Mar 12, 2024

RHSE teams up with the postdoctoral community to enhance the U of T experience for trainees

Test tubes in a test tube holder, a flask with a stirring rod and a beaker; five headshots
Clockwise from top left: Maria Almeida, Daniel Zaltz, Conrad Simoben Veranso, Sami Mamand, and Leila Safaee, postdoctoral fellows on the new Temerty Medicine Postdoc Committee. Not shown: Danyon Harkins, Heather Shepherd.
By Sarah McMahon

The Office of the Vice Dean, Research and Health Science Education(RHSE), in collaboration with our community of postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, has launched a postdoctoral fellowship committee dedicated to ensuring a positive, productive trainee experience.

Among the first initiatives to arise from this partnership is The Postdoc Pulse, a quarterly newsletter geared specifically towards the PDF community, a Microsoft Teams Channel for PDFs, a dedicated PDF section on the RHSE website, and the launch of a new teaching mentorship program for PDFs.

Who are our Postdoctoral Fellows?

Our PDFs hold a unique status within Temerty Medicine. They have already earned a PhD, but are not yet working as independent researchers. They are neither students nor faculty. Our PDFs are an essential part of the University, conducting research, engaging with graduate students and working closely with faculty. As they hone their skills and delve deeper into their particular areas of research, their work continually adds to the prestige of Temerty Medicine. 

Preliminary discussions with our PDFs, revealed that it can be challenging for our trainees to identify opportunities targeted towards them. Many awards and funding opportunities for example, are open to faculty members or students but not necessarily PDFs. Similarly, faculty or student events happening around the university tend to be widely advertised but what’s happening in our PDF community tends to be a bit more subtle. Our PDFs are housed across various graduate units, affiliated hospitals, and research institutes across the city, posing another barrier to connecting with one another.

Introducing our Temerty Medicine Postdoc Committee

To address the need to stay connected, RHSE formed the Temerty Medicine Postdoc Committee, which consists primarily of PDFs. The Committee is supported by RHSE staff members and Karen Maxwell, director of research and associate professor of biochemistry. The group meets to discuss topics of interest to the trainee community, such as the various types of supports and activities that could benefit this group. The main goal of this committee is to collaborate with RHSE to ensure that our trainees are well supported in their academic experience at U of T.

The Postdoc Pulse

One of the first initiatives to arise out of discussions with the Committee was the quarterly newsletter, The Postdoc Pulse. The inaugural issue of this PDF-specific newsletter launched at the end of January and was sent to nearly 250 of our trainees.

Sign up to receive The Postdoc Pulse.

The newsletter includes an awards and grants section that highlights funding opportunities directly open to trainees, a section to draw attention to social activities and events that may be of interest to PDFs, and an accomplishments section which consists of news stories featuring our PDFs and their achievements. Committee members work with RHSE staff to curate content and members of the PDF community are encouraged to submit content they would like shared. Our next issue is scheduled for the end of April.

The PDF Teams Channel

Our PDFs need a workspace for real-time collaboration and communication, meetings and file sharing. The Committee members and RHSE staff are working together to develop a PDF Teams Channel specifically for our trainee community. Once the Committee has finished testing the channel, the goal is to make it available to the rest of our trainee community. This will provide our PDFs with an easy way to connect live, regardless of their physical location.

Dedicated PDF Webpages

Another initiative in the works is a dedicated section for PDFs on the RHSE website. The goal is to provide a single go-to source for relevant information. To-date, RHSE has created a curated list of PDF funding opportunities and is beginning to generate a set of PDF-specific resources. The PDF Extension Form, and a link to sign up for and access The Postdoc Pulse is also available. RHSE will be working with the Committee in the coming weeks to continue to expand these pages to meet the needs of our trainee community.

Contact our Temerty Medicine Postdoc Committee with questions, concerns, or newsletter suggestions.  

Justin Nodwell
We’re excited to launch this new training initiative – it’s clearly one that our postdocs will benefit from... Our goal is to make sure their U of T experience provides them with the confidence and resources necessary to be successful as they transition into faculty positions.
Justin Nodwell, Vice Dean, Research and Health Science Education

Teaching Mentorship Program for PDFs

A formal survey also identified the desire for teaching mentorship opportunities to support our PDFs in building their academic career. Hands-on teaching opportunities provide meaningful experiences that PDFs can use to help build their teaching dossier en route to an academic career. RHSE seeks to launch a new mentorship program in the fall of 2024 to facilitate professional growth. This elite fellowship will allow postdoctoral fellows to gain hands-on teaching experience, learn how to effectively deliver and design lectures, and collect tools they can use in their future academic career.

“We’re excited to launch this new training initiative – it’s clearly one that our postdocs will benefit from,” says Justin Nodwell, Vice Dean, RHSE. "We’re starting small so as to ensure that the resulting program is as good as possible. We will continue to work with our PDF community in the coming years with the intention of expanding this and extending it as widely as we’re able. Our goal is to make sure their U of T experience provides them with the confidence and resources necessary to be successful as they transition into faculty positions.”

We’re looking forward to seeing what comes next for our PDF community!