Mayo Clinic Young Investigators Research Symposium

Nurturing research careers

How do trainees learn how to jump-start the research aspect of their careers? The Mayo Clinic Young Investigators Research Symposium was established in 2010 to help researchers in the early stage of their careers learn the ABCs of research and provide a way for them to interact with research colleagues and possible mentors. In March, 335 residents, fellows, postdoctoral fellows, students, junior faculty and allied health professional young researchers participated in the third biennial Young Investigators Research Symposium at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Most were from a Mayo campus, but those from other institutions – including visiting scientists, visiting clinicians – also took part. Senior faculty members judged posters and oral presentations, and speakers from within and outside Mayo Clinic addressed participants about research career development.

The origin

The concept for the symposium originated with the Mayo Fellows’ Association and Mayo Research Fellows Association, who sought ways to promote networking between the clinical and research sides, present and promote research data, and obtain feedback. Members of these groups plan the biennial event and select speaker topics. “The trainees saw an opportunity to take greater advantage of faculty resources on our campus to improve the quality of their research and presentation skills,” says Steven Rose, M.D. (MMS ’81, I ’82, ANES ’84), dean, Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education. “The symposium provides a rich environment for communication among people with similar interests who might not connect otherwise, and a chance for our faculty and other experts to give instruction and inspiration to young people beginning their research careers.

As Mayo Clinic grows, there are fewer traditional opportunities for interaction with colleagues across disciplines. “Our faculty has been enthusiastic and generous with their time and expertise. They are passionate about research and recognize the importance of mentoring. We demonstrate our responsibility to fulfill the Mayo Clinic mission when we invest in education and research and advance all three shields.” Dr. Rose says the symposium can be compared to experiential learning in simulation training. “It provides a supportive, low-risk environment for clinical residents and fellows to present their research work, receive feedback, interact with the basic scientific community and improve their performance,” he says. “It’s preparation for being more effective in disseminating their work more broadly and effectively.”

The Scene

This year, 212 researchers were selected for poster presentations and 12 for oral presentations – a new feature. Submissions covered randomized trials, outcome studies, practice innovations and descriptive analyses. Winners from the Rochester Regional Science Fair (grades 6-12) also displayed research at the event. “The symposium has become a key event for putting together research teams for the future,” says Bruce Horazdovsky, Ph.D. (MBIO ’02), associate dean, Mayo Graduate School. “The Gonda atrium bustles with young investigators networking across all of the schools and beyond, practicing elevator speeches and learning how to develop their scientific career from its earliest stage.” Sarah Greising, Ph.D. (PHYS ’15), president of the Mayo Research Fellows Association, co-chaired the event with Jeffrey Wang, M.D. (S ’10, U ’14), president of the Mayo Fellows Association. “For many participants, it’s the first time presenting their work,” says Dr. Greising, Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering. “The symposium is an important training ground that demonstrates Mayo’s commitment to and support for young scientists and clinician-scientists.”

The experience

Meghan Painter, a doctoral candidate at Mayo Graduate School, presented posters at the 2012 and 2014 events and received an award for her poster at the recent symposium. Her research focuses on how a transgene boosts host innate immunity in a transgenic mouse that is resistant to viral infection. Understanding this protective pathway can allow drugs to be designed that will activate the pathway to fight human disease caused by viruses. “The symposium is the perfect venue in which to practice before presenting at external conferences,” says Painter. “I received advice from world-renowned investigators right here on campus and could set up genuine collaborations. When you present at national scientific conferences, the scientists and potential collaborators you meet are from different institutions, and the geographic distance makes it hard to share reagents and maintain frequent communication. Having this event at Mayo is a definite advantage.” Katharina Hopp, Ph.D. (BMB ’13, NEPH ’15), and a member of the symposium planning committee, says she was impressed with the time senior principal investigators at Mayo Clinic provide for the event. “Eighty established PIs interacted with young investigators in a co-peer informal environment and provided true feedback,” says Dr. Hopp, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension. “Most PIs at Mayo are interested in advancing the next generation, infusing them with enthusiasm and steering them toward translation in their research. These are the young investigators who will take their spots one day. This event molds the next generation of researchers.”

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