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A Promising Future for the CHOP Postdoctoral Alliance

Published on
August 11, 2020
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“Arwa

Arwa Abbas discusses the CHOP Postdoctoral Alliance.

Editor’s Note: Arwa Abbas, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Joseph Zackular, PhD, in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and she is a member of the CHOP Postdoctoral Alliance (CPA) Communications committee. Her research goals are to determine how the gut microbiome influences disease caused by the gastrointestinal pathogen Clostridioides difficile. In this guest blog, Dr. Abbas looks back on the inaugural year for the CPA and how it set the foundation to promote an environment conducive to the happiness and success of CHOP postdocs.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute hosts a diverse population of postdoctoral researchers (postdocs), coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and pursuing equally varied scientific questions. The CHOP Postdoctoral Alliance (CPA) formed in the spring of 2019 to ensure CHOP is a welcoming home for its innovative and exceptional postdocs.

Created by and for postdoctoral researchers, the CPA has the ability to be flexible to meet the needs of the community it serves. At the same time, the CPA receives support from the Office of Academic Training and Outreach Programs, which is a critical liaison between the postdoc community and the Research Institute’s leadership.

CHOP postdoctoral researchers can avail themselves of the resources and support provided by both the Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs (BPP) and the postdoc-led Biomedical Postdoctoral Council (BPC) from the University of Pennsylvania. While this close-knit relationship between the two institutions is beneficial, a separate forum was needed to address the unique issues and experiences encountered by CHOP postdocs. The CPA filled this role to enhance the postdoctoral experience at CHOP.

Specifically, the CPA has three main focuses:

  • fostering rich connections among its members;
  • supporting members’ personal and professional growth; and
  • representing the postdoctoral community within CHOP and the larger biomedical research community.

The CPA’s committees, including Professional Development, Women in Science, Work-Life Balance, Communications, and the Postdoc Partner Program (P3), are the functional units of the organization that transform these stated goals into realities.

Some examples of these programs include the “Lunch and Learn” series, where postdocs who are experts in a particular technique, such as fluorescence microscopy or mass spectrometry, share their knowledge with their peers.

A Peer Mentoring Circle for postdocs who identify as women provides a safe forum to address topics specific to women in science.

To promote a healthy work-life balance, the CPA keeps an ear to the ground for the types of events desired by its diverse members and organizes activities, ranging from networking happy hours to family-friendly outings for postdocs with children.

P3 is a unique initiative that pairs incoming international postdocs with current fellows to facilitate their transition into CHOP and the Philadelphia area.

The CPA, comprised of seven postdoctoral steering committee members, achieved these successful initiatives in just the first year, and its positive impact and reach will continue to grow. To learn more about the CPA and its leaders, visit their website, and keep up to date on CPA-sponsored events by following their Twitter account. The CPA can also be reached via choppostdocs [at] gmail.com.