As we approached the line of our 100th TPC Gathering and our 100th “Keeping Up With The Hub” newsletter we put out a request for anyone who would like to reflect on their unique experience with The Pub Club/TheCOM. The following is what we received. We would like to thank all who took the time to provide their insights into the “Community of Minds.” It is your continued support, participation, and encouragement that took The Pub Club from one person’s desire to the opportunity that TheCOM is today. Click on the quotes for a drop down of the complete insights offered.
I would like to give you each my personal Thanks!
Bethany Huot, Founder & Director TPC/TheCOM
Detlef Weigel: Director, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology / TPC Mug Club’r for Skype Mini-Conference
Science often advances most when we come across experiments by others that are related to our own work only indirectly, but that inspire us to seek out new directions for our own studies. Conferences are a great way to learn about the work of colleagues, but one often can’t get into the nitty-gritty details, which in turn might be important for understanding whether an experimental set up from another system is applicable to one’s own. That’s why the platform provided by The Pub Club is so great. The virtual lab meeting we had with the MSU group was a fantastic way to discuss ideas and approaches in a very focused manner: projects that were close enough for my team and myself to learn quite a few new and unexpected things that we hadn’t thought about before, with the format making it very easy to ask many detailed questions, which in turn inspired a number of follow-on discussions afterwards. We very much appreciated the open and open-minded presentations and discussions – this is what science should be all about! It is really surprising that this format is not a lot more ubiquitous.Thank you for initiating this! Detlef
Mary Williams: Features Editor, The Plant Cell / TPC Meet-up Co-host at 2016 Plant Biology
A couple of years ago, someone sent me a link to The Pub Club website to ask if I had seen it. I hadn’t, but I’ve been following it ever since. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to attend The Pub Club in person, but even from afar I can see that it provides a great service to the MSU community and beyond. When I first bumped into The Pub Club website I enjoyed browsing and sharing the many resources selected to support early-career scientists as they navigate their careers, and now that I subscribe to the newsletter it is even easier to follow and learn. The Pub Club is more than a collection of resources though – the Community of Minds (COM) approach comes across even to those who are only looking in from a distance. You can’t visit the COM without being reminded that the networks and community you build are vital resources for your successes (whichever career path you take). It was terrific to meet Bethany at Plant Biology 16 and talk to her about the inspiration for and goals of The Pub Club; it also became evident that Bethany really has as much enthusiasm and energy as the website suggests.Thanks Bethany for your efforts and for inviting the wider community to share your events and resources! Mary Williams
David Arnosti: Professor & Director, Gene Expression in Development and Disease Initiative MSU / TPC Mug Club’r
What does it mean to become a practicing scientist; what are the foundations of this profession? Students obtaining a Ph.D. at Michigan State experience rigorous training by testing their mettle at the bench (or computer terminal, in the field), as well as challenging received wisdom about scientific knowledge in classrooms, seminars, and group meetings. Through this process, we learn that knowledge is not a static or complete edifice, but one shaped by our research experiences. A critical component in all of this is the support and feedback we obtain from our peer networks, and an especially valuable resource for this is The Pub Club, which informs its participants about contemporary trends in research, opportunities for future development, and professional life/work challenges. The participants in this group have an extraordinary opportunity to grow professionally by tapping the knowledge of a wide network of colleagues. As its participants move ahead with their careers, they should reflect on the great opportunities this group has afforded them, and seek to create similar spaces of mutual support and information in their own professional spaces.Best Regards David
Sheng Yang He: HHMI-GBMF Investigator & University Distinguished Professor, DOE Plant Research Lab MSU / TPC Participating PI
When The Pub Club idea was first proposed, I had the expectation that it would be just a time and a place for members of the three plant-biotic interaction labs on the 4th floor to casually congregate after a week’s hard work. Some food and drinks would stimulate conversations with the goal of enhancing the connectivity between labs and priming lab members for weekend activities. What happened was far more impactful and certainly beyond my initial expectations. The Pub Club has now become an indispensable venue each week for us (faculty, students and postdocs) to share important academic news and experiences beyond individual bench work. It has become a symbol of the positive and interactive atmosphere of the 4th floor labs, a model for collective mentoring, shared science and great collegiality, and a unique portal for local and, in a few occasions, global community connectivity. I have to say that this would not be possible without the persistent and creative efforts from its founding coordinator Bethany Huot, a fearless graduate student, and many volunteers. I will remember fondly some of the things we said (and did) to each other, either jokingly or seriously, during Pub Club!
