Scores of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from all over South Florida gathered at Scripps Florida on September 20 to meet and greet other postdocs, graduate students, various industry insiders and potential employers for Connecting Emerging Leaders in Life Sciences (CELLS), an event billed as a “free, large-scale networking event”—the first of its kind, but probably not the last.
Working with BioFlorida, Life Science Technology HUB and Workforce Alliance, the Scripps Research Career and Postdoctoral Services Office and Scripps Florida Graduate Office arranged the event; Palm Beach State College was also involved in planning and outreach.
Program Coordinator Michael Matrone said that in addition to postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from Scripps Florida, those from Max Planck Florida Institute, the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, Florida Atlantic University and University of Miami were invited to attend. Invitations to the event also went to South Florida biotechnology and life science businesses and academic institutions. Roughly 75 invitations were extended to these businesses, with approximately 50 attending on Thursday night. In total, approximately 200 people attended the event.
“The goal was to show our appreciation for the work of our postdocs and to highlight the incredible pool of talent we have here,” Matrone said of the event, which coincided with National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week. “We also want to shine a light on the life science community in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast—with the hope that we can keep that talent right here in Florida.”
The highlights of the evening included introductions from Dawn Johnson, senior director of scientific operations at Scripps Florida, and Alexander Rumyantsev, director of external research and development at Sanofi Pasteur. The event also included what Matrone called elevator pitches. “Basically, business representatives got up in front of the attendees and gave a short pitch about their company and who they want to hire,” he said. “They kept the pitches short to make sure nobody’s attention wandered.”
In addition, 18 businesses had their own tables throughout the Scripps Florida cafeteria so postdocs had the opportunity to learn more.
Even the postdocs and graduate students were geared for speed. Earlier in August, they had held an event on how to do an elevator pitch for themselves.
“Our first major networking event at Scripps Florida was an outstanding success,” said Scripps Research graduate student Ryan Stowe. “I was able to speak with a number of interesting characters, including a few inventors, a patent lawyer and a local CEO. I expect future years will build on the success of this year’s program to create better and better networking opportunities for the biotechnology institutes of South Florida.”
Scripps Research graduate student Briana Weiser added, “The best part of the CELLS event for me was to really see and feel the presence of a scientific community that is only growing stronger in this area. Being able to hear about what each company is doing and what aspect of science they are covering added greatly to my knowledge base. Now I know what opportunities are in the area: for future jobs, resources and possible collaborations.”