In January this year the Dartmouth College Postdoc Association partnered with peers at the University of New Hampshire to host the 2021 version of Postdoc Research Day. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, events such as the Short Talks, Poster Presentations, and Table Talks all had to adapt to the virtual environment.
The first collaborative event was hosted last year at The Hanover Inn on Dartmouth campus – an initiative spearheaded by former assistant dean of postdoctoral affairs, Victoria Blodgett, who worked to develop a larger community of postdoc researchers in the Northern New England region.
Sadly, Victoria passed away in November 2020, but the strength of her legacy was evident in the work the DCPDA co-chairs, Hannah Laue and Kate Rose (both of whom had stepped into their roles as recently as December 2020) undertook to co-host the 2021 Postdoc Research Extravaganza.
"We knew the pandemic has forced every group gathering to the virtual platform, and now we go to more events than we would have in person," Laue says. "We were aware that adding extra virtual sessions could be exhausting and we wanted to try more creative styles of presentation for folk feeling 'zoomed-out'."
Prior to the pandemic, and after last year's event, the DCPDA had already started applying lessons learned from that first collaboration with UNH. Given the range of research interests represented in the postdoctoral community, the DCPDA worked with UNH to promote professional development sessions and speed collaborations, offering the opportunity to network with other researchers.
Popular sessions during the event included Soft Skills That Matter, Facilitating Collaboration – managing a growing research portfolio and professional network, and Life as a Professional Writer – a discussion on being an effective and efficient writer. Guest speakers including leading researchers, editors from the journal Science, and deans from the UNH community.
"Opportunities for early-career researchers to network and receive professional development opportunities during the pandemic is critical. Without conferences and professional meetings, these essential career-building opportunities are few and far between," Adam Wymore, faculty fellow for postdoctoral affairs at UNH, says. "It was great to see the level of engagement and sense of collaboration between our two universities," he added.
There are approimately two hundred postdocs in the Dartmouth community and their research spans programs across science and humanities. The collaboration with UNH is hoped to expand this growing research network to other institutions in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.
In a typical year the event would culminate in a networking reception, but given the constraints of the pandemic, a small group from the Guarini community gathered over zoom once more for a virtual quiz to close the week. This was also an opportunity for those in attendance to share memories of Victoria and to celebrate the positive impact she made on the DCPDA, the Guarini community, and on Dartmouth.