of first author paper(s): It is important to have atleast one first author paper from your post doc. I had one shared first author paper in ‘EMBO J’ when I started applying. However, at that time I did not have any paper on the area I was planning to work as an independent faculty. It was seen as a negative point as I was shifting from yeast model system to haematopoietic development. Showing preliminary data in your proposal or during the talk does not help much. The screening committee wants to see that you have proved yourself in the area you plan to work. Therefore, I spent a year and half more until I got my paper in ‘Blood J’ accepted for the publication. This atleast gave a better response to my application. Corresponding authorship does help significantly. I had one corresponding author publication, a review. I am not sure if it helped but certainly is a big boost to your application.
  3. Area of research: I also learned that I have to differentiate between my future and my post doctoral research. In an ideal situation one has to have different aspects of study to avoid any overlap/conflict with one’s post doc mentor. This is a very important aspect, which I was asked in all the places I interviewed. I was preparing for it from the beginning of my post doc and I was able to convince the selection committee for the same.
  4. Other credentials: During my post doc I received several post doctoral grants as an independent investigator and was/is a co-supervisor of a MSc and a graduate student. I was also invited for platform presentation in reputed conferences. I think all these factors add value to the application. Personally, I think having independent grants added value to my application.

 

  1. What was your motivation towards an academic career?

I have several years of experience working in a company before starting my graduate studies. Therefore, I have got flavour of both industry and academics. I loved the freedom of doing science in academia. Through years of experience, I developed concepts and hypothesis to work in the field of chromatin biology and I got inclined to do more basic science. In short, freedom of doing science of my choice is my biggest motivation.

  1. What do you enjoy about being a professor?

Good question!! It’s been few months in my new position at Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India and currently it is not fun. I have to learn the administrative processes in every small aspect. It takes enormous amount of time, leaving little opportunity to do science in the beginning. However, I believe it is a passing phase and soon I will get back to the bench. The excitement will be to train the students and do good science.

  1. How did your postdoc training make you competitive for an academic position?

I believe that the training starts from PhD and then continues in your postdoc. Few point that I would like to address regarding this:

  1. Research Projects: I was given full freedom to carry out research within the lab’s overall theme. Apart from my mentor, Prof. K. Ekwall’s interest in understating mechanistic details of chromatin remodelling in fission yeast, I could also initiate my work on understating the role of chromatin remodelling complexes in blood cell development. This gave me ‘space and time’ to develop the research area of my interest which I could carry out further as an independent faculty.
  2. Grants: Writing and obtaining successful grants is very important. I strongly suggest that one should keep writing grants even if they are not successful. I got good training during my PhD with Prof. Blaine Bartholomew, where he allowed me to write my project for the NIH grant. It was a great experience and his training helped significantly.
  3. Courses and workshops: Karolinska Institutet (KI) organises several courses/workshops and open discussion forums for leadership, mentoring, grant writing, lab safety, etc. I have attended some of them and have found them useful.
  4. Student training: I have supervised Master projects and am a co-supervisor of a PhD student at KI. This was a good experience for me as it ‘tuned’ me to handle students, their projects and other professional issues.

 

  1. What advice do you have for postdocs to make best use of their time?

I have already mentioned several points in response to previous questions. My advice is to follow it from the start of Postdoc as it takes time to acquire above mentioned qualifications, which not only gives you confidence but also makes your CV attractive.

  1. Can you briefly describe your plans about the size and mentorship style of your laboratory?

The size of my laboratory is dependent on number of grants I would acquire. To begin with I would like to have couple of PhD students and a laboratory technician to kick start some projects that are promising. However, when I receive successful project grants, I would like to have one/two post doctoral fellows depending on the grant money. Interested postdocs with fellowship can also join my lab. The advantage of having postdocs is that they will not need basic training and can get going with the projects. Since my projects require significant bioinoformatics, I would need a person as a JRF/PhD/Postdoc with some kind of training in programming and statistical analysis. With this size group I plan to get going for a couple of years before I take any more student.

  1. Do you have teaching responsibilities?

Teaching responsibilities are bare minimum and therefore I can spend almost 100% of my time in research.

  1. Were there any specific resources such as the Office of Postdoctoral Education that you utilized to help you transition into an independent position?