Brad Day: Associate Professor & Associate Department Chair for Research, MSU / TPC Participating PI
Here’s to 1x10100 more!
Very seldom do new ideas gain the traction they need to become sustainable, let alone contagious and addictive. I would like to think that The Community of Minds that is The Pub Club began as a platform to bring together 3 independent research groups at MSU that found themselves sharing a common lab space, equipment and enzymes, and a single coffee maker (!!)….and of course, ideas and data within the field of plant resistance and immunity. Little did I know that there was always an ulterior motive, one that proved to be the glue that held the scientists – and the attention span of 3 MSU faculty – together while we discussed science. For me, The Pub Club is a natural and fun platform that puts into perspective the Why? and How? of all that we do in the lab; and from this, it positions each of us to maintain focus and connectivity. Science has largely moved away from the classical “single investigator” concept to one that “crowd sources” data to solve problems. So too must we evolve…..we are connected, not only to our colleagues down the hall, but to those around the world. Thanks to The Pub Club, not only has my network grown, but I now realize that my network is important. 1x10100 “Thank you’s!” is not enough to communicate to Bethany for her hard work and dedication. I still quietly like to think that The Pub Club was all about bringing the He, Howe and Day labs closer, but I am grateful that the ulterior motive – that we would actually learn something and develop as scientists – has enabled it to be so much more! Thanks, Bethany!
André Velásquez: Postdoctoral Research Associate, MSU / TPC member
The Pub Club attempts and succeeds at addressing all those important questions that scientists working in a university environment are surprisingly often left to figure out on their own. Universities may succeed at training scientists to think critically and perform experiments, but all the other components of a scientist's life are left to their unaided personal discovery. The Pub Club meetings varied in topics from those dealing with time management, a responsible conduct for performing research, article authorship guidelines, writing skill improvement, job application document presentation and content, and innumerable other topics. Having a time and space to discuss these topics helped my development as a scientist, as before The Pub Club's inception, these topics were hardly discussed at all.
Kate Wozniak: Graduate Student, UMich / TPC alumna
At the time of my involvement, I was an undergraduate student in The Pub Club (TPC), which was mostly made up of graduate students and post-docs. I joined because I wanted to make more connections and talk about science outside of my lab and classes; I finished as an active participant and the Python Group Coordinator. TPC helped me network with other scientists in Molecular Plant Sciences and gave me a sense of belonging to the greater community. As an undergraduate, that sense of belonging in the scientific setting was difficult to achieve independently. Most of us like research and are fortunate to get paid for our work but we only stick around to do what is expected of us. Although active involvement in TPC was a greater time investment and was not expected, the skills and perspectives I gained are immeasurable. Hearing about the daily lives of other graduate students and getting advice about graduate school was the most beneficial part for me--I knew I wanted a PhD after earning my BS in Microbiology at MSU. My research mentor was my PI, who started her lab shortly before I arrived. This mentorship was excellent but was not the same as a graduate-undergraduate relationship. Having multiple mentors is absolutely necessary for scientists these days and from TPC, I found graduate student mentors like Bethany. Coordinating the Python Group helped me learn about the computational struggles of others, challenged me to explain what I do in greater detail, and think deeply about my scientific rationale. Aside from learning Python and R, the skills I gained served as a great foundation for my graduate school career. I also had the opportunity to write blog posts for the website, which helped build my writing confidence and gave me a great sense of accomplishment. I still build from that writing experience when applying for fellowships and as a MiSci Writer for the University of Michigan. The goals of TPC were very clear: cultivate a career before completion and hone diverse skills to become accomplished and successful in future careers. Now that I am a first year graduate student in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) at UMich, I frequently use the skills gained in TPC and Python Group and continue to improve upon them.
