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Ahead of the Curve

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Samar Al Maalout (left), animal sciences and Marion Le Gall (far left), entomology were among 22 post-doctoral researchers who participated. Photo by Leah Eder.

Postdoctoral researchers are sometimes an unseen element on college campuses—usually on temporary appointment and just starting to collaborate and produce publications on par with their academic colleagues, they often miss out on the professional development opportunities available to students, faculty members, and staff members.

The College of Agricultural Sciences is the first at Penn State to offer a two-day Postdoc Leadership Development Program aimed at giving fledgling academics the chance to learn about leading a research team.

The idea for the program was born when Ed Dudley, associate professor of food science, shared exercises he participated in at a week-long faculty leadership training with his lab group. Dudley’s postdoc, Nikki Shariat, realized how valuable the skills could be for Penn State’s postdocs, and the two began working with Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education Gary Thompson, Professor of Horticulture Siela Maximova, Administrative Support Coordinator Melissa Showalter (now in the College of Engineering), and Director of the Roy H. Parker Leadership Fellows Program in the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University Clint Sidle to create an abridged version of the training.

Shariat explains that in spite of the pervasiveness of postdoc work on campuses, “It’s uncommon for universities to provide such training for postdocs—for the College of Agricultural Sciences to recognize and financially support this program was a tremendous opportunity for our postdoc community.”

On June 11 and 12, twenty-two postdocs from seven departments in the college attended the program, which has been widely proclaimed a success.

—Emily Bartlett