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CSG’s Data Science Venture: A new beginning

in ClubSciWri/Data Science by

Data generation and analysis is not a new concept. While high throughput scientific data has been generated by the likes of genome sequencers and the Large Hadron Collider, large swathes of commercial data has been generated by Amazon, Netflix, Google and social media platforms. Thinking in a more organized manner, every aspect of life, be it mechanics, biology, social media or weather, all generate data. Analyzing this data gives rise to meaningful trends and patterns, which can be used to ask questions that would reveal logical answers to various different aspects of life. For example, can we predict the next big disease outbreak using patient data from hospitals, so healthcare organizations can be better prepared to handle the outbreak; combine domain specific knowledge from modern medicine to build models that suggest what type of treatments will work for a given disease. In other words, by analyzing data, we can make better decisions and efficiently allocate resources to tackle existing problems.

Many trillions of gigabytes of data is generated everyday. It is estimated that by 2018 we will be generating about 50,000GB/second. GIS images, preferences on shopping, movies and shows on television networks, GPS based trends, social media behavior, photos and videos acquired by smartphones all contribute to very simple forms of data that is generated and stored by companies. Another example is healthcare, where patient metrics have been collected over a century, in the form of qualitative observations, images and numbers. Meaningful trends can be identified from this data by using predictive models and visualization tools.  In order to identify trends and build these models,  appropriate questions need to be asked of a data set.

With a growing trend in data analysis, there is an increasing demand for people who can perform such analyses. Scientists, by virtue of their training, are required to frame questions as the starting point of any project. They work to find answers to their questions by designing experiments, building numerical or analytical models and sometimes combining all three methods.  Since these people know how to extract useful information from a bunch of messy, unclean data, they are fast becoming the lifeline of data science. A number of scientists are self-teaching themselves at least one relevant coding language and are playing around with open-source biological and other data sets.

It is important that scientists who wish to train themselves for this relatively new profession benefit not only from a plethora of resources available online but also from appropriate interactions with the data science community. The purpose being not to feel lost in the huge online community that already exists, but to receive relevant pointers to resources and networking. The PhDCSG group has been especially instrumental in providing professional development guidance and resources to scientists especially from the STEM fields. Their recent initiative, called the Data Science Club has been created with this same objective: to train PhDs in relevant data science skills and also guide them towards career opportunities in this area. The club functions on the mentor-mentee format, with one mentor assigned to a group of 3-5 mentees. The mentees have been acquiring coding skills since the inception of the club and have an active network available to discuss projects, job openings, problem solving etc. The club will soon embark upon undertaking challenges from freely sourced data sets as well as smaller projects that are being out-sourced to the club members.

The goal of the club is two fold-  firstly by introducing people to the wonderful world of data science and machine learning, the club aims to help those who want to familiarize themselves with data science tools and apply them to various types of problems in disciplines like science, industry, education etc.  Their second goal is to keep in touch with the rapidly advancing field of data science, the academic leaps and its subsequent applications to various domains. The aim is to present articles at various levels, from building data based stories using visualizations to reviews and implementations of some of the newest techniques in machine learning.

Infographically Speaking…

Big Data, Big Returns

From Visually.

 

There are vast opportunities waiting to be harnessed in this field and scientists have a very unique opportunity on their hands: to take up the challenge of this newer profession and start making sense of the vast amounts of data that have already been generated in the world. After all, who understands data better than a scientist?!

 

If you want to learn about data science or discuss interesting ideas and projects please write to us. We would love to collaborate with data science practitioners and start ups looking to develop machine learning and data science solutions. So please feel free to connect with us at csgdatascience@gmail.com

 

 

 

About the Author:

Pawan Nandakishore  is a postdoctoral researcher at International center for theoretical sciences (ICTS). He is a PhD from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self Organization. His background is experimental physics, with a specialization in soft matter. Do feel free to write to him at pawan.nandakishore@gmail.com

 

Edited by:

Anshu Malhotra is an assistant scientist at Emory University and she is actively involved in co-ordinating the activities in CSG’s flagship mentor-mentee program (Gurukool). She is actively involved in bench-based research in pediatric oncology and is strongly interested in developing skills in data science. CSG’s current venture, the Data Science club is Anshu’s latest passion and she hopes that this platform will bring more life scientists together to train themselves and network in this budding new profession. In her spare time, she dabbles into artwork of 3D murals.

 

Cover Image: Vinita Bharat

 

The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

This work by Club SciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

The Year That It Was – 2017

in ClubSciWri/Newsletter by

Another year has come to an end! On this first day of a new year, new month and a new week, the Newsletter team wish you a fantastic kick-start. We have many reasons to celebrate the year 2018; one being we will soon be one year old, but the biggest joy is each day we are celebrating altruism in the Scientific Community.

The Newsletter team, together with Club SciWri and CSG, worked relentlessly to provide a collaboration platform to STEM professionals who are passionate about Science beyond the laboratory doors.

Being the first year in circulation, we have faced a few organizational hurdles. However, with each success and mistake, we learnt a lot. Through our 40 campaigns in 9 months, the team kept chasing the vision “for the scientist by the scientist.”

We ensured an amalgamation of different aspects of science. Our repository has it all!!! Whether, the articles are essential for career development/job offers, or for the stories which leave us awe inspired by the beauty of science, there is real value in the stuff.

 

 

(Topics we shared in the Club SciWri Weekly Briefings, Image courtesy Rituparna Chakrabarti)

As the New Year begins, we decided to have a recap on0 how we grew more vibrant as a team. Among the best additions to our group, the bunch of freelance writers stood out. Aditi (Chiplunkar) Khandekar, Nidhi Subhashini, Sven Truckenbrodt and Tanmoy Samaddar have been the key players in our content research, design and writing. Abhiyan Viplav, Kashyap Krishnasamy, Nisha Peter, Vignesh Narayan Hariharan and I have been the Hawk eyes for the editorial job. We are delighted that midst the organizational restructuring, the successful collaboration and extensive understanding between the writers and the editors assured campaign publication every Thursday, during 2017. Every team needs a backbone, for us Somdatta Karak took up the role gracefully. She assured initial smooth sailing and tethered the team spread across 4 different time zones.

 

(In the Image: Top row (L-R) Kashyap and Somdatta; Middle row up (L-R) Rituparna, Nidhi, Abhiyan and Tanmoy; Middle row down (L-R) Sven and Aditi; Bottom row (L-R) Nisha and Vignesh)

We are extremely thankful to have our SciArties Vinita Bharat’s Fuzzy Synapse and Ipsa Jain’s IpsaWonders, their contributions added a different charm to our newsletter.

(In the Image: L-R Vinita and Ipsa)

Our Nine Best Shares

Here we recount the most read and liked issues of Club SciWri Weekly Briefings – 2017 from each month.