Carl Rhodes, HHMI Senior Scientific Officer Emeritus / TPC Mug Club’r
As the Centennial Newsletter approaches, I am delighted to congratulate Bethany Huot and her colleagues who have devoted endless time and effort to The Pub Club and its now enviable array of activities. The initial approach took advantage of the confluence of three research laboratories and their members, stimulated by Bethany’s creative and persuasive influences. I’m certainly amazed by the progress the Hub has made, with additional contacts now established with nearby research groups and other campus organizations to those at other locations and even overseas. I’ve been privileged to attend several of those sessions during the past two years, and in addition I always look forward to the weekly newsletter. Whether it’s a summary of the group’s regular activities or a link that calls attention to an interesting paper or meeting, one always learns a lot. Effective and efficient communication is ever more important in science, especially in the plant sciences, now linked to other areas, from big data and genomics to molecular and cellular interactions. The Pub Club offers a great model to stimulate novel interfaces and collaborations. And it’s clear that the local meetings feature a most persuasive feature encouraging attendance and participation – i.e., refreshments! It’s my hope that as Bethany and her more senior colleagues move on to new adventures, they will carry those ideas with them, helping the movement exemplified by the Community of Minds go viral. And I encourage those new members of the participating groups to participate and thereby sustain the movement in those labs where it all started.
Greg Bonito: Assistant Professor, MSU / TPC Temporary Participating PI
In honor of the Centennial Newsletter I write to contribute my thoughts on The Pub Club and many of the positive attributes that I have seen in this organization.
First, and perhaps most important, I see The Pub Club as a community building organization that traverses rank and disciplines. The Club is very inclusive and welcoming, and promotes diversity, openness and discussion. This atmosphere facilitates healthy academic growth and peer-interactions – and helps to raise student and professor awareness of each other's expertise, concerns and perspectives.
Another attribute of The Pub Club that I have seen and appreciate is the diverse range of topics that are discussed from week to week. These have ranged from technical to topical, and from more abstract themes such as ‘creativity in science’ to graduate school / research ‘survival skills’ and ‘best-practices’. Perhaps this stems from the grassroots level of organization, which aims to focus on what is needed, but most certainly The Pub Club is helping to round out graduate student training and professional development among its members that otherwise may fall between the cracks of most graduate school curricula.
Finally, I think The Pub Club should be commended for its role in providing informal growth opportunities for students (and faculty) to take on leadership roles and to present their research to a constructive group of scientists in a relaxed setting. The Pub Club does a great job of encouraging and empowering graduate students through participation, developing peer-networks, and in the process is helping to train the next generation of science leaders.
Here is to another Centennial!!! ~ Greg Bonito
Alyssa Burkhardt: Postdoctoral Research Associate, USDA; Adjunct, Hartnell Community College / TPC alumna
Congrats on reaching 100! I miss The Pub Club a lot more than I thought I would. Our workplace doesn't really foster much social interaction or networking and it can be difficult to get to know people. We are in 4 separate buildings that are kind of spread out and I still don't know everyone yet. The Pub Club really served the floor and beyond to facilitate good interaction. I thought that kind of thing would just come naturally, but now I know that it doesn't always. Thanks for persisting in trying to wrangle everyone together. I know it hasn't always been easy, but now that it is gone from my life I miss it more than I thought I would.
The Pub Club also made me more aware of the ways in which I communicate science to both scientists and non-scientists. It is easy to get sucked into our personal science bubbles and only think about the next experiment in a complicated project, but sometimes it is good to put your project in a broader perspective so that you could explain what you are doing to your grandma (my personal favorite science communication benchmark). Participating in The Pub Club has prepared me to talk about my science in informal settings that require me to clearly and concisely communicate not only what I am doing but also why I am doing it. I think one of the most helpful things for me to think about was an “elevator pitch” or a way to quickly communicate my work to others without using jargon or being overly detailed. In addition, I found the social times during The Pub Club meetings to be very valuable. On a weekly basis, it was nice to look forward to a social time to bounce ideas off of colleagues or to commiserate over experiments that didn’t go as hoped. Although sometimes it was a challenge to fit one more thing into the busy life of a grad student, looking back, I am glad that I regularly made the time to attend. Making connections with others and recognizing that other people were having similar questions or problems with their research made me like I was approaching science with the support of a larger community. I especially enjoyed the days were the PIs were asked questions. It was interesting to hear different approaches to science and paths to their current positions. The Pub Club highlights the important fact that science is not just what you do at the bench but how you communicate it to others. ~ Alyssa Burkhardt
Christian Danve M. Castroverde: Postdoctoral Research Associate, MSU / TPC Snack Coordinator
The Pub Club has helped me internalize its two primary objectives (“meeting at the edge of science” and “filling the void”) into how I approach my work as a scientist and how I plan for my career ahead. Using the first objective as my guide, I constantly seek out the newest updates in science using Twitter, PubMed and all the available literature search tools that TPC members share during meetings. The science updates every meeting have inspired me to read more regularly not just in relation to my research but also on the broader field. This has allowed me to get a better understanding of how quickly research is moving and of what recent technologies and new concepts are available for us to take advantage.
