President's Message: Networking, Mentoring, and Other Activities


By Leigh Ann Burns Naas posted 11-29-2018 13:13


Communique 2018 Issue 4 Masthead

When you think back to your time as a graduate student, you probably remember your advisor taking opportunities to introduce you to professionals that he or she knew or providing you opportunities to meet people you might not otherwise get a chance to meet. But when you got those opportunities—or better yet, when you had to make your own opportunities—did you know how to start building your network? Were you nervous about introducing yourself to people you wanted to meet or those who might have been a bit intimidating to you? Did you know what resources might be available to help you? Did you fully appreciate how important your network would become?

SOT Mentoring Breakfast during the 57th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in San Antonio, TexasRecently, a blog series by the Graduate Student Leadership Committee (GSLC) focused on networking. The four-part series entitled “Steps to Networking at SOT” in the GSLCorner Blog Series took a methodical approach to helping students understand HOW to network within SOT. After reading these articles, I was impressed by the amount of information and the conciseness, as well as the quality of the discussion and recommendations. I don’t think any of us “seasoned veterans” could have said it better, and I commend the GSLC for taking this on. 

Networking starts when we are students, but it is a lifelong process that is important for our career development and progression. The GLSCorner Blog Series did start me thinking, however, about the differences between networking and mentoring. Mentoring also is an important aspect of career development. So, what is networking, and how is it different from mentoring?

Really, the topic is much too rich to be addressed in a message like this. But when I think about it, at a higher level, networking is more social interactions that can provide you access to individuals with different expertise, different technologies, or different ways of attacking similar problems, as well as those with different perspectives on navigating your career or your involvement in, say, a professional society. Navigating careers and learning to master many of the soft and personal skills involved in one’s career starts moving the needle toward mentoring (in my mind, anyway), which often involves deeper interaction between two or a very few individuals, usually a more experienced person helping to guide a less experienced person. To me, it is much more of an intercollegial relationship and, when done effectively, takes time. The Harvard Business Review has several articles I thought were nice, quick reads on networking and mentoring (references are available after my signature).  

SOT members Pedro L. Del Valle, PhD,  and Ofelia A. Olivero, PhD, ATS, during  the SOT Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Special Interest Group Mentoring Activity during the SOT 57th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in San Antonio, TexasNetworking and mentoring both have always been important activities to our Society. Many of the social functions we have at the Annual Meeting are important ways for you to network with one another. Mentoring has taken many forms within the Society; some have been very successful, others not as much so. Because of the recognized importance of mentoring, Council recently created the Mentoring Task Force (MTF), which is charged with developing a strategy and defining tactics to refine and deliver all mentoring activities across the Society. This includes not only trainees but also toxicologists at all career levels. It is envisioned that the MTF will obtain information from the various SOT committees and Component Groups about existing mentoring activities in order to develop a best practices document to serve as guidance for modifying existing or implementing new mentoring activities. It is also expected that a significant part of delivering the tactics will be via the committees and Component Groups best suited for each task. The MTF is led by Dr. Ofelia Olivero, someone with a very strong passion for mentoring. She wrote a book on the subject in 2014 (Interdisciplinary Mentoring in Science: Strategies for Success) and has been recognized with awards in mentoring from AWIS (2013), NCI (2016), and recently the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). The task force, which also includes Drs. Virunya Bhat, Chellu Chetty, Jennifer Raynor, José Manautou, Maureen Gwinn, and Jessica Sapiro, is enthusiastically underway, and I expect to be able to share some of their key progress during the SOT Annual Business Meeting in Baltimore. 

I’m proud of our Society and of the great science our members produce.In the meantime, I encourage all of us to be open and available to our trainees and others who are trying to develop their network and careers. Supporting each other raises the tide, and a rising tide raises all ships. 

I’m proud of our Society and of the great science our members produce. And I’m also proud of our trainee members—graduate students and postdoctoral fellows—who not only produce great science but also are very actively engaged in the workings of our Society. As they and other early career members continue to develop and progress, they need the rest of the membership to help them navigate their careers in a variety of ways, and I believe we are committed as a professional society to make that happen.

And now, a few brief updates on ongoing activities.

The Board of Publications (BOP) received several outstanding applications for Toxicological Sciences Editor-in-Chief (EIC). A subset of these individuals was invited for on-site interviews in Reston, Virginia, in early November. The BOP provided their recommendations for the new EIC to Council, and we expect to be able to share the announcement in the very near future. 

Additionally, Council has now completed the draft of the Strategic Plan and is in the beginning stages of communication and feedback before finalization. You’ll be hearing more about this in the next couple months as the plan is released for general comments to the membership at large. We also will address the plan during the SOT Annual Business Meeting and during a special session on Thursday morning during the Annual Meeting.

Thank you to all of the Component Groups for the specific feedback you provided ahead of the development of the Strategic Plan. The responses were appreciated. We have started a new “Do You Know” feature in the weekly SOT newsletter to help communicate information about ongoing SOT programs, initiatives, and activities, in response to some of the feedback received. For other key comments, we are responding to each Component Group with individually tailored letters.

2019 SOT Annual Meeting logoBoth registration and housing continue to be open for the 2019 Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in Baltimore, which is now only about four months away! For those desiring the least expensive registration fees, early-bird registration is the way to go, and it closes on January 11, 2019. The Scientific Program Committee has made their acceptance determinations for all the submitted abstracts, so if you are waiting for that letter to complete your registration, you should hear soon. Housing reservations can be made through Connections Housing to take advantage of the exclusive hotel fees that SOT has arranged. And if you haven’t had an opportunity to do so, check out the Program tab on the Annual Meeting website. We are continuing to update it as information is finalized. We are going digital-only this year with all Annual Meeting materials and publications, so the website is your go-to and only source for Annual Meeting details until the SOT Mobile Event App launches in February. Finally, you may recall that we are piloting some 90-minute sessions this coming year. One of these will be a Hot Topics session that has a placeholder in the program but no topic yet! The SPC will be soliciting proposals for this session in December, so if you know of a really hot, emerging toxicological topic, submit it!

Best regards,

Leigh Ann Burns Naas Signature



Casciaro, Tiziana, Francesca Gino, and Maryam Kouchaki. 2016. “Learn to Love Networking.” Harvard Business Review, May 2016.

Chopra, Vineet, and Sanjay Saint. 2017. “6 Things Every Mentor Should Do.” Harvard Business Review, March 29, 2017.

Chopra, Vineet, and Sanjay Saint. 2017. “What Mentors Wish Their Mentees Knew.” Harvard Business Review, November 7, 2017.

Gallo, Amy. 2011. “Demystifying Mentoring.” Harvard Business Review, February 1, 2011.

Ibarra, Herminia, and Mark Lee Hunter. 2007. “How Leaders Create and Use Networks.” Harvard Business Review, January 2007.

Tjan, Anthony K. 2017. “What the Best Mentors Do.” Harvard Business Review, February 27, 2017.