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Young Pharmacologist Committees at Home and Abroad, Part II

June 27, 2017
By Tamara Escajadillo

We are now proud to bring you the second half of our young pharmacologist committee interview series. In the first half,  we introduced ASPET Young Scientists Committee (YSC) chair, Karen Tonsfeldt, and the Young Pharmacologists Advisory Group (YPAG) representative Laura Ajram, who met at Pharmacology 2016, the British Pharmacological Society’s (BPS) annual meeting. Karen and Laura gave us some great insight into some of the inner workings of their respective societies. We now expand on a few more of the finer details of the societies in order to highlight some of the great work they are doing for their members as well as the community.

Do most of your committee members reside in the same general area? If not, how do you keep in contact with your committee members?  

Karen: We have good representation from all around the continental United States, but we don’t let the distance get in the way of communicating! We rely heavily on email, and we hold monthly teleconferences where each member gives updates on their progress on their different projects. Even though this year’s ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology (EB) was less than two months ago and the next meeting isn’t for almost another year, we are already planning for EB 2018!

Laura: Since we all reside at various locations across the UK as well as different parts of Europe, throughout the year we communicate via email or telephone, and we often use video conferencing to keep in touch as well, but we do meet in person as an Advisory Group at least three times per year.

Do you have any representation on other committees as well? 

Karen: We sure do! We have liaisons on the Mentoring and Career Development Committee, Science Policy Committee, and Programming Committee. In addition, several of us serve on the Executive Committees of the many different divisions of ASPET.

Laura: I am also a member of the Women in Pharmacology Advisory Group and the Meetings Committee. Other society committees with young pharmacologist representation include our Policy & Public Engagement Committee, Pharmacology Matters (the Society’s in-house magazine) editorial board and the Education & Training Committee. It is important that members of our Advisory Group sit on other Advisory Groups or Committees within the BPS - it certainly helps joined-up thinking for big events and projects and it ensures these initiatives address the needs of younger scientists.

What are some types of resources available to your members in terms of career advancement/training opportunities? 

Karen: ASPET has a broad range of career resources for trainee members. One goal of the YSC is to provide members with a platform from which they can develop the skills they are interested in refining. To this end, our members serve on other committees within ASPET pursuant to their interests, and we use our collective experience to strengthen our goals for the committee. One of my favorite parts of the committee is the energy and ideas that we generate. Right now, the most exciting things we have going on are ideas people had that they have put in the work to bring to fruition. I think it is an invaluable experience for someone to take a project idea and be able to create something, and we all benefit from watching and assisting in that process.

Laura: The BPS runs several CPD (Continual Professional Development) accredited workshops and focused meetings, for which young pharmacologists can apply for bursaries to attend and present their research. The AJ Clark Studentship enables young scientists to carry out research in pharmacology leading to the degree of PhD in recognized departments in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. In addition, free postgraduate membership in the BPS is provided for the duration of the Studentship. The Society also has its vacation studentship funds designed to encourage consideration of a pharmacology specialism for undergraduate students. Each studentship provides up to £1,850 to support the living costs of the student during the delivery of a research project (£185 per week for up to 10 weeks). We believe it is important to recognize student contribution to pharmacology, and our Group specifically sponsors a prize of £250 to the best poster communicating work performed as part of an undergraduate degree, on each day of the annual conference, Pharmacology. We are also proud of our ongoing support for members to develop their public engagement skills. The Society calls for media training and has bursary awards to help our members develop public engagement skills so that we can better champion pharmacology as a community. In 2016, six members of the BPS were awarded this bursary fund and have since been involved in public engagement activity for the Society.

Is there anything you would like to improve or advance on your committee during your time there? 

Karen: For me, the biggest thing has been the creation of the YSC and putting ourselves on the map, so to speak. Because trainees are a (hopefully) temporary state, we have some issues with attrition and turnover; that’s not unexpected, but my biggest hope is that we can maintain the momentum to grow and evolve for years to come.

Laura: I’m a big supporter of promoting the power of networking, specifically for younger pharmacologists. The Society has on average four member networking events during the year in addition to Young Pharmacologist events, and I would love to be able to make this something that the Group does even more of. We’ve made great progress already here, with a networking event at our satellite event in 2016 allowing attendees to network with speakers and ask career questions, but we would like to develop this further and have more opportunities for Young Pharmacologists to network throughout the year. I also love getting to know and work with the Young Scientists Committee in ASPET, and hope we can continue this partnership in the future!

We hope you enjoyed getting to know the Young Scientists Committee and the Young Pharmacologists Advisory Group! If you have any questions or if you would like to get involved in the YSC, you can contact info@aspet.org. Thanks to Karen and Laura for their hard work and participation in this interview series!

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Last Updated: September 6, 2017

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