The second objective has made me more aware of my strengths and how I could reinforce them to further advance my career. Although more challenging, TPC has encouraged me to also reflectively examine my weaknesses and the gaps in my skills/CV. I have now actively started to hone and develop these inadequacies in the hope of becoming a more well-rounded researcher, a great mentor and an outstanding scientist – all these are important so that I can have a fruitful career beyond my postdoctoral program.
As the snack coordinator, TPC Director Bethany Huot has given me a tailored opportunity to improve my skills in people coordination (and training), budgeting, organization, inventory management and time management. Although these tend to be viewed as “soft” or “auxiliary” skills in academia, I plan to apply these same skills during my postdoctoral career and beyond. I have also learned that the TPC has a well-curated “structure” in order for it to “function” optimally. This “structure-function” relationship is something we are familiar with in biological systems, but TPC has expanded my views in incorporating it to my research work and life in general. To streamline my studies, I constantly assess the questions that I am trying to answer to determine if they are important and relevant. Also, I have made an effort to continually refine the structure of my daily schedule and activities to get better efficiency in everything that I do.
Overall, The Pub Club for me is a group of scientists that harnesses this collective synergy in doing research. Because I believe that our ultimate goal as scientists is to better translate our cutting-edge work to society, TPC enhances this by increasing our awareness of the research frontiers and also by developing our “non-bench” skills like leadership, communication and management. ~ Danve Castroverde
Brian Kvitko: Assistant Professor, UGA / TPC alumnus
There are a few things I specifically remember as being highly beneficial from my time with The Pub Club. First, was getting to hear established PIs give their frank opinions on a variety of topics. It was greatly helpful, if a little unnerving, to listen to them provide their insights into how the Science sausage was made. Second, interacting with invited speakers from diverse disciplines. It provided excellent opportunities for intellectual outcrossing. For instance, I never would have made the connection between the long-term stasis of tuberculosis and plant immune mechanisms had we not invited Rob Abramovitch to speak. At its core, The Pub Club is a group that, on a weekly basis, engenders frank discussions between scientists at every level of their training about science not only as a body of knowledge, but also as a process, and as a career path. As such, The Pub Club provides a unique and greatly beneficial resource to all those willing to engage with it. ~ Brian Kvitko
Kyaw Aung (Joe): Postdoctoral Research Associate, MSU / TPC member
Preparing for any kind of job interview is a daunting task. When I received invitations for on-site interviews for an assistant professor position, I started with listing important things to get ready: job talk, chalk talk, science discussion and social networking. I then took advantage of my local “Community of Minds,” The Pub Club, to get help with preparation.
Although I felt fairly confident that my training throughout my career had prepared me for the job talk, I still scheduled a special Pub Club to practice. It was extremely helpful to practice the talk with a larger community beyond my lab mates. The feedback and comments I received had a big influence in polishing my presentation. The major adjustment I made was to emphasize key concepts and focus on the big picture of my work. Following my mock job talk, I scheduled another special Pub Club to practice my chalk talk. While I have attended a few chalk talks at Michigan State University, I had never given this type of talk before and so didn’t know how to prepare. In my practice chalk talk, I decided to begin by speaking about my first funding proposal. Soon after I started talking about the specific aims of my proposal, I was stopped and questioned about the science and methods. An hour passed very quickly with a lively discussion, but I didn’t get a chance to deliver several important messages. After the practice chalk talk I realized that I lost control of the presentation and discussion from the first minute. So, I decided to restructure the chalk talk by taking control of the opening (at least the first five to ten minutes). I opened my chalk talk by speaking about my long- and short-term career goals, funding strategies, mentoring philosophy, teaching philosophy and teaching interests. I then presented my proposed project and initiated the discussion about sciences. Overall, the two practice talks at The Pub Club greatly improved my presentations.