No, there were no office of postdoctoral education in Karolinska Institutet to groom me for an independent position. However, as I mentioned before, Karolinska Institutet organizes general courses about leadership and mentoring that partially helped me for the future.

  1. Do you have any advice for postdocs about grant writing and successfully obtaining funding?

I have few points to mention:

  • The goals of the projects should be clear and focussed. Vagueness is a definite let down.
  • If there are several goals, they should not be totally dependent on each other. This ensures that if one plan fails, there are backup plans to pull through the overall project.
  • Grants should have defined sections like purpose, hypothesis, specific aims, background, project design, preliminary results and significance of research. Hypothesis should be backed up by previous literature and /or preliminary results. This lends credibility to the proposal. It is also important to discuss caveats of the proposed projects and alternative strategies to circumvent them, if any.
  • The writing should be clear, precise and concise. Succicnt, jargon free write-ups are always appreciated.
  • If possible, do get your grant reviewed by another scientist.

 

  1. Do you have any advice for postdocs making the transition to an independent career?

Be patient and persevering. If applying to India, be prepared for long waits to get any response. Also keep in mind that there is an unsaid age rule of 35 years or less during the time of application in most Indian institutes. While stellar applications may be exempted from this rule, most applications may get weighed down by this factor if competition is high and the institute chooses to exercise this rule. Therefore, prepare your applications in advance to avoid falling in this category. I also recommend attending YIMs in India to increase one’s productive network and get to know inside information of institutes that are hiring at the moment. Heads of granting agencies also attend YIMs and one should also run by their future proposals by them, if possible, to get inputs on how to improve the proposal.

 

  1. What suggestions do you have for CSG to improve the postdoctoral networking experience?

CSG is already doing an excellent job in promoting post doctoral network globally in various disciplines. It is also providing valuable information about available positions in academia and industry, grant writing, mentoring, alternate careers, etc. Currently I do not have any more suggestions for CSG other than to keep up the good work. Thank you and wish you the very best!!

 

 

 

Self2015

Punit Prasad was interveiwed by Abhinav Dey. Abhinav is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University and a Young Investigator Awardee from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. He is also the co-founder of PhD Career Support Group (CSG) for Science PhDs and ClubSciWri

(https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhinavdey)

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

Transitioning from Academia to Industry in Europe: Face à Face with Alokta Chakrabarti

in Face à Face by

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We have had the opportunity to hear career transition stories from many PhDs in US. It was high time that PhD CSG caught up with our folks from Europe. CSG has been blessed to have seen a surge in the participation from our European friends. I got an opportunity to interact with Dr Alokta Chakrabarti and learn about her transition from academia to industry. After a PhD from Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (Netherlands) and postdoc from University of Freiburg (Germany), Alokta was selected from amongst 170 odd candidates for her current position as a Group Leader in Cellular Drug Discovery at ProQinase. As a first in this series of dialogues, ClubSciWri presents a Face to Face interview with Alokta. 

Abhinav: Can you briefly describe your role as group leader at ProQinase?

Alokta: I’m mainly responsible for execution of customer projects, which include design of experiments, compound management and line-management duties for laboratory technicians.

Abhinav: What made you decide to move into industry rather than stay on the academic track?

Alokta: I took the decision to move to industry very early in my career as I wanted to have a hands-on experience in oncology drug development in a preclinical/clinical setting. After my Masters, I already worked as a Research Biologist in a CRO company in Kolkata, India. While working there I realized that I’m a very curious personality and hungry for more detailed ‘knowledge’ behind drug development. Then, I decided to move back to academia for PhD/Postdoc.

Abhinav: How did you prepare for your current position?

Alokta: I did not have any specific strategy. I already had a CRO experience from India. I guess my knowledge of European work culture both from the Netherlands and Germany was an advantage.

Abhinav: Do you have any advice for postdocs considering careers in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry? What can they do to make themselves competitive?

Alokta: I cannot give a general advice. It highly depends on the country one wishes to apply. I would suggest to get deep into the requirements in the industry depending on the target country and prepare your application accordingly. I hear that networking is a golden standard for getting a job in industry, however, for my position I applied just through the normal procedure.

Abhinav: How did your post-doc experience at prepare you for your position today?

