In The Pulse
by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Laura Bailey, writer and photographer
March 2, 2015
The Uniformed Services University Postdoctoral Association (PDA) members work alongside staff and faculty and play an increasingly active role in the community, but many may not realize it, according to Dr. Miranda Gray, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at USU and president of the USU PDA.
Board members of the USU PDA serve postdoctoral fellows within the USU community and help guide the organization forward. Their mission is to promote career development, networking and scientific and social interactions among fellows.
A grant writing workshop run by Dr. Frank Shewmaker, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology at USU and the faculty advisor of the USU PDA, as well as a new grant database available on the USU website offers tips on grant writing and examples of successfully routed grants for postdoctoral fellows and other university researchers.
“Dr. Erica Raterman, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at USU, and Dr. Linda Miallau, a research assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, worked closely with Dr. Susan Rasmussen, director of the Office of Program Development at USU, and Army Col. (Dr.) Mark Kortepeter, associate dean of Research in USU’s School of Medicine, to develop the grant database, and we help to manage any additions to the database,” Gray said. “A lot of work went into that project, but a lot of people don’t know that the PDA helped with it.”
“They’re going to be submitting this summer during the next deadline, so that’s a big deal, especially if they get funded,” said Gray.
Research funding means more funds flowing into the university –an added benefit of having the database, she added.
According to Gray, a career seminar series lecture held Feb. 19 and another scheduled for Mar. 17 are the culminations of hard work by members of the USU PDA.
Originally, the USU PDA helped Dr. Edward Mitre, the series founder, run the program. With the support of Dr. Mitre, the series slowly transitioned to being completely run by the USU PDA members. Starting in April, a graduate student will also begin helping.
Raterman, who is responsible for arranging the speakers for the series and advertising these events said students, postdoctoral fellows and senior scientists in the biomedical sciences who are considering a career outside of academia are the most direct beneficiaries of the career seminar series.
Some topics may be of interest to the wider community as well, particularly if they are interested in work being done at neighboring institutions.
“For instance, a speaker late last year who works in support of the NASA Space Biology program shared information on the process for selecting which biological experiments get sent into space on NASA missions to the International Space Station and on how USUHS researchers can apply for NASA funding,” said Raterman.
She continued, “Our February speaker, Dr. Joseph Larsen, was the acting deputy director of the Division of CBRN Medical Countermeasures at BARDA, an agency responsible for developing plans for response to public health emergencies. I think his talk was of interest to the entire USUHS medical community.“In general, our goal is to expose the USUHS community to diverse career paths in the biomedical sciences by inviting speakers with careers in government, industry, nonprofit organizations, consulting and journalism.”
The USU PDA leaves no stone unturned as they seek out more ways to be proactive.
A symposium during Research Days is one example of many initiatives brought to life, but we want to do more, said Gray. Community outreach is a key initiative the USU PDA wants to see bolstered.
“We’re here to be scientists, but at this point in our careers – because we’re still considered trainees – it’s good for us to have other types of experiences,” Gray said. “We do community outreach which is probably one of the more important things that we do.”
The Montgomery County Science Fair, scheduled for March, has several USU fellows already signed up as judges.
“We’ve gone through all this training, and we have all this experience, and we want to give back,” said Gray. “I think doing the science fairs is an opportunity for an actual scientist to go in there and talk to these kids and say, yes, you can actually grow up to be a scientist.”
The USU PDA fellows also participate in food drives and soup kitchens for the homeless, she said.
The efforts and dedication of the USU PDA members, whether on or off campus, reflect the high standards of the university.
“Nothing’s a selfless act,” said Gray. “This has obviously been a good experience for us. We are picking up skills by being involved, but it’s more about making people aware that we are really doing a lot of great things, not just for the PDA itself, but the university as a whole.”