The Office of Postdoctoral Services and the Duke University Postdoctoral Association (DUPA) held the 10th Annual Postdoctoberfest Celebration on Friday, October 9, 2015, to honor the university’s hard-working postdocs and their mentors. Postdocs, their families, faculty, and staff enjoyed hot and veggie dogs with all the fixings, local Foothills Brewery beers, and the music of the Berlin Brothers. Perennial favorite the Giant Bouncy Castle was a hit with all the kids in attendance, as were the four flavors of Maple View Farms ice cream. Postdocs received an official Duke Postdoc t-shirt and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather. We gave ourselves a big round of applause in honor of our tenth anniversary!
Each year, the highlight of Postdoctoberfest is the presentation of awards to the Outstanding Postdoc and Outstanding Postdoc Mentor at Duke.
Outstanding Postdoc Mentor:
Another postdoc wrote: “Philip is highly supportive of both our scientific and personal lives. He is unique in that he does not care what one does after leaving, just that you are successful, and success does not just mean being a professor, it can also mean going to industry. He realizes this is part of a journey and his job is to make the best scientist and person out of each of us. My wife and I agree that Philip doesn’t really walk – he kind of floats a few feet above the ground.”
A former postdoc, now professor, wrote: “In our field, Philip has probably produced more professors and industry professionals worldwide than any other PI. Furthermore he has managed to foster a supportive, warm, family-friendly environment that is extremely supportive of women in science. I was considering leaving science before I started my postdoc, but joining the Benfey lab changed my life. I published well, I was exposed to a wide variety of disciplines and ways of thinking, and I was treated by Philip as an equal and as a colleague. As a postdoc and even still now as a faculty member, if I have a question he will email me back immediately. His legacy lives on in the large number of postdocs he trained who are now among the next generation of leaders in plant biology and systems biology.”
Another former postdoc, now professor, wrote: “Philip gives postdocs the freedom to develop their own projects and treats every member of the lab with equal respect and courtesy. His fairness creates a sense of collaboration and community in the lab, and inhibits competition. I am currently an Assistant Professor, and I try to emulate this as head of my own lab. I conducted my graduate studies in a small lab, so when I joined the Benfey lab I struggled to find my place in such a large, fast paced environment. Philip never doubted me and always had confidence in my abilities. That trust and support has been invaluable to me, and it is one of the reasons I had the courage to apply for and accept a faculty position at a large research institution. I would not be where I am today if not for my experience in the Benfey lab, not only because of the scientific acumen I gained from working with him, but also because of rich network of friends and colleagues his lab fosters.”
In short, Dr. Philip Benfey exemplifies what it means to be an Outstanding Postdoc Mentor, and we thank him for serving as a role model for faculty mentors at Duke University.
Dr. Raphael Valdivia, Vice Dean for Basic Sciences, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc to Dr. Kathryn Dickerson from the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr Dickerson earned her PhD in Neuroscience from Rutgers University. She studies how reward and motivation influence memory processes using real-time fMRI techniques. Dr. Dickerson was nominated by her PI and many of her labmates. Dr. Dickerson’s PI, Dr Alison Adcock, wrote: “Katie Dickerson has earned the best endorsement I can imagine for this award: her lab mates clamored for me to nominate her. Katie’s upbeat, direct approach is coupled with ingenuity, keen intelligence, and a true gift for clear-sighted and gracious communication. Katie makes it look easy, even when things are very hard. Katie has been deeply involved in mentoring the graduate students in the lab. Her ability to teach the process of being a scientist has given students exactly the right guidance to keep them on track with difficult projects. Graduate school is inherently hard and often dispiriting, so I cannot stress enough the value of Katie’s ability to offer both concrete instruction and social support for the students. I predict that when she leaves my laboratory she will continue to help everyone achieve superb science with tremendous translational impact, just as she is doing here, and make it look easy along the way.”
A graduate student wrote: “Kathryn Dickerson is hands-down THE BEST RESEARCH MENTOR I have ever observed. I consider myself very lucky to be one of the graduate students she has taken on as a mentee. Knowing I can go to Katie for help on everything from research to writing my dissertation has been a great resource (and comfort) in progressing towards my dissertation defense. And the beautiful thing about Katie is that she would offer her mentorship, guidance, and advice to anyone. I feel comfortable making this last statement because she continued to mentor me when I was not the easiest (or most pleasant) person to mentor. It is a testament to Katie’s compassion and commitment that she successfully mentored me, “Not ‘Little Ms. Sunshine'”, through this time. Katie’s example has taught me a lot about how to better conduct research AND how to better conduct myself as a researcher.”
A former grad student now postdoc, wrote: ” Katie Dickerson is exactly type of postdoc that this award was designed to honor. From the moment she joined our lab 4 years ago, her warm presence and bottomless good cheer has been contagious. It’s simply better in lab when Katie is there. I was particularly blessed in getting paired up with her on projects that eventually turned into my dissertation. And without hyperbole, I’m not sure I would have finished without her. At every stage, she was there offering helpful guidance, a critical eye for detail, and dedication to making sure everything stayed on track. When I was racing against the clock to complete data collection and analysis for the last chapter of my dissertation, Katie selflessly postponed a trip to the Bahamas in order to help me finish up. My last 4 years are full of experiences like that. And I was just one of five graduate students; everyone has similar anecdotes about her. We’re all better scientists because of her guidance. More importantly, however, is what Katie offers as a friend and mentor. Over the last few years I’ve had more than my share of anxiety-riddled what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moments, and Katie has been there each time to listen, offer perspective, and invariably leave me feeling more optimistic. Her achievements over the last 4 years are a testament to her as a scientist; her ability to foster growth in those around her is a testament to her as a mentor. Combined, these are a testament to why she is a unique and outstanding postdoc.”
Dr. Dickerson, these nominations demonstrate that you are truly an outstanding postdoc whose research successes are bolstered by your mentorship of others. Thank you for serving as a role model for postdocs at Duke University!
The faculty, administration, and staff of Duke University extend a hearty THANK YOU to all of our postdocs and postdoc mentors. We are proud to honor your achievements in research, mentoring, and teaching!