So, while preparing for a job interview is extremely overwhelming, I am very fortunate to have a supportive community to better prepare for my next career move. In retrospect, I wish I had taken more advantage of The Pub Club to sharpen my science discussion and social networking skills. The skills that you can develop by actively participating in The Pub Club on a regular basis will come in very handy when you are only given two days to impress everyone who has a say over the job offer. ~ Kyaw Aung
Maren Friesen: Assistant Professor, MSU / TPC Temporary Participating PI
I was deeply honored when my lab was invited to attend The Pub Club. The informal scientific meetings and professional development activities have helped my lab members develop their identities as scientists in a safe and welcoming environment. Every week those that are able to attend learn something new! Practicing elevator pitches, reviewing each others' CVs, and doing "mock" interviews are wonderful activities that provide training for the crucial soft skills required to succeed as a scientist today. The add-on groups, especially the Python group, give even more opportunities to build expertise in critical areas. It is always a good week when it ends with The Pub Club! ~ Maren Friesen
Miranda Haus: Postdoctoral Research Associate, MSU / TPC Gathering Coordinator
The Pub Club is a weekly resource for scientists at all career stages to commune and develop important skills that we cannot get at the bench and field. Skill development topics include the obvious talking points, like RCR training and figure workshops, and the not so obvious – but equally important – talking points, like nurturing creativity in research and managing staff in your team. TPC brings a sense of community and cohesiveness to our floor by creating an environment in which we all eat, share, and grow together. I have been participating in The Pub Club because I want to find a stronger voice in the scientific community – a voice worth listening to – and I am the type of person who thrives in a community setting. I have invested my time and effort in a leadership position in The Pub Club because I choose to have an active role in preparing myself as a leader of my own research program.
In the first seven months of my time at MSU, The Pub Club has provided a social, but professional opportunity in which I can benefit through networking and collaborating with my peers. TPC has provided an excellent foundation for both self-evaluation as well as opportunities to build upon a diverse skillset. Specifically, acting as event leader, I have practiced guiding scientific conversations to encourage discussion among my colleagues. I firmly believe that a “team science” approach is the future format for scientific inquiry and discovery. The Pub Club (and The COM) has been one of the best approaches to preparing for that future.
Adam Seroka: Graduate Student, MSU / TPC member
It’s Friday afternoon and the focus and energy exerted throughout the long week begin to wane… until the delicious smells waft through the air, drawing me to the weekly Pub Club meeting. I joined the He Lab over a year ago and have found The Pub Club to be a unique experience exploring science on the edge and behind the scenes both at the bench and behind the screen. I’ve experienced my share of growing pains since starting graduate school, and finding the careers beyond graduate school has been daunting. Since becoming a regular attendee of The Pub Club, I’ve begun to form the skills, both hard and soft, that will allow me to excel in the future that will be useful for numerous career paths. Crafting a strong CV, managing multiple experiments, writing impactful research statements, critically analyzing reviews, and the discussions during grant panel: these are all essential cogs of the scientific machine that graduate students and post-docs must understand in order to conduct successful science. With the input from the PIs on our floor and the frequent Mug Club visitors, I’ve gained insight on how to “grease the gears” of the machine and produce impactful and sound research while distinguishing myself in a competitive research field.
One of the emerging trends The Pub Club has focused on is the necessity to maintain control over my digital identity. While I’m typically averse to social media, I have recently delved into Twitter and found how broad the scientific community is and the openness to share breakthroughs, both large and small. Similarly, The Pub Club’s sense of community and excitement to share the latest updates in science and technology keep me coming every Friday; the Snacks just happen to be a plus. I’ve fully enjoyed sharing my weekly science updates, research ideas, and the opportunity to introduce graphic design to the group, which have helped hone some of my communication skills and broadened my literature list. In the coming years of graduate school, I know that The Pub Club will help me develop the necessary skills required for pursuing my scientific career goals. ~ Adam Seroka