  1. April: published on 20th April, 2017
  2. May: published on 18th May, 2017
  3. June: published on 1st June, 2017
  4. July: published on 13th July, 2017 (Our Pick!)
  5. August: published on 3rd August, 2017
  6. September: published on 21st September, 2017
  7. October: published on 5th October, 2017
  8. November: published on 16th November, 2017
  9. December: published on 7th December, 2017

The Aftermath

Ours is a young endeavour within Club SciWri. However, we are steadily gaining our readership. This is indeed reflected in our subscription base, as we initially had only 12 subscribers and now we have reached to 530 active subscribers, spread across 3 continents.

The active members of CSG help us achieve our social media readership per campaign in the range of 120 – 2,400. We are thankful to them for keeping the platform alive with their dynamic shares, lively discussions and constant feedback. Secondly, our average campaign ;open rate is 15 %, which is higher than the industrial campaigns (13.09 %). Our 13th July, 2017, campaign witnessed so far the record-breaking 28.02 % open rate.

(The graph depicts the % of open rate, click rate and the industry average open rate of the campaigns published between April- December, 2017, generated using MailChimp)

The core team (Abhiyan, Kashyap, Nisha and I) love to experiment with new content every week and are always taking the lead on how to gain visibility for our contributors. Feel free to leave us your feedback. We hope by the end of 2018, we will reach a subscription base of 2,000 + globally, therefore looking forward to the collaboration with the CSG – University Representatives. Our current readers’ base is mostly concentrated in the USA, France, Germany, the UK and India. Hand-in-hand with Club SciWri we aim to expand our viewership in 2018 beyond these countries.

(Interactive map depicting the top locations where our newsletter is read, generated with MailChimp)

The Newsletter team take immense pride in providing a platform to those who are passionate about science communication with the perk of visibility. If you think you could be one of us in 2018, get connected with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or just drop me an email at rituparna.chakrabarti@sciwri.club.

Our journey so far wouldn’t have been possible without your support and we look forward to many more chapters in the coming year. If you haven’t yet subscribed to our newsletter, we assure you that 2018 will be more exciting.

Happy New Year!!


Cover Image: Pixabay

Rituparna is the lead editor of the Newsletter team at Club SciWri. She pursued her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georg-August University (Göttingen, Germany) and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biostructural Imaging of Neurodegeneration (BIN), Göttingen. Over years, she has gained technical expertise in electron and high-resolution light microscopy, in order to study the nanostructures of specialized chemical synapses in the sensory systems. She likes to have a bird’s eye view of her undertakings and gets excited with analytics. Passionately believes in, correct simplification of science, therefore engages in different scientific communication and public outreach projects. To unwind herself she plays mandolin and eagerly looks for a corner at a coffee house to slide herself in with a good read or company.


The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

This work by Club SciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Impression 2017 – Club SciWri in retrospect

in ClubSciWri by

Club SciWri, the online blogging platform founded by scientists for scientists, has constantly endeavored to provide a platform to STEM professionals who’ve tirelessly instigated their passion for literary and/or artistic skills with the bonus of visibility. The team that runs this journal, even in the wake of organizational reshuffling in 2017, stuck to its vision of publishing articles relevant to innumerable STEM careers and providing added skillsets to professionals for efficient maneuvering of their own careers.

Articles of various flavors are run by Club SciWri – career transition stories, science policy, biodiversity and environment, entrepreneurship, developments in the world of science, arts and pharma (Med-ness). As the year comes to an end, we decided to look back and retrospect on how we grew as a team. Amongst the best additions to our group, the bunch of freelance editors stood out. They’ve relentlessly helped polish the articles that go online with us. Shayu Deshpande, Paurvi Shinde, Manoja Eswara, Arunima Singh, Roopsha Sengupta, Sushama Sivakumar and Akshaya Hodigere have been the driving force for our editorial team. Vinita Bharat’s Fuzzy Synapse added a different essence to numerous articles and was also a star attraction of our team.

We chose to list the ten most-viewed articles that were published by Club SciWri in 2017. The sheer breadth of the articles speaks volumes about the diversity we strive for, the information we aim to share and what strikes a chord in the reader’s mind. The articles (in descending order of viewership) are:

  1. Transitioning from Bench to Business Development: Face to Face with Subhalaxmi Nambi by Abirami Santhanam – March 22, 2017
  2. From Oklahoma to Manhattan- The Genesis of Sevengenes by Imit Kaur – June 26, 2017
  3. STEM Peers 2017 by Abhinav Dey – July 27, 2017
  4. Transitioning from Bench to Academic management: Tête-à-tête with Dr. Viswanadham Duppatla by Abirami Santhanam – May 25, 2017
  5. Ernesto Llamas: the sketching science guy by Ipsa Jain – April 29, 2017
  6. Transitioning into Science Policy: In conversation with Zane Martin, Ph.D. by Sayantan Chakraborty – February 7, 2017
  7. Face to Face with Dr. Senthil Arumugam by Ananda Ghosh – January 8, 2017
  8. Madhushree: the Maverink girl by Ipsa Jain – April 5, 2017
  9. Informational Interviews and How to go about them? by Riya Binil – May 24, 2017
  10. Medical Science Liaison 101 with Dr. Martijn Bijker by Radhika Raheja – August 30, 2017

As Club SciWri grew since its inception, the team running the show had an immense hurdle to take care of – outreach and viewership. We not only persevere for quality, finding audience for published works brings visibility to the contributors. In this year, we had a total viewership of 71,436 with 40,022 unique visitors (compared to 45,255 and 23,376 for 2016, respectively).

We were accessed in 140 countries (relative to 98 in 2016)! USA, followed by India, Germany, UK and Canada were the lead geographical hotspots for Club SciWri viewers and we covered every continent on earth (except Antarctica – we’ll make it there soon!).

Since we keep working hard on spreading the word about every article that’s published on Club SciWri, efficient use of sharing platforms also matters. In descending order of referrals, Facebook, search engines, LinkedIn, android-apps, and Twitter have helped us direct audience to our articles, hence increasing the brand value of contributors and Club SciWri alike.

The journey so far would not have been possible without the support of the contributors, editors and illustrators, PhDCSG, and the audience. Thank you for being there with us. As we look forward to more adventures in the coming year, the entire Club SciWri team wishes you all a Happy New Year!

