12/09/16 – Last week at The Pub Club we had a very special gathering led by Bethany Huot and Miranda Haus focused on helping our undergraduate students begin to strategically manage their careers. Prior to the gathering on Friday, participating UG students were asked to 1) familiarize themselves with the concept and value of career management by reading the TPC posts “What’s Next?” and “Career Tips Over Breakfast with John McDowell,” 2) identify their skills, interests and values using the AAAS Individual Development Plan (IDP) and 3) use this information to write a preliminary professional summary for something like a LinkedIn profile. They were also asked to bring a hard copy of this profile summary with them to the Friday Gathering.
After the traditional Science Updates, Bethany started off the session by explaining briefly the concept and mission of The Pub Club as a component of The Community of Minds. While strategic career management takes commitment and effort, none of us needs to attempt it in a vacuum. In fact, we will be much more successful if we establish, cultivate and fully utilize our own COM. One of the mission objections of TPC is to “Fill the Void,” which can be done best by first identifying it. Of course, sometimes even that can be tricky, so we started by making a list of the questions we had.
Miranda picked up from there with how to interpret and use the results from the IDP surveys. We then broke into two small groups to share and discuss the UG profile summaries. Each group had three UGs and several grad students and/or post docs to provide their personal insights and advice. The specific questions generated at the beginning of the Gathering were also addressed in these small groups.
Finally, we came back together as a whole group to address any final questions from the activity and share our learning outcomes. Miranda shared the value of using Informational Interviews, similar to what we just did as a group, to gain information that can help us in making career decisions. Bethany re-emphasized the value of building and utilizing our own personal COMs to help us with establishing the connections that may prepare us for and ultimately lead to our dream job.
As a follow-up to this event, the participating UGs will be using the feedback they received in the small groups to refine their profile summaries. These summaries, along with a couple of sentences describing what they each learned or got out of the event will be compiled in a post, which will be published early next year.
12/02/16 – Last week we welcomed Mug Club guest, Dr. James Tiedje, who discussed the importance of “Creativity in Science” with us. Jim introduced us to the four main components of creativity: 1) Fluency (the number of ideas) 2) Flexibility (the ability to shift among ideas) 3) Originality (the rare idea) and 4) Elaboration (ideas in the details). He then used activities – we each had to draw pictures based on a simple shape or collection of shapes – to demonstrate these attributes by comparing our different approaches and outputs. After providing many examples of great entrepreneurs, he challenged us with ways to enhance our own creativity, emphasizing that “Skills can be achieved through Practice!” Many of the methods he suggested (see below) are available to us through active participation in The Pub Club and active cultivation of our personal COMs. For more information on this important topic, you can access Jim’s PowerPoint presentation here: Creativity in Science – Dr. James Tiedje. Very special thanks to Bethany for the culinary trifecta of chicken, Thai-style fried eggs and rice!
What can you do to enhance your creativity?
- Build a base of sound fundamental knowledge
- Choose role model(s)
- Assemble the facts: read broadly; communicate; go to stimulating, broadening events; sort the facts
- Inspiration: positive attitude, talk to people, avoid staleness
- Develop critical thinking, reflective thinking
- Look for the analog; Build pictorial models
- Establish strategic connections, collaborations
- Don’t force the idea before its “time”
- Vision for the future!
11/25/16 – Last week we took time to celebrate and Give Thanks. Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!
11/18/16 – Last Friday at The Pub Club, Bethany updated everyone on the newly announced Cluster Faculty Search for the MSU Plant Resilience Institute, while Danve shared the exciting new Science paper from Dr. Stephen Long’s lab on increasing crop productivity. Dr. Long was a recent speaker of our PRL/PLB Seminar Series last month. After a collective discussion on a couple of groundbreaking CRISPR news, Siobhan led our “Responsible Conduct in Research” discussion on “Proper Data Management.” She gave an overview on concepts like data, metadata, data control, access and ownership. We also had a very lively case study discussion on the continuum of research integrity to research misconduct. Finally, Siobhan summarized her points as follows: 1) Respect contracts; 2) Track metadata; and 3) Contact Jim Pivarnik (Research Integrity Officer) if in doubt. Very special thanks to her for doing double duty and providing yummy sandwiches from Jimmy John’s! To read more on proper data management, check out this official MSU page.
