Highlights from Vancouver: Mentorship and Professional Development

ASHG 2016 Presidential Symposium on mentorship, Oct. 20, 2016.

November 2016

“A prominent theme of ASHG 2016 in Vancouver, Canada, was mentorship. The topic was highlighted in many sessions throughout the meeting, including the Presidential Symposium (“Mentoring in a Challenging Environment”), a joint Building Bridges Session with ESHG (“Navigating the Myriad Career Paths in Human Genetics”), and presentation of the first ASHG Mentorship Award (to Elaine Zackai).

Due to the rapidly evolving financial and scientific environment, mentoring senior and early-career society members has become a challenge. In some ways, these changes are good because they mean we are intellectually growing as a scientific society and our members have many more career options to choose from. There’s an ever-growing list of subfields within human genetics, a wide range of talent among genetics professionals, various traditional and non-traditional career opportunities and paths, and influence from students and clinicians. Such rapid changes in disciplines and technology influence our members and their work. This means our mentorship strategies must remain fresh and flexible based on our reality.

 Professional development events targeting ASHG’s trainee members have helped ease these challenges by providing engaging and friendly environments for networking between trainees and mentors. These included Career Panels moderated by our trainee-led Training and Development Committee, the Trainee-Mentor Luncheon, the Career Paths in Genetics Reception, the Publications Workshop, and mentor-led Poster Walks. To involve early-career geneticist as both mentors and mentees, ASHG has invested in training and mentoring at our annual High School Workshop and Undergraduate Faculty Genetics Education Workshop.”

Hal Dietz, ASHG 2016 President

Read more about mentorship and professional development opportunities for trainees below.

Highlights from Vancouver

The TDC was excited to see so many trainees actively engaged not just with scientific talks, but also with trainee-specific events, peer networking, and career development activities at the Annual Meeting! We strive to make the 2017 meeting in Orlando, FL, even better!

Day 1: Early-Career Meet & Greet

The TDC welcomed trainees to the rain-beaten but beautifully autumnal city of Vancouver to start off the meeting with genetics trivia and socializing prior to the Presidential Address. Everyone enjoyed meeting other trainees, brooding over the quiz, and savoring a delicious warm buffet. Congratulations to the winning table, “the IN-FI-DELS,” and the group with best name, “GATTACAT.”

Days 2-4: Lunchtime Careers in Genetics Panels

Career panels at the Trainee Professional Development Program, Oct. 19-21

We had a fantastic interactive experience in our Q&A four-panelist sessions on careers in academia, careers in industry, and how to develop transferable skills. While enjoying a delicious lunch, trainees in the audience asked pertinent questions of a range of notable speakers. We heard about personal experiences, advice and viewpoints from a diverse spectrum: mid- and high-level investigators; employees in small start-ups and large established companies; and panelists who started in non-genetics professions, including marine biology, engineering, and the clinic. It was helpful to hear varied, insightful perspectives on work-life balance, the skill sets needed for specific careers, interview tips, and many other areas.

Days 2-4: Trainee-Mentor Luncheons

Trainees actively engaged with professionals and established researchers over sandwiches and coffee at the two Trainee-Mentor Luncheons. The room was abuzz each day with discussions about career paths, personal perspectives on integrating work and family life, and ways to acquire the necessary skills needed to succeed in a variety of genetics careers. Each lunch table was focused on one of a range of career subspecialties that included bioinformatics, education, health services, epidemiology, and medical and reproductive genetics. Mentors provided sage and individualized advice on how to succeed in each field, and many trainees were invited to contact the mentors for further networking in the future. Attendees also seized the opportunity to interact with other trainees interested in similar careers.

Day 4: Publications Workshop

The Publications workshop provides a behind-the-scenes look at the manuscript review and publishing processes. This year’s workshop was well-attended, with trainees and junior investigators enjoying an informative presentation by David Nelson, Editor of The American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG). The presentation gave trainees jumping-off points for questions to editors from various journals, who rotated amongst the tables of trainees to answer questions, discuss the peer review and editing processes, and provide tips for trainees looking to submit publications.

Pub trivia at the Early-Career Meet & Greet, Oct. 18

Day 4: Career Paths in Genetics Reception

Designed to facilitate networking between trainees and established professionals in a number of fields, this event was wildly successful! As in previous years, this session had an impressive turnout and prompted interesting and informative conversations.

Trainee Lounge

As in previous years, trainees were warmly invited to make use of the trainee-exclusive lounge to hang out with peers, relax over coffee, and meet the members of the TDC. Many trainees were happy to catch a break in the lounge from all the busy conference activity.

We hope you enjoyed #ASHG16 in Vancouver. The TDC had some great conversations with trainees from all over the world, and we’re looking forward to seeing you in Orlando come 2017!

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