 


The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

This work by Club SciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

PhDCSG Consulting Club – How it all began and future plans

in ClubSciWri/Entrepreneurship by

Editor’s note- Ever thought of Consulting as a career option? Look no further, PhDCSG has its very own Consulting Club, where members can connect and solve case studies as well as learn about business. In this article, Czuee Morey writes about how the Club was formed, what it has achieved so far and what its outlook is, for the future. It is a wonderful example for the potential PhDCSG holds in aiding career choices through the creation of hubs, by providing resources and connecting those with common interests. – Roopsha Sengupta

If you are a PhD who is tired of working alone on your experiments and would rather work in teams, travel extensively and be paid well for your hard work, consulting might be just the right career for you! Consulting is one of the most sought after options to transition out of academia by graduates from various disciplines. One of the major reasons for this trend could be that unlike other industry jobs, getting hired as an entry-level consultant does not require much experience. Also the exit options after consulting can be fabulous considering the solid experience, growth and exposure to varied fields gained in consulting. However, getting a consulting job does require demonstrating that you are good at analytical and quantitative skills as well as have a basic understanding of business, all of which is usually assessed through ~30-min case interviews.

Consulting clubs have become a regular feature at many universities. They provide PhDs and postdocs with easy access to consulting resources and fellow graduates to practice cases. Many times these consulting clubs also provide consulting services to clients at reduced prices, which help the members gain valuable experience. However, many universities around the world still do not have such consulting clubs. Moreover, PhDs who have already graduated from University might not have access to clubs at their University any longer.

PhDCSG came up with the idea to launch an online consulting club so that its members could have an easily accessible solution to prepare for consulting or simply to learn more about business. The PhDCSG group itself has been a major success in connecting PhDs worldwide through its online platform, with over 8000 members. The consulting club arose as an extension of this platform where the members connect with each other via social media and solve cases using audio/video conferencing. Mayur Vadhvani and I started the club in March 2017 and Ananda Ghosh has provided us constant support throughout. We saw a lot of response from participants in the beginning. However, as the case studies progressed many members dropped out due to time constraints or simply because they realized they were not interested in consulting. We eventually had 20 committed members who are still with us. We had another intake in the middle of the year, and are currently operating with 40 members. Parthiban Rajasekharan and Shruti Srinivasan have recently joined us to help run the club.

So, what is exactly a case interview and how is it used to evaluate candidates? In a case interview ‘the applicant is presented with a challenging business scenario that he/she must investigate and propose a solution to. After the applicant is given information about the case, the applicant is expected to ask the interviewer logical questions that will help the applicant understand the situation, probe deeper into relevant areas, gather pertinent information and arrive at a solution or recommendation for the question or situation at hand’ according to Wikipedia. Although this might sound relatively easy, many intelligent candidates with top grades fail case interviews due to lack of frameworks and problem structuring. Eventually, it is not only important that you get the right answer, but also what steps you take to solve it and if you give enough confidence to the interviewer that you can follow such a structured approach every single time. So, practice is crucial!

We have structured the PhDCSG consulting club so as to simulate the actual case interview process. The participants work in pairs, where one person acts as an interviewer and another one as interviewee for the first case study and the task exchanges for the next case study and so on. For every case, we send the interviewer all the information for a case to guide the interviewee. The interviewee would ideally get the problem case from the interviewer on the day they decide to solve the case. While solving the case, the interviewee is expected to ask several questions, and the interviewer is supposed to guide them. The participants were provided the following pointers by the PhDCSG club, in order to work on the cases. After a case study is solved, the interviewer gives feedback (we have this automated thanks to Google forms!) on a number of factors such as calculation skills, hypothesis-driven approach, case structuring, communication, case conclusion as well as appearance and attitude of the interviewee. The interviewee also gives us feedback about the case – if it was easy peasy, moderate or ninja-level difficult!

The group also provides support besides case studies. We have created an FB group where all the members can interact and share articles, tips and have discussions about business terminologies and case studies. We had also organized a Facebook live interview on the main PhDCSG group by a consultant, Anandaroop Dasgupta, who shared his experience as a consultant and tips on preparing for interviews.

We have had a good response from the participants so far. Many of them were struggling to prepare for consulting all by themselves and were happy to find this resource. It has also benefited members who were not looking for a consulting job but wanted to learn more about business. Syam Anand, who is an IP consultant quoted, “The case studies I did with other members in the club, sharpened my business data analytical skills and more importantly, helped me to understand key pieces of the puzzle and find and seek them when they are missing to complete a case. Budding entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the case studies in the club. Since these activities benefit critical thinking abilities needed/used for problem solving, one will also get insights into how companies/organizations operate and how the balance sheets guide all of the decisions made. This will also benefit those who are not actively looking for consulting jobs as you will understand your own jobs better, irrespective of your technological area and nature of your organization as the case studies themselves are very diverse”. Since, I also participate in the case studies besides helping to organize it, I have experienced a lot of benefits myself. The regular weekly case studies ensure that I keep on track with my practice in spite of a busy schedule! It helps to overcome the complacency of reaching out to partners for practice and keeps me on my toes even if I don’t have an interview to prepare for. The platform also gives an opportunity to virtually meet fellow PhDs who are also struggling to find a job in business/consulting. Somdatta Karak, who was a postdoc in Germany and later moved to India, while keeping up with all the consulting assignments throughout her transition, explains it as follows – “The club helped me to invest time discussing the prospects of consulting with peers with similar interests or sharing the geographical location of interest. It helped me network with some wonderful people in addition to practicing case studies together.”

Such interactions with fellow PhD students proved to be very useful for Saikat Nandi, when he was looking for team members to participate in a business case competition in Boston. Through an email sent to the consulting club he found Parthiban Rajasekaran. Their team was selected as one of the top five, after solving a business case within a mere 10 days. Parthiban gave a recap of the event later to the group, “Essentially, you have 10 days to solve the case and present your analysis and recommendation in a Powerpoint slide deck. So, our team got selected for the top 5, which by itself is a great result as none of us had any previous experience. Most of the judges look for three things: (1) Did you do a thorough analysis of the case? (2) What is the kind of analysis (primary or secondary research) you did and what is the logic behind your framework of analysis? (3) What are your recommendations and how are they going to help your clients? It goes without saying that I am thankful for the PhDCSG consulting group. It was that email from Saikat to the PhDCSG club that made me sign up for this experience. Now we know what is expected in case competitions and we can help you if any of you are planning to go for one.”

The organizers of the consulting club (Mayur Vadhvani, Parthiban Rajasekharan, Shruti Srinivasan and I) are doing our best to make sure the club runs smoothly and that the members benefit from it. We are working on a voluntary basis, which sometimes leads to organizational delays. However, we always encourage the members to continue their case practice and reach out to other members in the group. In the future, we are planning to have more interactions with consultants to gain a better understanding of consulting in general and to help the members to have case practices with real consultants before an actual interview. Since the members have asked for greater interactions within the group, an online business case competition is also in the pipeline.

