The importance of scientific societies

I was recently profiled as a new faculty member on the Genetics Society of America (GSA) website. For the profile, I was asked what role GSA played in my career. This got me thinking about the important role that scientific societies play in the development of all trainees. 

Travel awards and conference organization are two obvious ways that an organization like GSA might influence training. However, the potential is much greater and I think most scientific societies are untapped resources for trainees. As a graduate student, I joined the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) Training and Development Committee. This committee is tasked to help develop resources and programs for students and postdocs. After serving for a few years, I was asked to chair the committee. This was a great opportunity. I learned a lot about how the society functions and how decisions are made. I was able to network with leaders in the field. I was even asked to represent ASHG at a FASEB planning meeting. All this was invaluable experience. 

Most scientific societies work hard to provide trainees with the resources and opportunities they need to succeed. More and more, these societies are developing career resources beyond the typical academic route. The staff care deeply about trainee development. Dr. Michael Dougherty, Director of Education at ASHG, and Dr. Elizabeth Ruedi, Director of Education and Professional Development at GSA, are two stunning examples of society staff who work tirelessly to provide invaluable trainee resources. 

I encourage all trainees to take advantage of society opportunities to serve and lead. Reach out to your society. Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you.