11/11/16 – Last week at The Pub Club, we kicked off the gathering with exciting science updates from Adam about wireless brain implants that allow paralyzed monkeys to walk and from Brian about how plant roots perceive light being tunneled through the stem. We followed these science updates with our guest speaker Amanda Charbonneau, who shared wonderful insights about the “Bioinformatics Resources” available through iCER and beyond. After introducing herself to the group, she showed us the myriad of easily accessible HPCC software, and also useful courses like NGS Summer 2016 and EDAMAME to help our science to be cutting-edge. Apart from Amanda’s involvement in the MSU bioinformatics community, she shared her teaching passion with us through volunteer organizations like Data Carpentry and Software Carpentry. She wrapped the session by encouraging everyone to challenge ourselves with all the promising technologies that bioinformatics has to offer. Special thanks to Brad P. for the great-tasting pizza that he provided for the group!
11/04/16 – Last Friday, we opened The Pub Club with Bethany and Sheng Yang updating everyone about the recently held HHMI meeting in Maryland, emphasizing Dr. Jennifer Doudna’s excitement regarding the groundbreaking uses of CRISPR in agriculture. We followed these brief updates with one of our core TPC PIs, Brad, who led a discussion and shared insights about his recent work in two grant panels. In the combined NSF-USDA plant biotic interactions panel, Brad highlighted how very successful proposals were those that “aimed to do something unique,” “utilized multidisciplinary approaches” and “had potential for a paradigm shift.” In his other panel experience with the $86-million citrus greening (“hunglongbing”) fund, Brad shared the very novel system of “funding objectives instead of whole proposals,” due to the devastating effect of this disease and the extreme concern regarding its spread. Very special thanks to Pai for the pizza and quite enticing Chinese-style Russian soup that he prepared for everyone to enjoy!
10/28/16 – Last Friday, The Pub Club took advantage of our once a semester “PI Q&A Day” to hold our first Plant Resilience Institute Q&A Panel. Our Participating PIs for this session were TPC PIs, Brad Day and Sheng Yang He, along with two guest PIs, Ashley Shade (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) and David Lowry (Plant Biology). For anyone unfamiliar with The Pub Club’s Q&A Day, it works like this. Throughout the year, questions are dropped in the official “Q&A Box,” which is always available in the 4th floor living room. On Q&A Day, questions are pulled from the box and the PIs provide the answers. Past Q&A Days have proven to be very successful and great fun; last Friday was no exception.
After science updates, we learned unique details about our PIs’ scientific journeys. David shared how his passion for the genetic basis of adaptation has led him to study heat tolerance of dry beans. Ashley conveyed her knack for asking questions about microbial community resilience. She even mixed a lake with the help of an engineer to disturb the stratified microbes. Now that’s collaboration! Through his personal experience, Sheng Yang encouraged everyone to bravely find a new niche. Because studying plant resistance was the trend when he was starting as a PI, he found an uncrowded (and eventually successful) area by investigating susceptibility instead. Brad reflectively mused on how history repeats itself with respect to his career. He did his first postdoc in Japan and now is back to collaborating with his former colleagues as part of PRI’s international linkages.
After an insightful and thought-provoking Q&A discussion, we welcomed our PIs to the inaugural “Coaster Club.” The new Coaster Club is a token of our gratitude for PIs who take time out of their schedule to contribute to a special discussion panel at a TPC gathering. As part of PRI’s community-building, we were all invited to the Lowry Lab’s “interaction space” and the Shade Lab’s artisanal “espresso express!” Special thanks to Adam for the mouth-watering chicken wings that filled the floor with such inviting aroma! Stay tuned for our second PRI Q&A in the spring and start dropping your questions in the Box now.
10/21/16 – Last Friday, The Pub Club participated in the 5th Annual Plant Biotechnology for Health & Sustainability Symposium. We have several people who will be submitting posts on their experiences at the Symposium, see below for links to those. Were you there? All TPC members are encouraged to practice their written communication skills by writing your own post or commenting on a post.
A big Thank You to Miranda Haus, who has stepped up in a big way as a new Active Participant in The Pub Club by writing up the great advice our three PIs shared with us regarding our CVs. You can check out her excellent post here. For those of you not convinced all these writing opportunities or using Social Media is worth your time, check out the post on Soft Skills.