If you are a PhD and would like to learn more about consulting, check out this link for what a consulting interview looks like and also visit the Preplounge website. We also recommend going through the case interview introductory videos by Victor Cheng. This has 12 parts and is roughly 4.5 hours in total. If you find that interesting and would like to participate in the club, drop us an email at csg.consultingclub@gmail.com. We would also love to hear from consultants who can help us with guidance based on their consulting experience, case studies, and with the upcoming business case competition in the club.

About Czuee Morey:

Czuee is currently exploring applications of digital technologies in healthcare as a market intelligence analyst at Debiopharm in  Lausanne, Switzerland. She has a PhD in protein biophysics and a broad experience in various other fields such as genomics analysis. Equipped with business skills and an entrepreneurial mindset, she is looking for opportunities to bring innovative healthcare solutions to patients. Besides her work, she is involved in organizing the PhDCSG consulting club and Life science networking group in Switzerland, and is an amateur webcomic artist and DJ.

Editors: Roopsha Sengupta, PhD edited and Paurvi Shinde, PhD proofread the article.

Roopsha is a freelance manuscript editor and is trying to break into a suitable scientific editing and writing role. She did her PhD in the Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna and postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge UK, specializing in the field of Epigenetics. Besides science and words, she enjoys spending time with children and singing.

 

Paurvi is a Post Doc Fellow at Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle, where she’s studying the mechanism of how alloantibodies are formed against the non-ABO blood group antigens. Apart from doing bench research, she loves editing scientific articles, to help convey the message behind it in a clear and concise form.

 

Cover image: Unsplash

Infographic: PhDCSG Consulting Club


The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

This work by Club SciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Revolutionizing STEM Networking: STEM Peers 2017

in ClubSciWri by

What was brewing?

Here’s the sneak-peak into STEM Peers 2017

Where inspiring Scientists convened

To voice, what it takes to march

On an unconventional career track.

Be it research, be it business or management,

Communication and entrepreneurship transition stories;

The insider struggles, the rewarding moments

And the recruiter beans

All spilled out without filters to steer our pursuits clear.

As the evening advanced, the mix of beer, good food and IMON

Stirred up the enthusiastic pitches that came out loud

Amidst the formally dressed attendees

The Fedora hat & Yellow Suspenders cast a strong charm

And blared the message to stand out in the crowd

While you network, create, share and lend a helping hand

To smoothly sail The Career Transition ship

Through the opposing storms of doubt.

Composed by Meghna Thakkar, PhD (Post-Doctoral Researcher, MDC-Berlin)

 

STEM PEERs took place in Boston, the emerging hub for biotech/pharma industry on the east coast. The venue- Aeronaut Brewing Company turned out as interesting and stimulating for the brain as the event itself. The meeting was loaded with enthusiasm of the organizers/ volunteers and curiosity of the participants. An untainted rendition of real life experiences from professional journeys lent a personal touch to the event and inspired the participants to aim higher and be smarter, while chasing their dreams. A first hand detail of the event is accounted in the section below by some of the participants. As stated by most people who attended the event, this meeting offered a great opportunity to network and showcase creativity, while enjoying food and drinks amidst great minds.

Here are some expressions from our STEM Peers

Shyamtanu Datta, PhD

(Post Doctoral Scientist, UT Southwestern University)

“En route STEM PEERS-2017 from my hotel, I complained to the cab driver that I liked the city of Boston but I found it unwelcoming since I had not seen the rays of the sun since I had arrived. The cabbie told me “Boston never disappoints, sir. Today will be one of the nicest and sunniest day in your life, and I hope you take home lots of wonderful memories of this day.” And trust me, all his words came true. As soon as I arrived at the venue, the sun was up, smiling. As I entered the Aeronaut Brewery (the venue of STEM PEERS, 2017), I could smell the sweet aroma of the hops. It seemed that the pragmatic spirit of the brewery coincided with the “caring, sharing and growing” spirit of more than 100 participants, panelists, and organizers. Being an introvert, I know what a nightmare the word “networking” is to the nerds, but I never felt the burden of the word “networking” in that space. With a cup of coffee in my hand, I started meeting the participants one by one. There were different colored stickers on the badges that the participants wore. The different colors indicated the mentors, the volunteers and the ones who needed help/advice.

As soon as we all settled in, the organizers (Abhinav Dey, Ananda Ghosh, and Ranjith Anand) lit up the stage with their introductory speeches. From then on, there never was a dull moment. Whether it was about the entrepreneurial journey of Melina Fan (co-founder of Addgene), who started Addgene for the sheer love of sharing, or Vinay Eapan’s (Jane Coffin Childs Fellow, HMS) cool strategies of grant writing as a postdoc, or Nick Deal’s excellent suggestions on how to think from the recruiter’s perspective and how to be on the top of the pile, they were all inspiring and informative. Besides these speakers, there were star-studded panel discussions. The panel discussions were divided into four parts – industry research careers, academic careers, careers in the business of science, and careers in science communication and management. Each panel discussion not only broke many myths about STEM careers, but also broadened the horizon of career choices of biomedical scientists and yielded a lot of take-home messages. All of this was invaluable to aspirants like me. Among all these serious discussions, the organizers didn’t forget to entertain us. During the lunch break, there was a live music performance by IMON, a New York-based band composed of talented musicians like Ananda, Sahana, Sutirtha, Radha, and Simon! I am an avid follower of IMON and was looking forward to this event. From Chhaap Tilak to Jagao Mere Desh, the versatility of IMON blew me away.  Post lunch and after all the panel discussions, Smita Salian Mehta, Ragoo Raghunathan, and Anshu Malhotra devised a unique way to encourage the young aspirants to learn the art of networking. I must say even the most introverted people would have felt comfortable with networking after this session. The day came to an end with Syam Anand’s closing speech, which was full of hope and encouragement to take this event forward beyond all borders of nations. How I wished the event would have lasted a little longer and I could meet every single person present at the event…However, with the hope of meeting again with all the existing and many new members of CSG, I bid goodbye.”

Dolonchapa Chakraborty,PhD

(Freelancing Consultant)  

“I studied toxin-encoding viruses in my PhD. These viruses, similar to most other viruses, hijack their host machinery and co-exist with them in a dormant state. Try killing their host, and they get to them before anyone else. They escape their dead host and infect fresh meat. Your next question would be why does the host even bother to carry these ‘ungrateful’ viruses. Well the host survive in big colonies and some of these host cells graciously entertain the viruses for the benefit of their pack. You see, when the virus kills their host, they do so by releasing toxin that is also used by the rest of the host pack (mourners at the time for their deceased friends) to ward off predators. We call our dead host, public goods, and the mourners, cheaters. I find the above phenomenon very apt and relatable in my daily life. This is why when Melina Fan mentioned that after two years of research, she knew she had to make a self-sustaining product, it caught my ear. Hold on to this thought, I promise I will come back to it.

