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Postdoctoral Scientists Connect, Celebrate, Collaborate

Cedars-Sinai Recognizes National Postdoc Appreciation Week With Comradery, Career Development Panel and More

Meeting new people, gaining new inspiration and creating new professional and personal friendships were among the outcomes of Cedars-Sinai’s celebration of its postdoctoral researchers during National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Sept. 18-22, 2023.

Nearly 215 in-house and visiting postdoc researchers from across the country and around the world who are conducting research and receiving and providing training at Cedars-Sinai participated in a week of special events designed to foster networking and collaboration.

Activities included dedicated social time, an elevator pitch contest, a scientific art contest, a treasure hunt, and a career panel comprising professionals with PhDs from diverse backgrounds and industries. Unlike last year’s mostly virtual events, this year the events were in-person with the option to attend virtually.

“The biggest benefit of the week is the opportunity to network within our Cedars-Sinai postdoc community,” said Sarah McCallum, PhD, a postdoctoral scientist in the Burda Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai and a member of the Cedars-Sinai Postdoc Society Leadership Committee, which plans the week’s activities.

“We often underestimate the importance of conversation with colleagues that happen away from the bench—for example, just by getting coffee together—and that spark collaborations and new ideas, help us overcome technical issues or even help us get that next grant or job,” McCallum explained.

Florian Rosier, PhD, a postdoctoral scientist in the Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai and a member of the Cedars-Sinai Postdoc Society, said, “It’s nice to be a part of this community and to meet each other at different events, since we’re coming from all over the world as well as working on different parts of campus.”

Postdoctoral scientist Monica Wagner, PhD, attended the career panel, which included speakers from industry, academia, government and biotech startups, and said she enjoyed learning more about the career possibilities within the scientific community—including those not previously on her radar.

“It was a very informative panel,” Wagner said. “The passion and dedication of the panelists left me with a deeper appreciation for the various career paths within the scientific field. Also enlightening was hearing more about the similarities and differences in the goals and objectives of academia and industry.”

Paul Linesch, PhD, a postdoctoral scientist in the Breunig Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai, won the event’s elevator pitch contest. He summarized his research—studying how stem cells turn into different types of cells in the brain—in less than a minute while making it easy to understand for all audiences.

Linesch also took third place in the art contest with “Folding the Mind,” his photograph of the cerebellum of a mouse brain.

“We are a neurodevelopment lab, and we’ve been collaborating with another professor investigating a gene involved in the development of the cerebellum,” Linesch said. “The cerebellum is a beautiful structure, and this photo is one of my favorites.”

Vladimir Zhemkov, PhD, won first place in the art contest with “The Garden of Life,” which depicts spinal motor neurons growing on a microfluidic chip. Jyoti Chhimwal, PhD, won second place with the image “Mitotic Supernova,” depicting the beginning of life at the cellular level.

Other winners in the elevator pitch contest were Umer Farooqi, PhD, in second place, and Reyhaneh Jamali Khoshschehreh, PhD, in third place.

A treasure hunt also was among the week’s activities. Postdocs set out across the Cedars-Sinai campus to find and photograph various items—including selfies with each other. Winners of the treasure hunt were Taylon Silva, PhD, in first place; Umer Farooqi, PhD, in second place; and Elisabeth Jaeger, PhD, in third place.

National Postdoc Appreciation Week is recognized at academic institutions nationwide. At Cedars-Sinai, events are planned by the Postdoctoral Scientist Program and Cedars-Sinai Postdoc Society as a way to celebrate the year-round accomplishments and contributions of postdoctoral investigators and foster networking among junior researchers and the local research community.

The Cedars-Sinai Postdoc Society hosts a regular hybrid meeting at 3 p.m. on the second Monday of every month featuring a scientific and educational seminar as well as a bi-monthly coffee hour for postdocs to network. To volunteer, give a seminar, or contact the Postdoc Society, email GroupPostdocSocietyCommittee@cshs.org.

The Cedars-Sinai Postdoc Society’s committee members are Florian Rosier, PhD; Sheryl Fernandes, PhD; Esther Adeniran, PhD; Adiza Abass, PhD; Rasaq Akinsola, PhD; and Sankalp Tikoo, PhD; in addition to co-chairs Sarah McCallum, PhD; Saeed Seyedmohammad, PhD; and Elisabeth Jaeger, PhD.

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