With the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology (EB) fast approaching, we thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about our Young Scientists Committee (YSC) as well as our sister committee at the British Pharmacological Society (BPS), the Young Pharmacologists Advisory Group (YPAG). This interview series will first give an overview of the committees and their representation at different conferences, followed with a second post which will delve into more of the resources they provide for members and what their future plans are. This series came about after a meeting between our YSC chair, Karen Tonsfeldt, and a representative from the YPAG, Laura Ajram, at the BPS meeting late last year in the UK. This is yet another example of the great connections you can make by attending conferences, like the ASPET Annual Meeting just around the corner.
Can you each introduce and give an overview of your respective committees?
Karen: The Young Scientists Committee is a rather new one, established in 2015 by Abbie Schindler, Erin Bobeck, as well as myself. We currently have 19 members, ranging from graduate students to postdocs, and our overall goal is to provide a voice for trainees within ASPET.
Laura: The British Pharmacological Society has had a Young Pharmacologists Committee since 2009, but the Young Pharmacologists Advisory Group was formed in 2015, similar to your group the YSC. We currently have 13 core members, but we have a much larger network of over 2000 Society members, with representation for those of all career backgrounds, be they clinical, academic or industrial, from undergraduate to postdoctoral level regardless of geography. Similar to the YSC, we also strive to represent all of our members in decisions within the Society.
Are there any specific conferences at which we could find your committees represented?
Karen: We are at the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology, of course! We also had members at the BPS annual meeting, Pharmacology, this year, which is how I was able to meet Laura. Beyond that, members attend meetings of their own particular fields – Society for Neuroscience, International Narcotics Research Conference, and Society of Toxicology, to name a few.
Laura: Our Group has had an active presence at many British Pharmacological Society scientific meetings and events since 2009, but our biggest contributions are at the annual British Pharmacological Society flagship annual meeting, Pharmacology. We also encourage participation in other conferences, and have awarded travel funds to help younger members attend a conference by the Italian Pharmacological Society.
What types of events do your committees organize at those conferences?
Karen: We have been striving to have a good diversity of events organized for the main meeting at Experimental Biology. At our inaugural year at EB 2016, we hosted a photo booth, which we will have again this year in Chicago, where we interacted with other ASPET members. This year we will also be launching a few new events, including an outreach event for undergraduates at the University of Illinois Chicago in conjunction with the Mentoring and Career Development Committee, as well as the first two YSC-sponsored symposia at EB 2017, “The CRISPR-Cas9 Revolution in Pharmacology,” and “Therapeutic Prospectives for Cannabinoids: Beyond Marijuana and Pain”. Finally, in direct response to feedback we received at last year’s meeting, we will be providing “Job Seeker” badge ribbons to identify graduate students and postdocs looking for positions – we hope that this will break the ice and help trainees make connections!
Laura: Our Group is creative in the different types of events we organize! For the last few years, we have helped to organize the Welcome Reception at the annual Pharmacology meeting. In 2015, our Group organized an informal, career-orientated ‘speed-dating’ networking event for younger attendees at a joint scientific meeting with the Austrian Pharmacological Society. We have built on this experience by organizing and hosting the British Pharmacological Society’s first ever satellite meeting for younger members in December 2016, which was a half-day event consisting of three sessions designed to empower younger members on ‘how to get involved, how to make a difference, and how to influence’. Many thanks to Karen for agreeing to speak at this event about the different ways to get involved in a Professional Society!
It seems that the greatest takeaway from our first half of this interview series is that both societies have similar goals and interests centered around helping young scientists achieve their greatest potential. That being said, given their representation at meetings such as Experimental Biology in Chicago this year, we encourage all members and attendees of the meeting to take advantage of this excellent opportunity by checking out all the events they have to offer, as well as getting to know their colleagues that are hard at work trying to put it all together. Thanks to Karen and Laura for their hard work and participation in this interview series, and we hope to see you all at EB this year!