Why was I at STEM Peers? Because I am in my early career and networking is good I’m told. Moreover, I wanted to find out more about all the possible opportunities that’s out there for PhDs like me. When I started my PhD, the obvious next career step was research. This is not because without-research-my-life-has-no-purpose or some melodrama; it’s because I did not know any better. A friend introduced me to the Facebook CSG group when I told him I was feeling so lost regarding what to do. STEM Peers was in a month from when I joined and brought me back to one my favorite cities.  

What I expected from STEM Peers was what I usually get from talking to people in the field- suggestions, advice, dos and don’ts etc. Much to my surprise, I got conversations instead. People told me stories that made me relate to them. I did not feel so lost anymore. They talked about their past experiences; experiences that I could connect with. The hopelessness in me was waning. And since we were conversing, I was telling them my stories too. My stories weren’t naïve and childish but apparently inspiring; hah! I asked questions (that were probably silly), and people answered them. While there was encouragement when required, there were also no lies and sugar coats at other situations. The panelists made themselves sound real; I liked that. They credited part of their success to their families. They called themselves lucky. They talked about ‘real’ problems. When a career transition takes time, but you need to pay the bills, what do you do! Things like that.

The closing speech was about how CSG was founded. And how we will have to give back what we are taking now to make it a self-sustaining system. We cannot be like the cheater bacteria (well, technically, some of us will be). We are all in the same boat. And we have to pitch in whatever way we can. STEM Peers was not ‘just’ another networking event for me. It left me with some great contacts, yes, but mostly with the hope that may be PhD isn’t as bad as people (they who shall remain unnamed) make it to be.”

Ajit Kamath  

(PhD Researcher at Boston University)

“On a beautiful Saturday, I entered Aeronaut Brewery like I had done countless times before. Only, this time it was 8am, I was dressed in formal wear and was ready for the first annual meeting of PhD Career Support Group (PhD CSG), STEM Peers 2017. The event began with greetings from enthusiastic volunteers who handed us welcome packages followed by a light breakfast and a warm welcome by Abhinav, Ananda and Ranjith. Networking and learning was the main theme of the event. We were encouraged to forge meaningful relationships and make the most out of this opportunity to collect first hand information on different career paths.The keynote talk by Melina Fan, (Co-founder/CSO Addgene) about her journey and experience with Addgene was inspirational. She epitomized the saying “If you don’t like something, be the change to make it better”. Her efforts led to sharing of plasmids among the scientific community.

Next, a series of panel discussions walked us through the journeys of various professionals in different fields. Ranjith Anand, Smita Salian-Mehta, Ambrish Roy, and Richa Jaiswal gave insights on how they transitioned into industry careers. They gave us their perspective on stepping out of the ivory tower and what it takes to succeed in job searches. The recruiter’s’ perspective on hiring in Industry by Nick Deal (Recruiter at Stratacuity) and importance of connecting with recruiters who understand the job seeker’s career needs was an eye opener. It was assuring to meet recruiters like him who cared about the candidate’s needs and background to place them in the right career. The panel on academic careers by Nikhil Gupta, Mishtu Dey, Jagan Srinivasan, and Harpreet Singh told us a story of perseverance. Vinay Eapen followed this by his unique take on grant writing as an academic. Syam Anand, Ragoo Raghunathan, Subhalaxmi Nambi, Rajnish Kaushik, and Ananda Ghosh held an enlightening panel on the Business of Science. As scientists working the lab all day, we forget the business side of things which keep the gears of innovation turning. They illuminated careers in Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property and Marketing, which scientists like us can shine in. Ragoo gave us new networking ideas about talking to sales people in our lab and at conferences. The next time you go to a conference, talk to the reps at various stalls and learn about their companies. You will learn about new careers, meet amazing people and most importantly, score some freebies.

Post lunch break, we discussed interesting concepts of science communication and management with Abhinav Dey, Colleen Brady, Ana Batista, Sutirtha Dutta, and Muthu Dhandapani. They told us about their passion in science communication and how they matured in their careers. Efficient science communication is more important than ever today and these stories inspired the part of me that wants the world to appreciate science. Finally, we had an effective networking session orchestrated by Smita Salian-Mehta. The small group networking was very effective in connecting people. Ragoo, with his fedora and yellow suspenders, gave us a great lesson in standing out in a crowd. The day ended with Syam Anand’s closing statement. He talked about a hopeful future and how we can all help each other out. His vision of CSG is of an organization surpassing all borders. I left the Brewery on a high, feeling hopeful. I made a few meaningful connections that day and hope to keep nurturing those for a long time. I look forward to the next annual meetup and meeting old and new CSG members again.”

The STEM Peers organizers followed-up with the participants to rate STEM Peers based on their experience and we are grateful to have received more than 9 STARS out of 10.

Anonymous suggestions on areas for improvement/additions for STEM Peers 2018

  1. “Maybe increase the panel size for each category so that we could get a broader sense of the different opportunities available. Can include people who transitioned into industries right after PhD (without a post-doc) to get a sense of working on OPT. Also can include a CV writing/resume writing workshop. Maybe can keep a separate workshop for green card related questions and suggestions, as I did not get much input on my questions during the short networking/questions sessions.”
  2. “Grant/fellowship writing related session”
  3. “More time to Networking and panel discussions”
  4. “1. Limit number of attendees to 100, same like this year’s (allows better interaction). 2. Run parallel sessions, so that more panelists can be involved for the same career track. 3. Have some motivational talks by people in any stage of their career who are steering their profession. 4. Audio friendly environment. 5. Open doors to participation of Non-Indian nationals (extensive advertisement across campuses).”
  5. “More time per discussion session, could collect questions for panelists before hand”
  6. “Add a panel or talk on finance and tax related issues. I am encountering a lot of PhDs as librarians, it would be good to add this career choice. Role of professional societies in career development can be highlighted. An on-site proposal review panel can be convened to review the grants application written by the participants.”
  7. “Include STEM’s from other nationality, maybe a bit more in-depth information on the role PhD’s can play in management consulting, career progression in various related field etc”
  8. “I would suggest to bring some synthetic chemistry people either industry/academy”
  9. “I think there shouldn’t have been any panels, instead we should have spread out tables for speed networking with the panelists sitting at different tables to get a proper discussion going. The speed networking, as it happened, was way too crowded and it limited conversations. I do understand the space and time limitations with such a setup. Overall it was great, but this is just something to think about for next time.”
  10. “Venue was echoey and distracting during panels, though it was nice for networking.”
  11. “A two day retreat. Time was too short.”
  12. “Maybe more time for networking session”
  13. “Need a quieter place for more efficient networking sessions. A lot of things said were not audible in the back.”
  14. “A printed schedule for the day’s activities would be very useful.”
  15. “Please advertise it as a complete solution (career front) for PhD/ Postdocs where non-academic careers are not the only focus. At present it sounds like getting academic careers anywhere are impossible so let us start discussing about other careers. If academic careers are kept in focus, it will attract extremely serious scientists (PhD/Postdoc levels) who will just focus on academic careers.”
  16. “Better selection of panelist (consulting, finance, MSL, workshops)”
  17. “More time to discuss with mentors”
  18. “Entrepreneurship & Data Science careers”
  19. “More hands-on workshops for résumé and coverletters. Hands-on workshops for networking strategies.”
  20. “none”

 

STEM Peers will continue this yearly journey to serve as a confluence of STEM Professionals globally. We are always open to new ideas and available to support the ambitions and aspirations of our members. STEM Peers-2018 will be hosted in New York city and the preparations have already begun. If you would like to be a part of STEM Peers, please shoot us an email at stempeers@gmail.com.