Alokta: I would say that my experience from post-MSc to Postdoc was valuable for my current position. I have acquired experience in different techniques as I have completely swapped topics during each move. This has helped me to come out of my comfort zone, forced me to rethink and has opened my mind to various areas.

Abhinav: Did you use any of the resources at University of Freiburg, such as the Office of Postdoctoral Education, the Postdoctoral Association or others?

Alokta: No.

Abhinav: How has been your experience with CSG and what direction would you like CSG to take in order to make career development beyond academia less stressful for postdocs?

Alokta: I think CSG is a very strong platform to promote industry transition, especially with the current mentor-mentee program. There is always a constant help from the seniors, e.g. CV checks. However, I think it is much stronger for the USA and not many experienced people to guide for Europe. Suggestions: Podcasts could be arranged with CSG senior members who are already successful and have made a transition. Perhaps, people can invite friends/alumni who are recruiters. Important: more the presence of industry personnel, more is the chance to network and get recommendations for positions.

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To know more, connect with Alokta on LinkedIn : https://de.linkedin.com/in/alokta

 

Alokta Chakrabarti was interveiwed by Abhinav Dey. Abhinav is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University and a Young Investigator Awardee from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. He is also the co-founder of PhD Career Support Group (CSG) for Science PhDs and ClubSciWri

(https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhinavdey)

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Mentors’ Perspective

in That Makes Sense by

mentor

The discussions in the Career Support Group for Science PhDs have always been a live wire. As the group nears its one year anniversary and embarks on the Mentor-Mentee initiative, ClubSciWri is pleased to bring out the first brain-storming session that led to this initiative. One such interesting discussion took place a few months back. Dr Moloy Goswami asked, “Among this group are many who are Principal Investigators (PIs). A lot is been discussed from side of graduate students and post-docs. It would be lovely to have perspective from looking glass.” So the questions he posed to the group were:

  1. What it means to be a researcher and a mentor?
  2. How to be a good lab manager?
  3. Is it compatible with right science and competitive nature of grants?
  4. What have the PIs done to boost science career of next generation?

Moloy believes talking it aloud will help investigators reflect in addition to adding value to those who believe science is what they were born for.

Here is a summary of the opinions expressed by some of the faculty members in the forum.

  1. You cannot control every aspect of the experiment.
  2. Some phd students/postdocs are more independent than others, do you know where your mentee stands?
  3. Taking a graded approach with PhD students helps: start with a greater involvement and release the brakes slowly after changing gears.
  4. Encourage healthy disagreement to develop better proteges. Your success depends on their success.
  5. Be inspiring, especially in the disillusionments through paper and grant rejections.
  6. A good read: By Santiago Ramon Y Cajal (the father of modern neurobiology), called ‘Advice to a Young Investigator’.
  7. Try to be a mentor and a friend, and let your mentee’s speak their mind.
  8. Lead by example, not by tyranny.
  9. Be super selective of the first person you hire
  10. Compartmentalise, because there’s never going to be a block of time for anything that takes too long: there’ll always be a meeting, students asking help, emails that need replying, other admin work that cannot wait and so on.
  11. In the beginning you are your best postdoc and you set the culture in the lab, the rigour, the fun and the discipline, all of it.
  12. I’ve also noticed it is best to offer career advice when asked by people who have some idea of what they want for themselves. No career is better or worse. We have an open door policy and students/postdocs can approach any PI for advice.
  13. It is best to offer career advice when asked by people who have some idea of what they want for themselves. No career is better or worse.
  14. Each person is different. Your interactions with personnel in your group are never alike. One-size-fits-all approach is bound to fail.
  15. Conflict Resolution: Universities offer courses like ‘Dealing with difficult personalities’ which might be useful to some extent. I think having mentor (other than your PI) at workplace is very important.
  16. Judging talent: In terms of expectations – I feel motivation and interest in the project at hand are most important. A super smart student who is not interested in the laboratory projects is unlikely to make much progress. And to a large extent, at that level, the whole class is intellectually similar. So attracting the students/people most interested in your work is better for both parties.
  17. How to help the mentees transition? Well, this is what they had to say:-