10/14/16 – Last Friday, we opened with a science update from Adam about how eating carbon nanotubes and graphene allow silkworms to spin stronger silk. “Stronger” was a main theme of the gathering as The Pub Club aims to fill “The Void” and further strengthen our careers as scientists. In this regard, our PIs – Brad, Gregg and Sheng Yang – led with the “Critical Evaluation of CVs” provided by our volunteer postdocs Ian, Miranda, Masaki and Kyaw. With four very different CVs to compare, we all got insightful and meaningful feedback to apply to our own. This included things like what to put on the CV, what not to put, how to format and what details to emphasize. Bethany concluded the gathering by highlighting career and teaching resources available on The Pub Club website. We will be posting a more detailed perspective this week from our active participant Miranda. Also special thanks to her for providing great-tasting pizza for everyone to enjoy!
10/07/16 – Last Friday, The Pub Club devoted an entire hour focusing on “Science on the Edge.” Ian led with an update about cutting-edge Split CRISPR technology, and was followed by Kyaw, who shared the genomics miracle story behind the book “One in a Billion.” Laced with both humor and introspection, Alan discussed the hypothetical moral dilemmas associated with self-driving cars while, on a more somber note, Miranda raised awareness about the untimely passing of her friend and colleague Sharon Gray. In commemoration of the recently announced Nobel Prizes, Danve highlighted the achievements of Yoshinori Ohsumi, the prize winner in Physiology and Medicine. Adam complemented this news with the Ig Nobel Prizes, honoring “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Gina (our guest participant from the Buell Lab) shared the recently published xGDBvm, a new program for user-friendly genome annotation. Finally, Bethany wrapped up the gathering by going “meta” as she detailed Kevin Dunbar’s research on how researchers do research. Very special thanks to Ian for providing Rendang, a traditional Indonesian beef stew with just the right kick!
09/30/16 – Last week at The Pub Club, Adam shared a recent study on plant stress responses to sound, while Ian updated us about the cutting-edge CRISPR technology to edit methylated DNA sequences. After highlighting an innovative and novel technology to fight off superbugs using antimicrobial peptides that shred bacterial membranes, Joe led our “Responsible Conduct in Research” discussion on proper and ethical peer review. Our members shared their interesting experiences and posed thought-provoking questions relating to the peer review process, citing concrete examples on when to decline review and detailing some useful strategies to employ. For example, considering the amount of information we are constantly absorbing in the course of our research, Bethany raised the question of how to safeguard against unintentionally allowing confidential, unpublished data from influencing our work. To read more on how to ethically peer review, check out our new resources here.
This week was a perfect example of the “Student-driven” and “PI-supported” structure of The Pub Club. In his ongoing effort to prepare to be a PI, Joe approached us at the beginning of the semester to ask if he could use The Pub Club to work on his leadership skills by organizing the two RCR sessions we will host this semester. Siobhan contributed by providing resources, Danve pitched in with the snacks and, thanks to a huge turn-out, we had a great, active discussion. Of course, this discussion was thanks in large part to two of our Participating PIs, Sheng Yang and Gregg, who were available to answer our questions and share their wealth of knowledge and experience with us.
09/23/16 – As always, we began with science updates, during which Brian initiated a very interesting discussion on molecular cloth, and Adam updated everyone on the upcoming NASA announcement regarding exploration of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. As we celebrated “Postdoc Appreciation Week,” Danve shared news about the recently announced Howard Hughes Medical Institute 2017 Hannah H. Gray Fellows Program, which seeks to increase diversity in the life sciences. Science updates were followed by “Fresh Faces,” an interactive segment to welcome our newest members to The Pub Club Community and to facilitate members getting acquainted through the use of the elevator pitch technique we worked on this past Spring 2016 semester. Miranda Haus, a new postdoc in the Day Lab, started off by showcasing her expertise in teaching philosophy statements and involvement in educational outreach through the PlantsIView initiative. Pai Li, a fresh grad student co-advised by Brad and Sheng Yang, detailed the ins and outs of his research history in Sun Yat-sen University and how he ended up in Michigan. Danve Castroverde, a He Lab postdoc who started in August, introduced himself to the group with the aid of his personal website. Finally, Alan McClain, a graduate student rotating in the Howe lab, shared his previous work on plant secondary metabolism while at the University of Michigan. We adjourned the gathering with a laughs-filled tribute to the “Surrender Cobra” meme! If you missed the opportunity to welcome our newest members this last week, be sure to take a minute to seek them out, say hello and introduce yourself.