 

 

What did Twitterati say?

Photo Gallery

 

Image Credits: Danika Khong, Smita Salian Mehta, Ananda Ghosh, Ranjith Anand, Ragoo Raghunathan

Featured Image: Felicitation Plaques created by Studio Artinuum (https://www.facebook.com/studioartinuum/)

Editors: Abhinav Dey and Anshu Malhotra

 

We thank our sponsors

 

 

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PhD Career Support Group (PhD CSG) for STEM PhDs is a US Non-Profit 501(c)3  organization and all donations to PhDCSG are tax deductible

Meet the STEM Peers-Part 4

in ClubSciWri by

With less than two weeks to go for STEM Peers, we will catch up with our STEM peers who are traveling from as close as Worcester (MA, USA) to as far as Chennai (India).
So let’s know more about Vidhi Thakkar (who is traveling from Atlanta, GA), Parthiban Srinivasan (who is traveling from Chennai, India), Jagan Srinivasan (who is traveling from Worcester, MA) and Sutirtha Datta (who is traveling from New York, NY) and find out about their reasons of joining us for STEM Peers.

Why do I want to attend STEM Peers 2017?

Vidhi is a final year PhD student in Life sciences at The institute of biomedical sciences, Georgia State University, USA. She is planning to graduate by May 2018. She did her bachelor’s in pharmacy (B.Pharm) from India and then came to GSU right after bachelor’s to do her Master’s and PhD. She is looking to transition into career fields that will not make her stuck to a wet-lab or in front of a computer. So, she has been looking into Field application Scientist and MSL positions and trying to build her resume accordingly. Since she does not have any internship/industry experience in these fields, she wants to be proactive and look for her options right away.
She is really looking forward to connect/network with people that will give her insight into the job market and she thinks that STEMPeers will be a huge step towards helping her with her career choice.

Vidhi attended the Experimental biology 2017 conference in Chicago which helped her weigh out her career choices after PhD. The conference had many career development seminars and workshops. It helped her to choose her ideal career and she explored the many myths that surround career options for PhD’s. Job hunting by Bill Lindstaedt and Beyond the bench by Joe Tringali stood out for her. As she always mentions that such career seminars and one-on-one interactions/advice in CSG and ClubSciWri is like a world full of support outside her small world in the lab!

 

Why do I want to attend STEM Peers 2017?

Parthiban Srinivasan, An entrepreneur, businessman, film maker and a scientist. Lives in Chennai. Traveled frequently in Europe and USA. Masters and PhD from Indian Institute of Science (Chemistry to Engineering to Life Sciences and now switching over to Artificial Intelligence). Yes, my next innings will be in AI. Ground work is in progress. Past affiliations include Parthys Reverse Informatics, Jubilant Biosys, GvkBio as business unit head and as researcher at AstraZeneca, NASA Ames Research Center and Weizmann Institute of Science. As soon as I heard this meet few months ago, I planned my next USA trip to complete with STEMpeers and managed to plan that way. All of us know the industry landscape is changing. And would like to see/hear how our friends are planning for the new environment. As I took a break for the last couple of years and as I am getting back and starting from ground zero, this meeting will be a good beginning for my second innings. And in my new ecosystem, would love to see CSG to be part of it and it is already there. Other than the core pillars of CSG, I have not met other contributors of the forum. This will be a great opportunity to meet them and say “hi” to them.

 

Jagan Srinivasan: Panelist on Academic Careers

Professor Srinivasan was born and raised in India. He completed his undergraduate course work at the University of Chennai earning a BS in Zoology and Chemistry. He then moved on to his MS at Goa University completing a degree in Marine Biology and Biotechnology. Professor Srinivasan thereupon relocated to Tuebingen, Germany where he completed his Ph.D in Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. His postdoctoral research soon after sent him to Pasadena, California where he studied the evolution of behavior in C. elegans and small-molecule metabolites regulating social behaviors in C. elegans at Caltech. After his time in Pasadena, in 2012, he moved to the opposite side of the country where he now is an Assistant Professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA. While simultaneously teaching classes he also focuses on researching brain process signaling and social behaviors using the model system C. elegans.

 

Sutirtha Datta: Panelist on Science Communication and Management Careers

I completed my PhD in biochemistry and molecular genetics at University of Virginia, Charlottesville.  For my post-doctoral studies, I joined the cell biology department at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), New York. Since January 2015, I am working as a clinical coordinator at the Clinical Trials Office,  MSKCC. As a study coordinator I handled various aspects of managing a clinical trial, both therapeutic and non-therapeutic,  including patient management, data science and regulatory affairs while maintaining constant communication with  industry sponsors regarding the progress of the trials. Recently I accepted the position of a Sr. Clinical Research Associate in the same department where in addition to managing clinical trials I also play leadership roles related to designing, monitoring and correction of workflows and supervising clinical coordinators.

Click Here to Register Or Scan this QR Code

  1. Please complete required information in STEM Peers 2017 registration form.
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Meet the STEM Peers- Part 3

in ClubSciWri by

 

Ragoo Raghunathan: Panelist on Careers in Business of Science

Ragoo is passionate about science and the arts. Hailing from Mysore, he got his Ph.D in Animal Sciences (neuroscience focus) from University of Hyderabad. His studies focused on studying ssDNA-binding proteins in rat brain followed by a brief neuroscience postdoc at Wesleyan Univ in CT. Here he identified and characterized isoforms of a CNS-enriched striatum enriched protein tyrosine phosphatase in rodents – which later was shown by other investigators to have important roles in various neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Schizophrenia, ischemia, Huntington’s Chorea, alcohol abuse and stress disorders.

Following this Ragoo continued an extended postdoc tenure at the Dept of Genetics at Yale University where his focus was to study immune-system related genes/proteins. His first break was into a start-up biotech company (Molecular Staging Inc) as a scientist growing into a group leader role while developing sensitive assays to detect rare intracellular and cell-surface based marker. During his tenure here, he was a co-inventor of Whole Genome Amplification technology (WGA) using isothermal DNA amplification. He was part of the team that developed, validated and commercialized the technology as a kit – eventually commercialized by Qiagen in 2004 as Repli-G.