Bhismadev Chakrabarti said, ” for good phd students coming to the end of their term, i’d unashamedly push his/her case to colleagues in labs that i know are doing good work. this approach has resulted in good postdoc positions for several of my students. applying ‘cold’ is ok too,though what is really important is for the students to ‘prepare the ground’ in conferences (through initiating contact with the relevant PI) at least a year before the application process starts. it is important to realise that the ratio of applicants to positions for postdocs is often 30:1 (and the top five or so candidates all look very similar on paper). for postdocs coming to the end of their contract, i strongly encourage applying for fellowship applications (e.g. marie curie in the EU) which provide the ideal bridge between senior postdoc and PI. the other alternative is to get a lectureship position. the slight risk of getting a teaching fellowship/ teaching-intensive lectureship is that it risks having less time for research; so one of these career development awards (or equivalents ) and situating oneself in a good lab is the best way forward in my view. usually the home institutions will absorb the researcher at the end of the fellowship into their tenure track stream (at least within UK).”

Dev Sikder said, “Postdocs are weaved into many projects. As a consequence a productive postdoc publishes about 3-4 first author papers and few additional ones as coauthor. As a PI you realize the bigger picture, by assisting a postdoc’s transition into academia or industry, you also build your own legacy. Long story short, a PI’s interest isn’t limited to keeping students/Postdocs in laboratory Indefinitely just because of good match. Once the papers are published he will be happy to help the transition. But Postdocs need to be proactive in the process. Talk to PI about the help you need, help the PI clearly see your vision. Just asking them to write a strong recommendation will NOT land you a position. Build that trust to the extent that he will place a call to the hiring department/institute/ industry. PI’s contacts with industry and academia will help you segue. Having said that you must the prepared to grab the right opportunity. For example when your PI presents your work to Scientific Boards, you should find a way to network with board members. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities in conferences, and approach your PI for making that call.”

Moloy Goswami thanked everyone for their inputs. He said, “It is to bring out and layout such points that I raised the questions. I also believe, getting funding and starting lab do not immediately qualify someone to be good mentor. It is a learning curve for those willing to learn.”

 

The perspectives and questions will be undergoing a continuous evolution as the biomedical workforce in the US and across the world undergoes re-organization in the days to come. The years of investment, training and perseverance that goes into creating a scientist deems a re-thinking in the way we are educating our mentees. This becomes more important when we start to prepare them for the a variety of science careers that are non-traditional.

 

Our Participants

 Moloy Goswami is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

Avinash Shenoy is a Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology at Imperial College (London).

Bhismadev Chakrabarti is an Associate Professor at the University of Reading (UK).

Devanjan (Dev) Sikdar is an Associate Professor at the University of Florida (Gainesville).

Anindita Bhadra is an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (Kolkata, India).

 

 

 

Self2015

About the author: Abhinav Dey is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University and a Young Investigator Awardee from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. He is also the co-founder of Career Support Group (CSG) for Science PhDs and ClubSciWri

(https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhinavdey)

 

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CSG meet-ups -A photoblog

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Sometimes the virtual worlds fall short- Joining hands to move from a virtual world to a real world

…. and this is just the beginning!

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Tea Board@IISc
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Stanford Oval@ SFO
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Roosevelt Island @NYC
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Saravana Bhavan @NYC
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Emory University @ Atlanta
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Jackson Heights@NYC
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11921707_10153443205740910_3766709048536302371_n NY@NY
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Singapore
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Singapore
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NYC
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NYC
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NYC
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IISc@Bangalore
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NYC
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IISc@Bangalore
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JPL@NASA
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Going Big @Boston
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Memphis@Tennessee
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Washington DC
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V for Victory@Boston
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NY to Atlanta @GA tech
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Brainstorming@Boston
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Best is Yet to Come@SFO

Brains Behind the Scenes: Our Chief Data Monk

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Onkar Bhardwaj, PhD: Chief Data Monk of ClubSciWri

He is a computer scientist by Ph.D. and profession, currently pursuing a postdoc at IBM. He is also an alumnus of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He is an avid reader and internet-surfer; loves traveling, technology, languages, music; and likes to be a friendly person. He believes in the power of community and the power of democracy built through respectful discourse, and likes to think that leveraging these along with science and technology can solve most of the problems facing humanity. At ClubSciWri, his role is to come up with ways to make ClubSciWri data-savvy and technically smooth from the point of view of user experience.

