CIDD Graduate Students: What do we do?

Many of us including graduate students, post docs, and faculty, gathered together on Monday to discuss who we are as CIDD, what we expect of ourselves, and what the faculty expect of us. Additionally, we discussed and proposed multiple venues in which students and post docs would have the opportunity to discuss their ideas, research/data, job opportunities, and life in general. So for those of you who are curious about grad life at CIDD or are hopelessly wishing for more scientific opportunities to land at your feet…pay attention.

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Recap: Career paths in administration with Dr. Neil Sharkey

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Photo Credit: Dr. Andrew Read

During this week’s CIDD lunch, grad students, post-docs, and faculty eagerly assembled to listen to Dr. Neil Sharkey, Vice President for Research at Penn State.

Dr. Sharkey shared with the group his not-so-traditional path to his current administrative position – starting work as a med tech in a hospital and over time becoming a research scientist, Associate Dean, and then Vice President for Research. Over the course of the talk, a recurring theme was gaining management skills to work with people of different backgrounds and different skills sets.  Specifically highlighted skills included: being able to manage change (both happy and unhappy), being able to make fair decisions in a timely way, being able to network and socialize, public speaking, and gaining satisfaction from problem solving.  Additionally, Dr. Sharkey emphasized how important it was to be the best scientist you are capable of being.  Excellent scientists are often chosen for these positions by universities to serve as an example (or an ideal) of the kind of research going on at the university.  What surprised Dr. Sharkey most in his new position was how much time he would spend dealing with attorneys and doing bureaucratic work.

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CGSA Lunch with Speaker Dr. Sabra Klein

Please RSVP for lunch here.

CIDD  seminar:  Dr. Sabra Klein,  Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will lead thediscussion.

Sex as a biological variable in infectious disease pathogenesis

When:   Thursday, April 27, 2017, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Where:  W-203 Millennium Science Complex

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Tutorial: Plotting Lyme Disease Cases across Michigan counties with ggplot2

Here is a tutorial for anyone interested in learning how to create maps with ggplot2. We’re going to investigate the incidence of Lyme Disease cases across Michigan.

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CIDD lunch (4/20/2017) with Dr. Christine Johnston

Dr. Christine Johnston is giving her talk ”…one swab at a time: a systems biology approach to studying genital HSV infection  on April 20 2017. Her seminar will be held at 11 am to 12:00 PM  and we will have lunch right after at the usual time of 12pm-1pm .

Please RSVP if coming to group lunch

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CIDD lunch (4/13/2017) with Dr. Micheal Ferdig

Dr. Micheal Ferdig is giving his talk ”Harnessing the power of malaria parasite genetic crosses  on April 13 2017. His seminar will be held at 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM  but we will have lunch at the usual time of 12pm-1pm .

Please RSVP if coming to group lunch

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Science Communication Recap

Last week, Ed Rajotte, Julie Urban, Cherie Winner, and Joyce Sakamoto all met with CIDD graduate students to discuss the importance of communicating our science with the general public. Even with their different experiences from being the editor of the university’s research journal to being the head of the IPM programs across Pennsylvanian farms, the invited guests all agreed that communicating ones research to a diverse audience was a necessity. All speakers provided their unique insights for why science communication is essential for any researcher.

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CIDD lunch (3/30/2017) with Dr. Raina Plowright

Dr. Raina Plowright is giving her talk ”Pathogen spillover:  dynamics in reservoirs and recipients  on March 30 2017 (11am). Join us for a group lunch with Dr. Plowright at 12pm. 

But please RSVP.

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CIDD lunch (3/23/2017) with Dr. Helen Wearing

Dr. Helen Wearing is giving her talk ” Modeling the expansion of dengue and Zika: what’s old is new; what’s new is old”  on March 23, 2017 (11am). Join us for a group lunch with Dr. Wearing at 12pm. 

But please RSVP.

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“Climbing the Ivory Tower” panel discussion gave tips for success

If your dream job is in academia, Monday’s (3/13) panel discussion on “Climbing the Ivory Tower: transitioning from PhD to post-doc and beyond” was a lively discussion filled with useful advice for how to stick the academic career track. We also got to hear interesting personal anecdotes from early career faculty Nita Bharti, Moriah Szpara, and Margarita Lopez-Uribe, and ask questions about the life academic.

The panel discussion was structured with 45 minutes of structured questions followed by 15 minutes of open questions from audience members. 37 students and post-docs attended from a wide variety of backgrounds and departments (biology, entomology, BMB, ecology and even engineering).

Structured questions focused on skill-sets that are useful for a career in academia, how to build a CV, the application process for post-doc vs faculty positions, timing and preparing for interviews, reasons for staying in academia, and how to balance work and life outside of work.

Here were some take-home points:

  1. There is no magic number. Publications are important. Publish. But don’t worry about having a certain number before applying for a post-doc or faculty position. Often it is better early in your career to publish more, even if that means having smaller papers in lower impact journals, but early career faculty do need to also think about “impact.” Never bank on getting a paper in a high impact journal, often good papers get rejected. Focus instead on doing “good science” and having a record of high quality data and writing, you can still get a good academic job without the “Science” or “Nature” paper.
  2. Networking is the key to landing a job in academia. Connections to other researchers turn into job opportunities, sharing resources (reagents, people, ideas) and eventually, people you can ask for tenure letters.
  3. Start early. Margarita said she started writing her teaching statement and building her CV for the jobs she would want later as a graduate student. She got her first faculty job after only one 2-yr post-doc and early preparation helped.
  4. Beef-up your CV for the jobs you want. According to Moriah, applying for jobs that aren’t a perfect fit (e.g. topic not ideal, location not preferred, more/less teaching than you wanted, less pay, etc.) can be a good strategy for practicing interviews and figuring out what you do want. But you ultimately want to start the job hunt early (within a year of graduating a PhD) and start shaping your CV to match the criteria listed in job posts for the jobs you do want.
  5. Use your network. Have other grad students and post-docs give feedback on practice job-talks or your CV. Look out for future CGSA workshops or other resources at Penn State that might help as you prepare for post-doc and faculty position hunting. Send out an email on the CGSA listserv if you want feedback on a job practice talk. We are here for you.
  6. Remember to interview “them.” When you interview for a job, it is not about whether they want you, but also about whether you want to work for them. Suss out the community in terms of how they receive your unique traits. Is the work environment family-friendly? Open minded with regard to race and gender? Are the people happy? Moriah mentioned being proud of her kids and family and using that as an asset rather than something to hide from the interview committee.
  7. Find your own funding. Having a proven track-record of getting grants will stand out during the interview process. Publications are good, but publications and money are even better. Nita found a fellowship that gave her 5 years of independent funding before starting as a faculty member. Having your own money gives you more freedom to pursue the projects you want and do what you love.
  8. Use Google. Sometimes your personal network isn’t enough. Google funding opportunities and job listings as another way to win an obscure grant that most people haven’t heard of or find the dream job that your network didn’t know was available.

Thanks Nita, Moriah and Margarita for their tips for success! Look out for future CGSA workshops and events that focus on some of the skillsets and CV writing skills mentioned today to put their advice into practice.

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Panelists (L to R) Nita Bharti, Moriah Szpara and Margarita Lopez-Uribe with moderator, Jo Ohm.

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CIDD LUNCH with Dr. Koenraad Van Doorslaer (March 16th, 2017)

If you’re interested in having lunch (March 16th, 2017; 12-1pm) with Dr. Koenraad Van Doorslaer after his CIDD seminar “Comparative genomics as a tool to understand papilloma virus evolution and disease“, please use this form to RSVP.

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