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2012 Education-Career Development Sessions

The SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in 2012 featured three Education-Career Development Sessions.

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Career Alternatives and Transitions: New Challenges and Opportunities in Today’s Job Market for Toxicologists

Chairperson(s): Richard D. Storer, Merck Research Laboratories, West Point, PA, and James A. Popp, Stratoxon LLC, Lancaster, PA.

Sponsor: Career Resource and Development Committee

Endorsed by:
Education Committee
Postdoctoral Assembly

New toxicology graduates have traditionally pursued a diverse spectrum of career opportunities in teaching and research, in industrial or contract toxicology laboratories, or in regulatory agencies and affiliated institutes. Downturns in the global economy, together with a wave of consolidation and downsizing in industry, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector, has created a challenging environment for job seekers. This has compelled new graduates, as well as toxicologists at all phases of their careers, to confront new challenges in securing initial or continuing employment in their area of specialization, consistent with their career goals. This session will explore alternatives available to new graduates as well as to established toxicologists facing career transitions. To begin this important dialogue targeted to new graduates, postdocs, and nontenured faculty, we will examine the challenges facing toxicologists pursuing career paths in research and teaching and will touch on alternative career paths for which the skills developed in completing a doctorate and postdoctoral research in toxicology are transferable. Our panel will review the options and challenges facing the mid- to late-career industry toxicologist confronted with the prospect or actuality of layoffs or early retirement due to corporate downsizing. The focus of the talk will be on the current landscape for toxicology consultants either as independent consultants, employees of established consulting companies, or individuals pooling resources to form new consulting groups. If you are considering transitioning your career in a regulatory agency, a review of the opportunities and challenges for toxicologists will be provided. The final talk will provide insight on the impact of cutbacks in the pharmaceutical industry and trends favoring outsourcing of toxicology testing on career development opportunities in contract research. At the conclusion of the talks, a significant amount of time has been set aside by the panelists to allow time for questions from participants.

The Art of Negotiation: A Fundamental Skill for Scientists

Co-Chairperson(s): Larissa M. Williams, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, and Ebany Martinez-Finley, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

Sponsors: Postdoctoral Assembly

Endorsed by:
Career Resource and Development Committee
Graduate Student Leadership Committee
Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Special Interest Group
Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group

Negotiation is an essential skill for scientists of every rank and job sector to navigate their career successfully, yet it is often not part of a scientist’s formal training. Fundamentally, negotiation culminates in the attainment of a mutually acceptable agreement between two or more parties—however there is an art to reaching such an agreement. Because negotiations typically occur behind closed doors, few will ever experience a negotiation until they represent one of the parties involved. In an everchanging world it has become imperative to understand the nuances of negotiation, and this session offers attendees a unique opportunity to bring negotiations out in the open. This session will introduce scientists to the intricacies of negotiations in the workplace and to discuss idiosyncrasies in negotiation tactics across toxicology sectors. The session will be delivered in two segments: a formal lecture and a panel discussion delivered by speakers from academia, industry, and government. Our panel will deliver important information on the art of negotiation, addressing conflict styles and the basics of interest-based negotiation. The panel will then discuss their personal experiences in negotiation throughout their careers and address best practices in negotiation as it relates to their sector of toxicology. Topics covered will include preparation for negotiating, how to initiate negotiation, importance of body language, gender differences in negotiation, negotiating for salary and start-up in academia, negotiating for labor and represented management at the bargaining table in govern-ment, and negotiation practices in the pharmaceutical industry. At the end of the session, participants will come away with a better understanding of how negotiations work and how to use them to their advantage.

Refining Your Science Communication Skills

Chairperson(s): Minerva Mercado-Feliciano, NIEHS, Research Triangle Park, NC, and Nancy B. Beck, Office of Management and Budget, Washington, DC.

Sponsor: Communications Committee

Endorsed by:
Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists Special Interest Group
Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Specialty Section

Attendee questions during a Science Policy Opportunities Education-Career Development Session at the 2010 SOT Annual Meeting highlighted the importance of effective communication as a key skill needed to succeed in the field of science policy. As scientists progress in their careers and/or transition into the science policy arena or into positions that require inter-actions with the public sector, effective written and oral communication becomes a vital skill. This session is designed to share information on key aspects and topic areas that are of critical importance when communicating science to fellow scientists and non-scientists alike. We will begin this session by covering the importance of effective communication skills and show students and postdoctoral fellows how to begin building a skill set, thus preparing themselves for careers in science, policy, or public health. From there, tips and advice will be provided on communicating science to the general public, as well as how to communicate science to other scientists—a skill that is often overlooked within academic environments. Rounding out this important information will be delivery of the art of the one-page memo, explaining how to summarize large scientific documents for the benefit of nonscientist decision makers. All the presentations will underscore the necessity of educating a target audience that needs to understand complex scientific concepts and critical issues regarding impacts on stakeholders—taxpayers, shareholders, etc.—in order to facilitate decision-making, but has limited prior background of the science at hand. Time will be allotted for a robust discussion period, including questions and answers directed at all the speakers.