Wednesday, 25 April 2018 14:59

Networking in Microbiology

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Published in Careers

You’ve heard it several times - the graduate student in Dr. Krebs’s lab who made a significant finding with a newly acquired collaborator. Or Lisa who started a blog after she met Steve, a program coordinator in science communication, while in cross-fit class. Networking creates new opportunities and therefore it’s very important to your research and your overall career.

So, how does one network in the field of microbiology? To learn more about this, we reached out to microbiologists to ask for their one piece of advice for networking. The main take-away: do not limit your network to the people in your field. 

Here are other great pointers:

  • “Value the diversity, we can learn from each other despite our differences” says Dr. José Pérez-Jiménez. Dr. Dayle Daines adds that “networking should be considered an important way to learn about the latest science, both in your own field as well as others.  An interesting discussion with someone in a completely different field has the potential to spark new ideas and possibly new collaborations in ways that you may not have predicted otherwise.”
  • Always treat others the way you want to be treated. “You really have one chance to make a first impression so manners matter:  listen well, do not interrupt, and send a 'thank you' email after the encounter. The world is very small and it is likely that your paths will cross again, for example, as a peer reviewer on your manuscripts or grant proposals, or being invited to speak at a conference” comments Dr. Amy Cheng Vollmer.
  • Open doors for other people. Dr. Amy Cheng Vollmer suggests that networking is a two-way relationship, so be a “connector” for others. If someone has opened a door for you through a special opportunity, be grateful and work to get to a point so that you can open the door for others.
  • Start small with networking. Dr. Stephanie Fiorenza suggests that “If you are at a conference, talk to individuals presenting posters and follow up after the conference if their work especially interested you. At breaks, talk to vendors in the exhibit hall; they are there to meet people so it will be easy to converse with them. At meals, sit at a table where you don’t know anyone and introduce yourself.”
  • Finding a connection can happen anywhere. As Dr. Stephanie Fiorenza points out, “contact your alma mater and classmates, join alumni associations, become involved in professional societies, use LinkedIn, and get involved in activities.” To build collaborations and make himself known to a wide network, Dr. Marcos Pileggi started a blog on Facebook about the latest news in environmental microbiology. He comments that the blog was “essential to achieve more supporters in environmental microbiology,” which naturally led to more contacts.
  • Make connections with people prior to attending a conference or through mutual contacts. Dr. Fernando Ontiveros recommends two approaches for connecting with people: 1) if you are attending a conference and would like to meet a particular person there, send a brief e-mail introducing yourself. Mention that you will be attending the conference and would love to chat at some point. You are likely to get an invitation to find them between talks or during meal breaks, and because they will be expecting you, all you have to do is present yourself to them at the appropriate time; 2) find someone who knows the person you would like to connect with, and have them introduce you, either in person or by e-mail.  Having the “target” meet you through someone you both know really makes the initial approach feel more natural and logical.
  • Do your research on the person you want to connect with. Dr. Thomas Hanson says, “My networking is primarily done through reading literature and emailing someone with a question, a request based on the publication, or at conferences during the poster session and going up to a speaker after a talk. The best advice I have is to ask good questions and share observations based on what you have seen. They are the best lead-in to a substantive discussion that is the start of potential collaborations or other relationships like postdoctoral positions.” Dr. Beth Lazazzera adds, “talk to people you know and see what their recommendations are because people who are good collaborators will gain a reputation and others will suggests them.”
  • Present your work well.  Dr. Mostafa S. Elshahed reminds us that “Networking is certainly important but not a substitute for hard work, so well written manuscripts and good presentations of your work at scientific meetings, will make you stand out to potential collaborators.” 

Would you like to apply your networking skills at ASM Microbe 2018? Register (scroll down on page) for the Microbe Academy for Professional Development on Wednesday, June 6 – Thursday, June 7, 2018 in Atlanta, GA. The academy is for community college, undergraduate, post baccalaureate and graduate students who would like to meet and network with their peers in microbiology.

Contributors: Dr. Dayle A. Daines - Old Dominion University, Dr. Mostafa Elshahed - Oklahoma State University; Dr. Stephanie Fiorenza - BP, Dr. Thomas Hanson - University of Delaware; Dr. Beth Lazazzera - University of California, Los Angeles; Dr. Fernando Ontiveros -  St. John Fisher College; Dr. José R. Pérez-Jiménez - Universidad del Turabo; Dr. Marcos Pileggi - Campus Universitário de Uvaranas; Dr. Amy Cheng Vollmer - Swarthmore College

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 15:20
Shilpa Gadwal

Shilpa Gadwal has been with ASM since March 2015 in her role as a Career Advancement Fellow. She took her passion of career development in trainees and created an online  hub for ASM’s career resources and articles. She received her B.S in the Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.