Joining the biobank

Dear Mass General Research Community,

Welcome to the January 2017 edition of From the Lab Bench!

This issue highlights some of the most valuable contributors to our research enterprise—our diverse and talented community of postdoctoral fellows.

Did you know there are approximately 1,500 postdocs working in the research labs and centers across Mass General? Our postdocs hail from countries across the globe, and it is our remarkable research faculty that draws them here for training.

A lot has changed since I began my postdoctoral training here in 1991. No one had a cell phone, PCR was ‘new’ and we were up to our elbows in radioactivity in the lab! Over the past 25 years, our research program has grown from $91 million to over $850 million per year, and the number of postdocs has increased ten-fold!

To support this diverse community of postdocs, Mass General has created formalized support structures to help with career planning, including the Office for Research Career Development (ORCD) and the recently launched Postdoctoral Division (PDD), which fulfills a recommendation made by our Scientific Advisory Committee in 2015. Funding for the PDD is provided by ECOR and departments and centers from across the institution, illustrating the impact that postdocs have on every part of our research enterprise.

Mass General also provides significant financial support for our fellows. Did you know that ECOR invests approximately $1.7 million every year to support the 25 Tosteson and Fund for Medical Discovery (FMD) fellowship awards?

The Mass General Postdoc Association (MGPA), an organization run by and for postdocs, plays an integral role in the postdoctoral community by organizing speaking events, career workshops and social outings.

My team and I have been thrilled to support the postdoctoral community by participating in the OCRD’s annual barbecue for postdocs and graduate students, hosting a postdoc happy hour for National Postdoc Appreciation Week and sponsoring awards at the annual ORCD postdoc research day.

For the past few months, we’ve had four interns from the postdoc community working with our team at the Research Institute. Tong Tong Zhao and Ka Tat Siu have worked with our Strategic Alliances group, while Carla D’Avanzo and Hayley Mattison have been working with our communications team to develop articles and features about the postdoc community. We're excited to share their work with you in this issue!

Until next month,


Susan A. Slaugenhaupt, PhD
Scientific Director,
Mass General Research Institute

Spotlight on the Postdoctoral Division

Goldberg Looks Forward to Mentoring the Next Generation of Scientists in New Role

When she first came to Massachusetts General Hospital to train as a resident and fellow, Marcia Goldberg, MD, benefited from some “fabulous” mentors—who not only helped her define her career path but also provided an example for what mentorship should be.

In her new role as inaugural director of the Postdoctoral Division, Goldberg hopes to return the favor by providing mentorship and career advice to postdoctoral fellows throughout the Mass General research community.


Postdoc Profiles

She Watches Worms While They Sleep

Hayley Mattison, PhD, is studying the neuronal circuits of tiny worms to learn more about the processes the brain uses to allow and maintain a state of sleep.

"Sleep is thought to have a role in biological processes such as growth and development in animals, including humans and worms. But what happens in the brain to allow and maintain the state of sleep is not entirely understood, which is why a simple model system like the worm is a great place to start."



Family history fuels quest to learn more about Alzheimer's disease

Carla D'Avanzo, PhD, is part of a team that developed a gel matrix capable of reproducing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in a more lifelike 3D environment.

"The choice of a research project focused on Alzheimer's disease was not random. My grandpa developed the disease when I was 10 years old, and that experience left a mark on me. It was so sad that he couldn’t remember my name anymore, even though I carry his same first name."


More from Our Postdoc Community

What can the Postdoc Association do for you?

Carla D'Avanzo, PhD, the Advising Chair of the MGPA, talks about what she's learned from being a part of the organization and encourages other postdocs to find out more.


Advice for postdocs from postdocs

Experienced postdocs offer words of wisdom for postdocs who are just beginning their training at the institution.


Seen and Heard

Some of our recent favorites from the world of science-themed articles and podcasts, including Dan Rather writing in Scientific American, the Bad Medicine series on Freakonomics Radio, an MIT professor interviewed on RadioLab and an update on the hunt for evidence of aliens from the astronomers at the SETI Institute.


Questions? Comments? Story ideas?
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