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PhD, Postdoc & Beyond …

Tuesday 24 September 2019 3:26pm

Yesterday, the newly-minted University of Otago Postdoctoral Association hosted a very successful careers symposium for early career scientists. The event was attended by around 100 PhDs from around the university, who listened to talks from a variety of people who started their careers with a PhD degree. The keynote address was given by Professor Juliet Gerrard, the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor.

Professor Juliet Gerrard
Professor Juliet Gerrard

"PhD, Postdoc & Beyond …" is the first of hopefully many events held to further the aims of the newly-formed Postdoctoral Association. The focus of this particular event was to highlight career opportunities available to people with PhD degrees. Talks were organised into two sessions, the first focusing on how to develop an academic research career, the second exploring some of the many career options for PhDs outside of academia.

Some highlights of the night were talks by Dr Blair Hesp, Managing Director of Kainic Medical Communications; Dr Gertje Peterson, a consultant with AbacusBio and Otago PhD graduate; and Dr Adam Middleton, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry.

Symposium attendees were also treated to a keynote address by Professor Juliet Gerrard, the current Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has a distinguished career in protein biochemistry research.

Debina Sarkar, Juliet Gerrard, Indranil Basak, & Andrew Cridge
Dr Debina Sarkar, Professor Juliet Gerrard, Dr Indranil Başak, & Dr Andrew Cridge

The Postdoctoral Association was formed after a trio of early career biochemists got together earlier in the year, lamenting the lack of support systems for postdoctoral and research fellows. These early career scientists are just a few years out from their PhD studies, and many of them are still deciding where their careers will take them. The three biochemists, Drs Debina Sarkar, Indranil Basak, and Andrew Cridge, organised a meeting with their peers from the Departments of Psychology, Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, and Pharmacology; and the Postdoctoral Association was born. The aims of the Association are to provide personal and professional support, facilitate collaboration and relationship building, to improve the "visibility" of early career scientists, to share expertise, and to pool resources. They also see mentorship of students in their fourth year of study and during PhD work as a worthwhile aim.

Planning for the next event has already begun; some time next year there will be a symposium for Postdocs and Research Fellows to present their research, and one of the sessions will focus on women in science.

Sponsorship for last night's symposium was provided by the Otago School of Biomedical Sciences, LabSupply, and ThermoFisher Scientific.