This is when Ragoo transitioned into the field as a Technology specialist where he was responsible for presenting technical seminars, training their sales and customer support team with WGA technology and eventually transitioned into a Sales Development Manager role for Advanced Technologies (WGA and RNAi). Since then Ragoo has served roles as Research Biotech Consultant, Field Application Specialist, Business Development Executive and Head of Business Development at companies such as Sigma Aldrich (currently Sigma Millipore), Horizon Discovery Ltd and Metabolon Inc.

Currently Ragoo serves as Business Development Executive (northeast US) for Metabolon and is responsible for multi-million dollar revenue for the company annually. He has a diploma in acting from University of Hyderabad, is an entrepreneur at heart and in his free time can be found advising the commercialization of 2 start-up biotech companies in the Greater Boston area, runs his own franchise of Little Medical School, Boston and plays a ‘bad-guy’ in a Boston-based web serial called Captive. He is also on the Executive Board of the local Indian Society of Worcester, enjoys coaching and mentoring young scientists and entrepreneurs. He loves traveling, drawing & painting and lazing while watching TV when possible.

 

Want to interact with Ragoo at STEM Peers then don’t wait anymore, click Here to Register Or Scan this QR Code

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We thank our event sponsors

 

Meet the STEM Peers-Part 2

in ClubSciWri by

 

 Why do I want to attend STEM Peers 2017?

 

Onkar Bharadwaj (Software Engineer, Cambridge, MA) says “Because this is the first annual symposium of PhDCSG. What makes PhDCSG unique? My simple reason is as follows: if someone googles “PhD student organization” or “Postdoc organization” or “PhD student social network” or “Postdoc social network”, then on the first pages of the respective search results, there are zero organizations which are grass-root, nation-wide and dynamic in nature. In my opinion, this is much more serious than it appears. PhDCSG helps fill this very void to enable peer-to-peer conversations and career advancement through sharing first-hand experiences. PhDCSG is driven by the contributions of many passionate people and apart from being a go-to forum for useful professional advice, it has been a source of optimism and social support for many of its members. I am looking forward to attend STEM Peers 2017 to gain further perspectives from the fellow peers and professionals all gathered under a single roof. I am excited to see what further possibilities of career growth it can open up for its members so that one day it appears on the very first page of the above search results.”

 

About Onkar: Onkar has a Ph.D. in EE/CS (RPI) and a M.Eng. in Telecommunication (IISc Bangalore). He currently works as Sr. Software Engineer in Akamai Technologies, Cambridge, USA. In the past, he has worked as a post-doctoral researcher at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center (USA) and as a Member of Technical Staff in Computational Research Laboratories (India). His technical interests are algorithms, computer networks, machine learning and social choice.

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  1. Please complete required information in STEM Peers 2017 registration form.
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We thank our event sponsors

 

Meet the STEM Peers-Part 1

in ClubSciWri by

 

 Why I registered for STEM Peers?

Sayantan Chakraborty (Postdoc, NIH) says, “One of the essentials for advancing in our careers during current times is networking. Whether it’s academics, industry, entrepreneurship, science policy, IP or any associated fields wherein STEM professionals can make a mark, networking events are indispensable. STEM Peers 2017 provides me that networking platform. As an open-minded career professional, I’ll have the opportunity to not only interact with the speakers, but with the audience too. This in turn will benefit me as I’ll get to learn about various career paths, what to and what not to in order to succeed, and of course, get to know the people who are in such profession(s). STEM Peers 2017 is a venue to build a career oriented support network. Plus, looking at this event as a symbiosis, I will also be able to present myself to a diverse audience – for them to know me better.”

About Sayantan: Sayantan is an IRTA postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute on Aging, NIH, Baltimore. A geneticist by training, he is now exploring the realms of transcription factor dynamics in T cells using quantitative microscopy and systems biology tools. His interests extend to being the Editor-in- Chief for the online blogging journal Club SciWri and Editor for NPR Office Hours and Friends of Joe’s Big Idea. As he grows, he’s looking forward to interacting and networking with fellow science communicators and outreach managers across the globe. Additionally, he’s also volunteering as a Crisis Counsellor with the 24/7 Crisis Text Line (CTL).

Now let’s get to know our Speakers!

Melina Fan: Keynote Speaker at STEM Peers

 

Melina Fan is passionate about open science and entrepreneurship. She received her PhD from Harvard University in the lab of Dr. Bruce Spiegelman.  Following graduation, she co-founded Addgene, a nonprofit plasmid repository that facilitates research through scientific sharing. Addgene distributes over 100,000 plasmids per year and curates sequences, protocols, and other educational resources for the community. Melina is the Chief Scientific Officer and is responsible for new initiatives, including Addgene’s latest initiative to produce and distribute ready-to-use viral vectors. She loves that her job brings her in contact with scientists from around the world working on everything from cancer to biofuels.

Ambrish Roy: Panelist on Careers in Industrial Research

Ambrish Roy did his PhD with Dr. Yang Zhang at University of Michigan, where he focused on developing methods for modeling 3D structure of proteins and using them to understand their function. His work is currently implemented as part of I-TASSER server and downloadable package. There after, he joined as a post-doc in computational chemistry at Georgia Tech with Jeffrey Skolnick. Currently, he is a research scientist at Vertex, as part of Modeling and Informatics team with interest in chemical biology and application of machine learning in drug discovery.

Ana Batista: Panelist on Careers in Science Communication

Ana Batista did a PhD at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and IU Cancer Center studying pediatric leukemia, and a Post-Doc at MGH working on brain tumors.  Ana’s role at Trends in Cancer is to develop the journal strategy, commission expert reviews and commentary pieces in cancer, and oversee the editorial process. As part of growing the journal outreach, Ana is also involved in the planning of conferences, marketing and sales events, and also manages graphic content.

Rajnish Kaushik: Panelist on Careers in the Business of Science

Rajnish Kaushik joined the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC, formerly CVIP) at University of Massachusetts Lowell in August 2010. Prior to joining UMass Lowell, Rajnish worked at the Office of Technology Management at UMass Medical School and in interned at the Partners Innovation office in Boston working with evaluation and marketing of new technologies and assisting with patent prosecution. Currently, he is also a member of thew Executive Advisory Board of M2D2 (Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center), an incubator for the early-stage medical device and life sciences startups. A virologist by training, Rajnish’s 15 years of research has been in the area pathogenicity of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) as well as many animal viruses. His research resulted in many scientific publications, conference presentations and one US patent. He was a recipient of amfAR research grant for HIV research. Rajnish recently received a degree in Masters of Business Administration from the Manning School of Business at UMass Lowell with focus on the entrepreneurship. Prior to that, Rajnish received his M.S. in Biotechnology from University of Pune, India and Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore, India.

