Nikola Stikov: So I'm here with Kirstie Whitaker, a post-doc at University of Cambridge and she agreed to talk to us about her experiences with OHBM. How long have you been coming to this conference?
Kirstie Whitaker: This is only my third conference, but my first one was in 2009. So I haven't been able to travel to all the amazing places that OHBM has been over the years, but it's lovely to be here in Geneva.
NS: Wonderful. You're very active with the Hackathon, so can you tell us a little bit about your personal experience?
KW: I came up with a project that I thought would be meaningful and I pitched it at the beginning and I got teammates that came and joined me and they just kicked it out of the park. It became so much better than I ever thought that it could be when I came up with the idea. So it was wonderfully inspiring, it was great to meet the people that I slightly hero-worshipped and brand new people, and it sort of flowed out into the conference.
NS: I know you're very passionate about diversity issues within the society. So have you seen any progress and do you have any suggestions about what should be done to bring more diversity at our meetings?
KW: I think that the keynotes were really beautifully gender-balanced. We had three women and four men, which is great. It's lovely to see [them] and all seven of them were excellent. I think I was a little bit disappointed that the prizes all went to white men. I felt like that was maybe not the greatest message that could be given. But what was really lovely was the number of people that stood up at the Town Hall which we had the last night of the conference and mentioned this. So the fact that people are aware of it and people are thinking about it brings it to the fore. I think it holds it in the mind of not just the committee, but also the people who are voting for everyone. I think what was called for in the Town Hall and which I would love to see going forward is more people nominating women, people of color, and people who've had non-traditional career paths, bringing forward these bright stars, to nominate them so they can be celebrated next year.
While women may be underrepresented in Council this year, women scientists Drs. Lara Boyd and Doris Doudet are the Chair and Co-Chair, respectively, of the 2017 Local Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2017 meeting, and AmanPreet Badhwar is the Co-Chair of the OHBM Student and Post-doc Special Interest Group (SIG).
Randy Gollub: We're here today to talk a little bit about the thoughts you have and the visions for what would like to see the SIG do in the next coming year.
AmanPreet Badhwar: Our mandate as the Student and Post-doc SIG is to provide opportunities for networking for trainees, both within the trainee group as well as with other young or senior scientists. To date, our flagship event has been the OHBM Monday Night Social, which we co-organized with the NeuroBureau.
RG: And have you a vision for how things might grow and develop in the future, about how OHBM can help you and your organization?
AB: Definitely. We're thinking of expanding to more than just the Monday night social because it is only one day of the year. We'd like the SIG to be more involved throughout the year. One of the things I do want to organize for next year's OHBM is a symposium to help trainees transition into the next phase of their career, and I'm especially referring to post-doc at this stage because that's really the hardest transition. A symposium on that topic would be very helpful. The other idea that I've been discussing with OHBM is to have, during the meeting, a room dedicated for mentoring, where for certain a period of the day, perhaps an hour or so, we have a rotating group of scientists, either young researchers or more established researchers, who the students can have conversations with and get some tips on how to move forward with their careers.
Check out the two videos to hear more about how these young women scientists are getting involved in the OHBM and how they are encouraging their colleagues and peers to become more engaged.
The OHBM has taken very seriously the call from members to make enhancing diversity an important goal for the society. In response, the OHBM leadership has recently created the Diversity/Gender Task force, lead by Co-Chairs Tonya White and Angela Laird to address issues of gender and minority representation. The goal of this task force is to increase awareness of these issues and identify ways that women and underrepresented scientists can be promoted at the OHBM to ensure balanced representation. If you are interested in volunteering for this task force, please complete the application form before October 21. Interested individuals must be current members of the OHBM. You can renew your membership at www.humanbrainmapping.org. All submissions will be reviewed with Task Force selections made by the Chairs of the Diversity and Gender Task Force.
In the meantime, the call for proposals for Educational Courses and Symposia for the 2017 Vancouver meeting was recently announced. I urge all of our OHBM community to make a special effort to include a balanced number of women scientists of all ages in their proposals!