Twitter Town Hall @ClubSciWri #AskVijayDBT on February 21st 2016

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In the last one month of ‪#‎ClubSciWri‬, we have witnessed some of the best articles/write-ups/interviews on this forum. Now we are moving into the next stage as we are introducing interviews with policymakers. In first of such series, we are hosting a twitter townhall with Vijay K VijayRaghavan. We will discuss about DBT’s policy on academic/industrial opportunities for post-doc/PhD. You can send your questions to @ClubSciWri twitter handle, post here on FB or best join the live chat on 21st February 11.30 AM- 12.30 PM (IST).

@ClubSciWri Proudly hosts Twitter town hall with @DBTIndia Prof. @kvijayraghavan send your question at ‪#‎AskVijayDBT‬

About Us

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Ab-CSHLAbhinav Ph.D.: Co-founder of ClubSciWri, is a broad spectrum biologist and innovation enthusiast. He is actively involved in bench-based pediatric cancer research at Emory University (Atlanta, USA) and alumni connectivity for his graduate school, Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore, India). He believes that “sculptors of science are the people who can convey the true sense of their creation and the nuances of their work which never get conveyed to the general audience even if they read their research paper or their company profile.”

 

Ananda, Ph.D.: Co-founder of ClubSciWri, works at the NYU (USA) Office of Industrial Liaison to make sure that NYU innovations are developed beyond bench and ultimately serves society to solve unmet needs. He likes to share ideas and stories through SciWri and create awareness in innovation, entrepreneurship, alternative careers for PhDs, sustainable development, biodiversity, environment, and leadership.

 

Imit pursued her Ph.D. from the University of Utah (USA) is currently pursuing her Postdoctoral fellowship at the Albert Einstein Medical College in Bronx, NY, USA. She has an expertise in preclinical drug development and regulatory protocol development and analytical chemistry focussed on Oncology. Her current work explores the signaling pathways involved in hematopoiesis and leukemia stem cells. She is passionate about medical and science communication.

 

 

Ipsa is a Ph.D. student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing rather than writing. She posts as “ipsawonders” on Fb and Instagram.

 

Radhika completed her Ph.D. from Cornell University, NY, USA and is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research interests have centered around oncology and neuroimmunology. Among other things, she is striving to effectively communicate scientific discoveries to the community.

 

Sayantan Ph.D., is an IRTA postdoctoral visiting fellow at the National Institute on Aging – National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, USA. Apart from science, I invest my time in networking, organizing events, and consolidating efforts to build a platform for bringing together scientists and industry professionals to help spread the idea of alternate careers for life science graduates. When I am doing neither of these, I am busy bugging the other team members with my ideas. Ask them!

Somdatta Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher at Georg-August University, Göttingen, Germany. She is a curious soul that loves exploring newer places, cultures and meeting new people to inspire her.

Onkar Ph.D., is a computer scientist by Ph.D. and profession, currently pursuing a postdoc at IBM (USA). He is also an alumnus of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He is an avid reader and internet-surfer; loves traveling, technology, languages, music; and likes to be a friendly person. He believes in the power of community and the power of democracy built through respectful discourse, and likes to think that leveraging these along with science and technology can solve most of the problems facing humanity. At ClubSciWri, his role is to come up with ways to make ClubSciWri data-savvy and technically smooth from the point of view of user experience.

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Club SciWri- Scientists Simplifying Science

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Tree of life

Welcome to Club SciWri- Scientists Simplifying Science

Club SciWri is a club of science writers which originated from a Career Support Group created by ex-IISc students. The focus of Club SciWri  is on science communication which hopes to strengthen the bridge between Science and Society . As science progresses to challenge the limits of human imagination, it becomes more imperative that scientists make the society understand the benefits of their work.

The unique thing about this club is that we will be posting blogs written by members of the scientific enterprise. When we say members of the scientific enterprise, we refer to the academics, the entrepreneurs, the intellectual property experts, the policy makers and the myriad of emerging avenues that helps science make the world a better place.

At Club SciWri we believe that these sculptors of science are the people who can convey the true sense of their creation and the nuances of their work which never get conveyed to the general audience even if they read their research paper or their company profile.

Picture Courtesy: Suvasini Ramaswamy

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