Report of Postdoctoral Scholars Association (PSA) Activities-2020/2021
Compiled by O. Adewale Osipitan
The 2020/2021 PSA officers were appointed on March 7, 2020, and inaugurated on April 17, 2020. In other words, it has been over a year since my colleagues and I have started coordinating the activities of PSA. Our appointment came at a period when normal human activities were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm glad to let you know that despite the pandemic, we were able to successfully conduct almost all the PSA traditional events/activities remotely; including the Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research, Career Development Workshops, Postdoc Appreciation Week (in conjunction with Graduate Studies), periodic Postdoc Travel Awards, a General Meeting, monthly Officers Meetings, and the recently organized 2021 Postdoctoral Research Symposium. In addition to the traditional PSA activities, we have also introduced a news feature, Postdoc Spotlight (Link), to promote UC Davis postdocs by a way of publicity. Being PSA officers, we were part of some Graduate Studies committees.
Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research:
The Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research is an annual award to recognize the vital role that Postdoctoral Scholars play in maintaining the reputation of excellent research at the University of California, Davis. It is a collaboration between Graduate Studies and PSA, and the award is often offered during the annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium. In 2020, the award was offered virtually by Dean Jean-Pierre Delplanque on August 3, even without holding the Postdoctoral Research Symposium that year. We evaluated twenty nominations for the award, out of which two winners emerged. The winners were Dr. Levi Lewis and Dr. Bo Zhang. In 2021, the award was also offered virtually, but as part of the 2021 Postdoctoral Research Symposium events on the 30th of March. We evaluated sixteen nominations for the award, out of which three winners emerged. The winners were Dr. Michelle Cohn, Dr. Essam Abdelfattah, and Dr. Fabio Anza. The award was offered by Associate Dean Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor on behalf of Dean JP Delplanque.
Career Development Workshops:
The main goal of the career workshop is to provide postdocs with insight into the skills needed to advance in a career search. We organized two career workshops in 2020 and 2021 respectively. In collaboration with FUTURE Career Skills and Exploration of UC Davis, a virtual career workshop was organized on September 21, 2020. We were fortunate to have speakers of diverse backgrounds at this event. The speakers were Dr. Lauren Libero, an Autism Program Specialist with the California Department of Development Services; Dr. Damian Curtis, the Director Gene Editing and Synthetic Biology with Bioconsortia Inc; and Dr. Shawn Hayes with 10 years of experience in Pharmaceutical Industry. Forty-four participants attended this workshop. It was a very successful event, and we got great feedback from our colleagues. A second career workshop was organized on March 30, 2021, as part of the Postdoctoral Research Symposium events. This workshop was titled, Reciprocal Relationship in a Virtual World and it was anchored by Dr. Shalini Nag, President of EvidaSolve. The workshop had more than thirty registrants and was well attended. In both workshops, the panelists were offered “thank you” gift cards
Postdoc Appreciation Week:
Postdoc Appreciation Week is a nationwide event to recognize and appreciate the contributions of postdoctoral scholars to the advancement of research and developmental indices. At UC Davis, this event is led by the Graduate Studies in collaboration with PSA. In 2020, the event started with a community letter from Dean JP Delplanque to the UC Postdocs. The event included a career panel (as detailed above); Postdoc Pub Quiz hosted by GradPathways and featured Andy Jones; Postdoc Bingo hosted by Internship and Career Center; and PSA General Meeting and Networking. Please click here for details of the event
PSA General Meeting:
It is expected that the PSA should hold at least one General Meeting in a year. In 2020, we held a 2-hour virtual general meeting and networking with the goals of providing an opportunity for UC postdocs to learn more about the activities of the PSA; opportunity for postdocs to provide feedback on how to be better served by the association; and opportunity for networking among postdocs. An important highlight was a discussion of a Pre-event survey on the type of programs or events postdocs would like the PSA to host in the upcoming year. The survey showed that the majority (58%) of participants preferred career or professional development events, and this was followed by 35% of participants who were interested in community-building events, and then 32% of participants with interest in career networking. About 20% of the participant were interested in exploration events while 15% were interested in family-friendly events. We also discussed the preferred methods by postdocs for getting information from PSA. The majority (65%) preferred receiving information through email, while 21% preferred visiting the PSA website for information.
Through virtual breakout rooms, postdocs were able to network, and have social discussions about personal and professional life, postdoc experience, successes, challenges, how COVID-19 era was impacting their life, and exchange contact information. All participants at the virtual event were given gift cards.
Monthly Officers Meeting:
Since the inauguration of the 2020/2021 PSA officers in April 2020, we have held a total of twelve monthly meetings. The last monthly meeting was held on April 6, 2021.
Postdoc Travel Awards:
The year 2020/2021 has been a unique year for Postdoc Travel Awards. Due to COVID-19, many conferences were unexpectedly canceled or converted to a virtual format in the spring of 2020. Therefore, we needed to work with Graduate Studies and awardees from the previous cycle to determine how best to use their award funds given the suddenly uncertain circumstances. For subsequent award cycles, we were able to expand Travel Award eligibility to cover virtual conference attendance. Over the past year, the PSA has coordinated four cycles of Travel Awards. Over the course of these four cycles, we have awarded 15 Travel Awards to postdocs for conference attendance.
2021 Postdoctoral Research Symposium:
The Postdoctoral Research Symposium is one of the most important annual events of PSA. This symposium is implemented to showcase the contribution postdocs make at UC Davis. We organized a virtual format of this event on March 30, 2021. There were 24 postdocs who volunteered to help in the planning and execution of the symposium. About 100 people registered for the event. We received 50 abstracts, out of which 23 were oral presentations while 27 were poster presentations. The event had research presentations, career development (as detailed above), award ceremony and networking sessions, as well as a post-symposium survey. All attendees were given the option to receive an attendance gift (PSA-branded mug, ordered with the help of Graduate Studies). This symposium was generally described by attendees as well organized and involving great innovative platforms such as easy-to-navigate breakout rooms for oral and poster presentations that almost mimicked an in-person format, easy-to-follow and attention-calling award ceremony, etc.
Representation on UC Davis Committees:
The PSA is also expected to provide representation to several Graduate Council Committees and Subcommittees each academic year. We provided one postdoc member to each of the following committees: Graduate Council, Academic Planning and Development, Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Welfare, and Administrative Committee.
The 2020/2021 PSA Officers
O. Adewale (Wale) Osipitan, Chair
Md Elias Uddin, Vice Chair
Sherri Biendarra-Tiegs, Secretary/Treasurer
Essam Abdelfattah, Relations Officer
Sara Ohadi, Career Development Officer