A few words from the organizer, Ananda Ghosh (Founder, PhD CSG)

Why you might consider registering for STEM Peers 2017?

For most academic scientists, especially those who have not been exposed to life outside the lab, the realization that one has to network or attend networking events can be daunting.

I remember my first networking event in NYC, surrounded by people who were talking business, people whom I was not used to interact with, topics which were at that time tasteless.. I remember I came out of the meet dejected. I was standing at the corner of the big hall, shaken, standing aloof….. had no idea how to introduce, how to strike a conversation..this was a world which was unknown to me.

When STEM Peers was conceived, it was especially designed to help us familiarize with this world but in a much more comfortable setting. In STEM Peers you will meet participants who are like you or were like you. They can converse in your language as well as the language they have now adapted to if they have transitioned. It will be a known setting, with a known culture.

Networking can’t go better than this. It will be an event where you can meet your mentors who might be your mentors for life. You can meet friends who might become your friends for next 20-30 years. You might meet people who are willing to listen to your troubles and advice you or get you connected to their network which can help you.

The entire event is designed to help those who need it but dont know how to proceed in an unknown territory. If you need further help or discussion on whether you are the right person to attend the conference, mail us at stempeers@gmail.com

 

Don’t wait anymore, click Here to Register Or Scan this QR Code

  1. Please complete required information in STEM Peers 2017 registration form.
  2. Email: your email address
  3. Name: Please provide your full name
  4. Organization: Please provide your current associated Organization/ University.
  5. Designation: Please provide your current designation.
  6. Participation: Please select appropriate participation group (Postdoc/PhD etc).
  7. Contact: Please provide your contact number.
  8. Food: Please provide information if you have any dietary restriction.
  9. Arrival time: Please provide details of your arrival time at event.
  10. Please select I am not a robot.
  11. Once you complete adding information, please click submit.
  12. Once you submit your registration, a new window will  pop-up confirming the receipt of your registration along with a highlighted link. (This is the link for registration fee payment)      
  13. Please click on link to pay and finalize registration.
  14. Payment can be made via using a PayPal account only.
  15. You can also use the “Buy Now” option (shown below) to pay your registration fee of 25$

 

(Please leave your name and email address as a note when paying using Paypal)

 

Click “Donate” to help PhDCSG (Please include your name, email address and phone number as an additional note while making the donation)




PhD Career Support Group (PhD CSG) for STEM PhDs is a US Non-Profit 501(c)3  organization and all donations to PhDCSG are tax deductible

We thank our event sponsors

 

Be it man or machine — a powerful memory impairs decisions

in ClubSciWri/That Makes Sense by

Are you the kind that remembers the core of a past event, but forgets the details? Well, research indicates that you might just be better at decision-making and adapting to the ever-changing, noisy environment. Most of us now acknowledge that it is as important to forget as it is to remember. And by forgetting, I do not mean wiping out unpleasant events (negative experiences propel better decision-making, we know that). It is storing the exquisite details or obsolete information that is a bother.  Why? Picture this. Erin and Matsya are being taught to identify cubes. Each of them has a Rubik’s cube in hand and makes a mental note of the object. The Rubik’s cube is replaced with 3 objects — a dice, a sugar cube, and a multicolored ball, each of a different size. While Erin had kept in mind the Rubik’s cube color, pattern, shape, and size, Matsya only managed to recollect its shape. Simply by storing and applying the gist of the learning, Matsya could quickly predict the dice and sugar block as cubes (i.e generalize), whereas storing too many details impeded Erin’s ability to swiftly choose the cubes. In a different scenario, Matsya’s favorite ice cream shop in her neighborhood shifts to an adjacent locality. Ability of her brain to delete the old location and update the new one can avoid conflict between the old and new and ease her in finding the place. These two scenarios reflect the importance of having a right mix of memory retention and loss for optimal decision-making. Thus, the potential of memory doesn’t lie in accurate, long-term retention of information but rather in guiding sensible decisions and promoting a flexible/adaptable behavior.

The importance of memory transience has also been highlighted in machine learning (ML), an artificial intelligence approach, wherein machines are trained to learn from provided data and expected to self-improve their performance using the “learning”. Regularization, an ML process that is brain’s equivalent to ‘storing and applying the gist of the learning’, shows that the lesser the parameters used for modeling, higher is the model’s ability to correctly predict the outcomes of new data. On the other hand, overly accurate model systems that have too many fed-in parameters are lower in applicability as they cannot generalize over different data sets.  Apart from regularization, computational models can also employ deletion of outdated data for more robust functioning. So, it looks like be it man or machine, remembering and forgetting are important.

But, what about the brain? What exactly is happening inside it when we are holding on to or letting go of memories? Can we influence what we retain or lose? Let’s take a quick look. The human brain is home to around 80-90 billion neurons — the smallest structural and functional electrically excitable units — that talk to each other using electrical and/or chemical signals. This “talking to each other” results in the formation of connections called “synapses”. Longer the talk between two neurons, stronger is their synapse (so much like human bonding, nay?). The birth, change, or death of these synapses is the basis for a lot of functions, one among them being storage and deletion of memories. Studies show that a memory persists principally because of excessive bonding between specific neurons that joined hands together to create the memory in the first place. Breaking or weakening of these bonds would aid in forgetting and/or learning. In reality, our brains are subject to regular remodeling from continuous neural activity and integration of new neurons. Moreover, environmental factors heavily influence our mnemonic abilities. For example, psychological stress affects an individual’s ability to store or retrieve memories, while activities like exercise are known to improve memory.

So, with memory’s neurobiological and computational perspectives in place, here’s the take home message: in a noisy, constantly changing world of today, optimal memory impermanence could be an investment in the choicest memory-guided planning for the future.

Reference:

Richards, B. A., & Frankland, P. W. (2017). The Persistence and Transience of Memory. Neuron, 94(6), 1071–1084.


About Saikata:

Saikata Sengupta is currently pursuing her Ph.D. from Department of Neurology at Friedrich Schiller University, Germany. You can follow her on Linkedin or Twitter.

 

 

 

Illustrator: Vinita Bharat, PhD of Fuzzy Synapse

Editors: Manoja Eswara, PhD and Paurvi Shinde, PhD

Manoja Eswara obtained her PhD from the University of Guelph, Canada and is currently pursuing her postdoctoral fellowship in Cancer Epigenetics at Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute, Toronto, Canada.

Paurvi Shinde did her PhD in Biomedical Sciences (Immunology) from the University of Connecticut Health and is currently a postDoc at Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle. Apart from science, she’s a trained classical dancer and loves outdoor and hikes.

The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

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

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