I have entered the Post Doctoral Fellow Black Hole… I’ve witnessed a lot and heard about much more and, while this is the time in academic life when you’re meant to be the busiest, I have begun this blog. Just as a black hole is difficult to define, the label “postdoc” is bandied about with recklessness by university administrators, professors, and even postdocs themselves. One thing is certain though… once you get sucked in, it appears to be near impossible to get back out.
Over my 5+ years at UBC and in Vancouver, I had the enormous pleasure of working with some very bright and motivated people who first sat down in 2005 and posed the question “What’s wrong with the science enterprise?” The onslaught began from those burned by standardized testing (or lack thereof), to those not on the scholarship gravy train (for reasons as diverse and random as you can imagine), to those whose jaws have still not been set back in place since learning that you can get a Canadian undergraduate degree in biology without any laboratory courses.
This blog will discuss such issues, often reflecting the sentiments expressed in those informal meetings, the information collected, and some possible directions forward. Naturally, this site will evolve over the course of time and engage additional issues as they arise and we hope this series of blogs will engage issues that face science trainees across Canada from finding jobs, to communicating science, to improving the training environment for the upcoming generations.
- Regular Contributors
In the last year of her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (with a minor in Drama) at McMaster University, Beth fell in love with the field of nutrition, so she went to the University of Guelph to do a MSc in Nutritional Sciences and then to the University of British Columbia to do a PhD in Human Nutrition. Deciding that a career in academia was not for her, she spent two years running a research training program in gender and addictions at an independent centre for research, policy and knowledge translation and now works as an Evaluation Specialist in Public Health in the lower mainland of Vancouver, as well as doing some contract work as a consultant. She hasn’t completely unplugged from academia though, as she teaches as a sessional instructor at UBC. In her spare time, she can be found playing (and watching) hockey, running or blogging.
Dave was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and completed his undergraduate degree in Genetics and English Literature at the University of Western Ontario in London. Soon though, the ocean air called again, but instead of returning east, he explored western Canada and the great outdoors of British Columbia while completing his doctoral studies at the Terry Fox Lab at the University of British Columbia. There he was involved with Let’s Talk Science and GrasPods – two groups which helped shape his passions for science outreach and science advocacy. Moving a time zone closer to friends and family in Newfoundland, Dave currently works as a post doctoral fellow researching adult blood stem cells and their role in blood disorders at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research in Cambridge, UK. Desperately trying to keep connected to the Canadian science community, Dave began the Black Hole blog with long time friend and colleague Beth Snow.
Sonja is in her fifth and final year of an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of British Columbia. Originally from Serbia, she was born and raised in Kuwait before moving to the west coast of Canada to pursue her dream of becoming a biochemist. She is currently investigating epigenetic changes in leukemia as part of her Honours project in the Terry Fox Lab. When not madly studying for exams, she works with Universities Allied for Essential Medicines to ensure that the products of university biomedical research are made accessible to all in need, regardless of income or other circumstances. The highlight of her degree so far has been leading a seminar course on access to essential medicines in developing countries. She hopes to one day become a physician working in the field of public health, in the effort to extend the benefits of health technology to marginalized communities all around the world. She also enjoys cycling.
Carl Wonders is a relative newcomer to Canada, having completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and his Ph.D. (both in neuroscience) at Cornell University in New York City. He has since joined the laboratory of Dr. Derek van der Kooy at the University of Toronto, studying adult retinal stem cells and their potential uses in the treatment of degenerative vision loss. Away from the bench, he has been involved in StemCellTalks, a series of events run by Let’s Talk Science and the Stem Cell Network of Canada that teach the basics of stem cell biology to high school students in the Toronto area. Carl was also one of the founding members of the University of Toronto Postdoctoral Association and continues to be involved in issues surrounding the status of postdoctoral fellows, particularly those involving taxation and the ever-present student/trainee/employee debate. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he is also outlining his own blog, which will deal with the communication and presentation of science (hopefully going live in the next few weeks!).
Marianne M. Stanford hails from the small town of Blaketown, Newfoundland and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI). She received her BSc (Biology) and MSc (Medicine) from Memorial University of Newfoundland and her PhD in 2004 from Dalhousie University, studying the role of chemokine receptors in leukocyte recruitment in inflammation. In her postdoctoral training she has worked with Dr. Grant McFadden at the Robarts Research Institute and Dr. John Bell at the OHRI, investigating poxviruses as novel oncolytic viruses. In her spare time, she is involved in science outreach and policy, volunteering with programs such as Let’s Talk Science, the CIHR Synapse program, Science M@tters and the National Science and Technology Museam biotechnology lecture series. She is former Chair of the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars. She is also an avid singer and budding triathelete.