By: Lydia Rivers (@lydiuhrivers)
Nearly 300 graduate students, faculty, and professionals (evaluators and staff) from more than 90 programs and 60 institutions attended the 2019 National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Annual Meeting hosted by IDEAS and CIERA at Northwestern University from September 25 through 27.
The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas. The goals of the meeting were to share innovative practices and to have candid discussions about what works to improve NRT programs that aid in the career preparation of trainees. The 3-day meeting consisted of poster sessions, panel discussions, and lightning talks. A welcome event featuring the newest program grantees kicked off the meeting, and networking opportunities were incorporated throughout.
The posters featured in the sessions focused on showing the NRT programs themselves; instead of showing their latest data set, they were given the chance to explain the work they do alongside their strengths and weaknesses, achievements, and learning moments and hear the same from other researchers.
The panels and talks discussed different areas of teaching or encouraging graduate students, such as training in leadership skills and science communication, to preparing students for success in their eventual career and retaining underrepresented trainees. But not all content was pre-arranged; participants had the opportunity to discuss and select topics for self-organized workshops on the final morning of the conference.
Notable special moments included an event at which Emmy-award winning television writer and former political operative Eli Attie was interviewed by CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera in the McCormick Auditorium on science in the world of pop culture. Additionally, graduate student Alex Gurvich provided a demonstration of a successful outreach program (science trivia) to the nearly 100 graduate students who attended the meeting.
Many researchers and students were able to connect and learn from and about one another during the NRT conference, giving them new insight into other research programs and methods of training.
The 2019 NRT Annual Meeting was made possible by a grant through the National Science Foundation DGE-1450006 and hosted by the Integrated Data-Driven Discovery in Earth & Astrophysical Sciences (IDEAS) NRT program and the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern University.