Nov. 1, 2016

The 4th Annual Host-Parasite Interactions Bootcamp 2016

By Jeanie Quach

The University of Calgary’s NSERC CREATE Host-Parasite Interactions Group Bootcamp at the Kananaskis Field Station

On March 11-12th 2016, the Host-Parasite Interactions (HPI) 4th annual Bootcamp was held at the U of C Kananaskis Field Station. Over the last 4 years, HPI has grown tremendously and now includes faculty from U of C, U of A, and U of Lethbridge. It has expanded its networks and is becoming recognized in the City of Calgary through many community engagement events with the TELUS Spark Science Centre. This year’s bootcamp was another successful event led by Teresa Emmett, the Program Manager of HPI. From a trainee perspective, this was a highly valuable experience for learning about how to present yourself vocally, the different types of careers to pursue after a PhD, and the importance of networking with others. The HPI Bootcamp focusses on career development and is not particularly research/science focused. It is rare to find a group like this at the U of C for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows that meet on a biweekly basis for research seminars and monthly for workshops and social events.

The “Networking and Creativity” workshop was led by the facilitator, Colin Funk, who did an excellent job of breaking the ice by getting trainees and faculty of introduce themselves using photos. Dawn McCaugherty, Associate Professor, U of C Drama Department also generously gave her time to facilitate another “Vocal Presence” workshop in conjunction with the trainee 3-Minute Thesis talks. The room was filled with laughter and smiles each time we performed a vocal exercise; it was obvious everyone was having a great time. The 3-Minute Thesis talks were very interesting to listen to as everyone got a quick preview of each of the lab’s current work and Dawn McCaugherty provided feedback to each of the trainees on how to improve their presentation skills. There was also a career panel discussion with 4 individuals in their respective careers and they discussed briefly about how they got to where they are now. Among the individuals were Wally McNaughton, Chair of Physiology & Pharmacology at U of C, Susan Novak, Executive Director of Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), Jennifer Rosteski, a High School Teacher, and Pamela Valentine, Chief Executive Officer of Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. Ultimately, the workshops were definitely a time to reflect on one’s self and to learn the importance of having a passionate purpose.

Furthermore, there were several team building exercises that stimulated our creativity and ability to collaborate with others to accomplish a goal. The first exercise was building a compartment for an egg using toothpicks and straws and it had to withstand the drop from different heights until one team was left standing with an uncracked egg. The second team building exercise was playing a version of a currently trending game of Escape Room where a team of 6-8 players would be in a locked room and the goal was to put letters that spelled MALT in the quickest possible time and beating the other teams. This was an invaluable experience that not only taught us how to become better at networking, but to build on existing relationships that will bring many opportunities in the future.