Nov. 24, 2016

HPI Research Symposium

Article by Stephanie Peacock and Sydney Rudko

HPI Research Symposium Day 1: Trainee Roundtable Talk

The 1st HPI Research symposium at the University of Calgary was kicked off on Thursday, November 24 by Dr. Emily Jenkins, who shared her experiences and career advice with HPI trainees during an informal pizza lunch.  Dr. Jenkins is an Associate Professor of Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety at the University of Saskatchewan, but she didn’t take a straight and narrow path to her current academic post.

 Dr. Jenkins has previously worked as a government scientist with Environment Canada, and openly talked about the pros and cons of public life with trainees. Contrary to the commonly held belief that once you leave academia, there’s no going back, Dr. Jenkins left her government job to take up a faculty position at her alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan - busting another myth that it might be hard to get a position where you did your PhD.

In her current position, Dr. Jenkins has accrued experience on faculty hiring committees and shared some golden tips on writing cover letters and acing an academic interview. A key point in cover letters, she said, was to include something that makes you stand out among hundreds of applicants so that the committee will remember you. When it comes to interviews, Dr. Jenkins shared some of the questions she’s asked of candidates, such as “What do you have imposter syndrome about?” and “What are the good and bad aspects of your former supervisor’s supervisory style?”. Needless to say our answers to the latter question are strictly confidential and not to be repeated here! 

Finally, Dr. Jenkins shared some advice on juggling the demands of a family (she has three kids!) and a successful research career.  As a young woman in science, it was inspiring to hear that such a work-life balance is not only possible, but you don’t have to be super-human to achieve it! 

In short, the pizza lunch was a great forum for trainees to learn from Dr. Jenkins’ wealth of experience.  A graduate students and postdocs, the world ahead can sometimes be a little daunting, and we appreciate all the advice we can get!

HPI Research Symposium Day 2

 Our lab headed out from chilly, foggy Edmonton at 6am, heading down to the University of Calgary to attend the first HPI Research Symposium.  The event was an incredible success with nearly every HPI trainee in attendance and presenting, groups from the University Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge were all in attendance. The day kicked off bright and early with a keynote talk by Dr. Emily Jenkins of the University of Saskatchewan. Her group primarily works on the detection, and epidemiology of parasitic zoonoses, how climate change affects the interaction between humans, animals and parasitic diseases, as well as food scarcity in Canada's arctic. Dr. Jenkins has a wide breadth of expertise, having worked both in government and academia, and as such her talk was engaging and informative.

After Dr. Jenkins talk we proceeded into student talks. One student from each lab was selected to give a talk, while their lab mates presented posters. The talks were superb, it was a surely an excellent opportunity to learn about the work happening in HPI, as the vast majority of our events focus more on professional development and less on our work in the lab. For presenters it was an excellent opportunity to present to peers, practise public speaking and take questions. The poster sessions were also especially good, spanning either side of lunch, with plenty of time to linger over posters and chat with presenters. The afternoon concluded with more student talks, and a final keynote with Dr. Buret, who discussed the amazing research being conducted at the University of Calgary. After such a long day there was a half an hour to have a drink and say our goodbyes before we starting the 3 hour drive back home to Edmonton.