The Evolution of the Postdoc: Transitioning from Trainee to Professional in the Modern Era

The 2016 Annual Meeting and ToxExpo held a number of workshops and sessions geared toward an audience of trainees within our society. The Postdoctoral Assembly, along with endorsement from the Graduate Student Leadership Committee and the Career Resource and Development Committee, sponsored an Education-Career Development Session titled “The Evolution of the Postdoc: Transitioning from Trainee to Professional in the Modern Era.” During this session, several leaders in the field provided an audience of nearly 150 trainees with a number of resources and tips about securing a postdoctoral position, improving the quality of one’s training experience, and overall advice about how to tailor a postdoc to your career goals. 

Speakers highlighted the need for a diverse workforce with an array of skill sets and that training opportunities exist across the toxicological sectors to provide a tailored experience that can uniquely assist each trainee to accomplish their career goals. All of the speakers expressed the opinion that you do not need to postdoc within the sector for which you’d like to establish your career; collaboration in training opportunities across sectors is often encouraged.

Speakers dismissed the common misconception that students are viewed as "disappointments" by advisors if they do not want to pursue a career in academia. Several examples were presented for which programs within government agencies and academic institutions provided external mentorship, internship, and training opportunities with other industries.

Ambika Mathur (Wayne State University) talked about her early experiences as principal investigator of a “Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training” (BEST) program, an US National Institutes of Health-supported program to track the careers of students in the evolving biomedical workforce, which also provides a number of career resources (including non-traditional internships and external training experiences) to these students to better tailor their training to their likely careers.

I encourage current students and postdocs seeking additional postdoctoral opportunities to check out the SOT Job Bank site. This site has up-to-date postdoctoral position openings, as well as application information, and also myriad of other career opportunities. For any other questions about the symposium or to get engaged in the planning of next year’s trainee career symposium, please contact me.

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