P12: Training the next generation of scientists - who are they and what will they do?

Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars and The Black Hole Blog

This panel will begin by presenting the results of the 2013 survey of postdoctoral fellows in Canada with the aim of stimulating discussion around the current state of doctoral and post-PhD training in Canada.

Four major questions to be addressed by panelists are:
1) Who is doing the scientific research in Canada?
2) What are the biggest issues facing early career researchers?
3) Can these issues be addressed with better training infrastructure?
4) Are we training the correct number and type of researchers for Canada's needs?
Further Context:
Last summer, two alarming reports were released from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences concerning the biomedical research workforce (http://www.universityaffairs.ca/the-black-hole/novel-ideas-for-the-biome...). The reports outlined the human resources crunch that is resulting from growing numbers of highly trained scientists competing for academic jobs and the concomitant frustration felt by those scientists.
Amongst many suggestions, three stand out as practical ideas to consider:
• Reduce the time to complete a PhD
• Award more fellowships and less grant funded postdoctoral awards
• Create two streams of PhD-level academic scientists: group leaders and experimentalists
In Canada, there appears to be at least some movement in the opposite direction with substantial national funding moving away from individual awards in favour of funding PhDs and Postdoctoral Fellows through directed programming. Furthermore, while some fraction of trainees will end up in academic jobs that they are well-suited and highly trained for, many find themselves unprepared to enter non-academic careers. Yet, these people represent the vast majority of PhD holders. Moreover, the training provided by Canadian universities does not necessarily match with the needs of non-academic sectors.
The panel brings together leaders from academia, government and industry to discuss these issues.
The panel will be introduced and moderated by Dr. David Kent, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge and creator of The Black Hole website for early career researchers.


Mawana Pongo est directeur des politiques en recherche et innovation et directeur général par intérim des politiques et de la recherche au ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie du Québec. Au cours des dernières années il a joué un rôle clé dans l’élaboration de plusieurs stratégies en soutien au développement des industries et du système de recherche et d’innovation du Québec qui ont été publiées par le gouvernement. Il détient un baccalauréat en économique de l’Université Laval et une maîtrise en administration publique de l’École nationale d’administration publique.

Dr. Neel earned his Ph.D. in Viral Oncology from the Rockefeller University in 1982, under Dr. William S. Hayward, and his M.D. degree from Cornell University Medical School the following year. His graduate work on the molecular mechanism of transformation by Avian Leukosis Virus by insertional mutagenesis established the paradigm for oncogenesis by other slowly transforming (non-acute) retroviruses, a mechanism analogous to the activation of cellular oncogenes by chromosomal translocations in humans. He completed medical internship and residency training at the former Beth Israel Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) from 1983-85), and then pursued post-doctoral work with Dr. Raymond L. Erikson at Harvard University from 1985-1988. In 1988, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and began his own independent research laboratory in the Molecular Medicine Unit at Beth Israel. He rose through the ranks at HMS, becoming a Professor of Medicine in 1999. He also served as the Director of the Cancer Biology Program since 1994 and as Deputy Director for Basic Research, Hematology Division at BIDMC since 2003. In 2006, he was appointed to the William B. Castle Chair of Medicine at HMS. In 2007, he was appointed as the Director of the Ontario Cancer Institute and joined the faculty of the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Neel is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of cancer biology and cellular signal transduction. His current scientific interests focus in three general areas. First, his laboratory focuses on control of the RAS/ERK MAPK pathway. Particular attention is paid to mouse models of developmental diseases (“RASopathies) caused by germ line mutations in RAS/ERK pathway components, and in malignancies caused by somatic gain-of-function mutations in Shp2 and its binding proteins, such as Gab2. Recent work in this area has included the generation and characterization of mouse models for Shp2-induced myeloproliferative disease and studies of the role of Gab2 in Bcr/Abl-evoked myeloid and lymphoid leukemias and breast cancer, respectively. The lab also has a longstanding interest in the role of the protein-tyrosine phosphatase PTP1B in metabolic disease and breast cancer, and has generated numerous mouse models of cell-specific PTP1B deficiency. A second area of interest lies in the functional genomic characterization of breast cancer cell lines using genomewide lentiviral shRNA dropout screens, the correlation of functional genomic and genomic data from these lines, and the exploration of synthetic lethal interactions to predict rational drug combinations. Finally, his lab has established a large collection of xenografts and novel cell lines from serous ovarian carcinoma patients, and is using these models to explore the nature of tumor-initiating cells in this disease, the molecular and cellular basis of drug response and resistance and the tumor/microenvironment interaction using mass cytometry.
Dr Neel is the author of >160 original papers and 25 invited reviews, several of which have been published in leading scientific journals such as Cell, Molecular Cell, Developmental Cell, Science, Nature, Nature Medicine. Nature Genetics and Cancer Research. He is an editorial board member of Cancer Cell, Current Opinion in Genetics and Development, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Science Signaling and Cancer Discovery and also a member of American Association of Cancer Reserach Board of Directors. He was the inaugural recipient of the Gertrude Elion Award of the American Association for Cancer Research and holds an NIH MERIT award and was the recipient of the Premier of Ontario’s Summit award in 2009.

Vice-President, Research & Policy

Rob Annan is Vice-President, Research & Policy at Mitacs, a leading Canadian not-for-profit that supports innovation through skills development, research, and collaboration between students, researchers, and industry. His role involves oversight of policy, particularly research and reporting on Canadian innovation, as well as direction for Mitacs’ research strategy and review processes.
Prior to joining Mitacs, Rob worked as a consultant to universities, researchers and non-profit agencies for strategic planning and large-scale proposals, and was active as writer on science policy issues in Canada. Rob has a PhD in Biochemistry from McGill University, a BSc in Biology from University of Victoria and a BA in English from Queen’s University.

Chris earned an MSc in polymer chemistry in Winnipeg, before moving to Canberra, Austraila for where he completed a chemistry/physics PhD in optics and optical molecules. He then returned to Canada for a postdoc at Western (polymeric materials and surfaces) before moving to McGill, where he looks at optically switchable surfaces for bio-communication. As a postdoc in Canada, he became involved in Postdoctoral Association at Western (VP External), the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (Chair and then Past-Chair) and the (Mcgill) Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (Executive). Chris is passionate about research in Canada and interested in ensuring that Canada is scientifically competetive on the world stage.

Research Associate
University of Cambridge, UK

Dr. David Kent is a research associate at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2009 he created The Black Hole website which provides analysis of issues related to the education and training of scientists in Canada. He also writes for the Signals blog, a leading source of commentary on stem cells and regenerative medicine. Previously, Dr. Kent served as joint coordinator for the UBC branch of the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program (2004-07), an award winning national science outreach program. Dr. Kent grew up in St. John’s, NL, obtained a B.Sc. in Genetics and English Literature at the University of Western Ontario and completed his Ph.D. in blood stem cell biology at the University of British Columbia. He has been awarded scholarships or fellowships from the CIHR, NSERC, the Canadian Stem Cell Network, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the Lady Tata Memorial Trust. His current laboratory research focuses on normal blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. He also sits on the executive of the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars.