Who: Samarpita Sengupta, Instructor, Director of Neurosciences Research Development
Where: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Number of Years in RD: 4.5 years
Length of NORDP Membership: 3.5 years
What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?
I started in RD in 2015, having been recruited as a Scientific Research Writer in the newly formed Neuroscience Research Development office at UT Southwestern Medical Center. After 3.5 years of postdoc, I was sure that the traditional route of postdoc to academic faculty position did not meet my interests, needs or life priorities. I reassessed the skills I possessed and realized that writing/editing was what I was good at. I did a lot of informational interviews and decided to apply to this position not knowing what Research Development meant. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that this fit my interests, goals and ambitions so well. We built our RD office from the ground up. We mostly work with individual investigators submitting to the NIH and other biomedical funding agencies, including state and private funding. We also work on large grants and deliver a lot of education.
What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?
I joined NORDP in 2017. I have attended all three NORDP conferences since, and have presented posters and/or talks at all three. At the first conference, I was browsing committees and heard Peggy Sundermeyer asking for volunteers for liaisons from the Strategic Alliances committee. I volunteered to be the liaison between NORDP and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), since I had been involved with the NPA during my postdoc. I attended two NPA conferences as a NORDP liaison and through the demands of postdocs we spoke with, I chaired the working group that created NROAD, the resource that RD offices can use to create internship/training/onboarding programs to help people new to RD get a hands-on understanding of the tasks involved. I was also recruited by Kathy Cataneo to assist with the Member Services subcommittee on creating the new member categories. It was gratifying to both create NROAD and make it available to all NORDP membership as well as help with creation of the Trainee and Emeritus categories of NORDP members. I have helped with the Ambassador program for last year’s conference. I currently serve as the MSC liaison to new trainee members. I also volunteer on the NORDP mentoring committee, have participated in the mentoring program as a mentor and a mentee and currently serve as a facilitator of mentor-mentee pairs and on the RD mentor training subcommittee.
What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?
NORDP has become home and NORDP members are my people!! Before joining this organization, I browsed a couple of organizations related to grants, but at NORDP, I didn’t have to explain to people what I did! It was also very heartening to see the diversity at NORDP, not only in the people, but in the paths they had taken to a RD career. I have learned so much from everyone! I have gained a mentor through the NORDP mentoring program who has helped me enormously. I have also received mentorship from the NORDP leadership, from the leadership of the committees I have served on, and from several senior and peer NORDP members. I am not naming names because of the fear of inadvertently leaving someone off! I have made friendships with NORDP colleagues, and I will be presenting at the virtual NORDP conference with several NORDP colleagues.
How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?
Being a member of NORDP and passively following the listserv helped me gain a lot of knowledge about RD and I have been able to build on programs at my institution using that knowledge. In addition, actively volunteering with NORDP has helped me make invaluable networks throughout the country. I was truly honored and humbled to receive the NORDP Rising Star award last year! This has definitely helped me gain some recognition at my institution.
How do you see that NORDP functions as a resource for RD professionals coming from post doctoral positions?
For people interested in RD, NORDP provides several great resources, I will list a few: 1) The listserv, where passively gaining information and knowledge will help postdocs get an idea of the conversations, language and jargon of the field, which will definitely give them a leg-up in a job interview. 2) Networks: Participating in NORDP circles, committees or regions or even knowing who in their institution is a part of NORDP and therefore, doing RD, will help postdocs build valuable networks. 3) NORDP job board: This is self-explanatory! 4) RD101: This is a course that is being offered by senior NORDP members and will be a great resource for those seeking to get a head start in RD. 4) NROAD: This is a resource developed for RD offices to create internship programs. Postdocs can go through such programs in their institutional RD offices and get hands-on training in RD tasks. 5) Other NORDP resources: NORDP website and the blog is a treasure trove of resources, reading materials, videos and articles. One can spend days in there reading and understanding what RD is and how diverse it is. 6) Trainee membership: A lot of these resources are available for NORDP members. Postdocs and others who have not had a RD job can become NORDP members using the reduced fee trainee membership and avail all these resources.
What recommendations do you have for prior postdoc members to get more involved with NORDP?
Attending the national and regional conferences are always a great idea. This year, it can be done in the comfort of your own home! I am a big believer in volunteering and the immense two way benefits to the organization and your own career that come because of it. I encourage them to seek out opportunities to help and be involved, whether it is on a committee, subcommittee or a working group. There are several ways to get involved. Serve as a mentor, serve as a career navigator for new trainee members, join a circle and contribute, the possibilities are endless and we always need more people!
What tips do you have for trainee members of NORDP or other postdocs looking to find a career in RD?
I encourage new trainee members to respond to the listserv, even if it is to ask a question. Since we are all service oriented, we are all eager to answer questions! I encourage them to find committees they can serve on, and build their networks. I am working on a pilot program with the mentoring committee to pair each trainee member with a “career navigator”, people who have gone through similar career pathways as theirs. I encourage them to reach out to these people, build these relationships and use those to their advantage. I encourage them to apply to the NORDP mentoring program.
I encourage postdocs who aren’t members of NORDP yet, to tune in to a webinar we are presenting for the National Postdoctoral Association My Postdoc Monthly webinar next month to find out more about RD as a career path. https://www.nationalpostdoc.org/events/eventdetails.aspx?id=1396321
If they think this is the right fit, then I encourage them to consider reaching out to NORDP members in their institutions or find us on social media (Follow @NORDP_official and me, @AnonDumboOctopi and others), set up informational interviews, connect and build your networks! And finally, I encourage them to consider becoming trainee members and gain additional exposure and access to resources and jobs!
Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee
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