I am an individual member of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) (http://www.nationalpostdoc.org/),which holds annual meetings in order to foster innovation, networking, and collaboration. This year was the 9th annual meeting and was hosted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) in Bethesda. I was lucky enough to attend last year and, as mentioned in the ISFJ blog, participated in MBTI training provided by Dr. Sharon Milgram, who is the director of the NIH-OITE. This year, I looked forward to attending the interesting seminars and also networking with other like-minded individuals.
The NPA Innovation in Action sessions are excellent for meeting individuals from other institutions, as it is an open forum for discussion. At each session, there is a specific topic, which is supervised by a member of an NPA committee. I find that these discussions provide the best learning opportunities. All those present are encouraged to share their thoughts, and it is very interesting to discover how each institution is tackling similar problems. Usually, there are differences depending on how established the PDA is and how much funding they have, but the ideas are very diverse and I am excited to implement some back at my home institute.
The workshops provided covered a wide range of topics including conflict management, scientific teaching, preparing for industry careers, balancing work and family life, etc. I participated in a wonderful session, again given by Dr. Sharon Milgram, on Leadership skills for the Postdoc. Through a mixture of role playing and discussion, we were introduced to various stages of leadership, the 4 communication styles, and the 3 types of behavior within groups.
We were encouraged to self analyze and discover which styles and behaviors we have, and also how we can utilize this knowledge to become better leaders and members of a group.
Each evening there is the opportunity to “Dine-Around,” which is a great networking tool. Participants can attend dinner with either the NPA committees (a great way to decide if you wish to participate with that committee for the coming year) or some of the invited speakers. This is one of my favorite parts of the annual meeting as you could meet an NIH director, a successful entrepreneur, one of the sponsors, or a postdoc with similar research interests. Whoever you are lucky enough to meet, the evening is always great fun and filled with fantastic conversation.
I hope you can see I enjoyed the 2011 NPA meeting immensely. There is so much more I could mention: the plenary sessions and excellent key note address. Not to forget we were welcomed to the NIH by Dr. Francis Collins himself! I would strongly recommend that postdocs, postdoc managers, and PI’s begin planning to attend the 2012 meeting in San Francisco on March 16-18th.