Ongoing professional development opportunities for students and early-stage researchers are an essential feature for career success. The need for career enhancement events was evident by the turnout of students and researchers from Florida institutions at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Lake Nona’s first Central Florida Careers in Science Symposium on June 21, 2013. The event was sponsored by Sanford-Burnham Science Network of Lake Nona and focused on career path awareness and networking for students, postdoctoral researchers, and scientific staff. Attendees from institutions as far away as Miami, Tampa, and Boca Raton, joined those from local colleges and research organizations to interact with colleagues and attend seminars and panel discussions.
Dr. Joan Lakoski, professor in Clinical Translational Science Institute and professor in Pharmacology and Chemical Biology from the University of Pittsburgh, was the keynote speaker. Dr. Lakoski shared valuable insights about the impact of mentorship on career development in her address entitled, “Empowering Career Success and Resilience with Dynamic Mentoring.” In addition to being an accomplished researcher in the study of neuropharmacology and the aging process, she contributes to mentoring in research as the founding executive director of the Office of Academic Career Development and the Office of Science Education Outreach, Health Sciences. She is also the director of the Ri.MED Foundation Postdoctoral Fellows Program, and has served as the inaugural dean for Postdoctoral Education.
A workshop entitled “Finding Your Career Path” by Dr. Diane Klotz, the director for the Office of Training and Academic Services at Sanford-Burnham gave attendees at every level of research and education the chance to reflect and further define career priorities and choices. Later in the program, a networking lunch provided a great opportunity for attendees to meet each other and make new professional connections. Some were looking to find employment or internship opportunities while others were able to establish new acquaintances that would benefit student and postdoctoral organizations at their home institutions.
The symposium also featured afternoon panels on topics ranging from “Careers in Industry” to “Alternate Careers” and “Women in Science.” Sanford-Burnham scientists, Dr. Lakoski, and other local professionals shared their experiences and advice during these engaging and lively discussions. Simply put, watching the panelists reach out to those in the early phases of their careers was an example of scientists “giving back” to future generations of researchers and doing so within the broader community.
The program organizers hope to make the Central Florida Careers in Science Symposium an annual event that educates and builds professional collaborations within the broader Florida research community.