Jun 13, 2022

Unwinding Career Paths And The Benefits Of Networking

Event News

Highlights From the 2022 Career Development Symposium

By Soha Usmani

On June 6th, the Department of Molecular Genetics held the 2022 Career Development Symposium, which returned in person at Hart House’s Great Hall! It hosted over 150 mentees consisting of students, trainees and postdocs who networked with 23 of our talented and accomplished alumni acting as mentors. The mentors came from various career paths such as science policy and education, academia, industry and business.  

The event kicked off with opening remarks from interim Chair and faculty member Dr. Tim Hughes. Afterwards, the event held three roundtable sessions, where small groups of mentees rotated between and networked with different mentors. In these sessions, mentees had the opportunity to ask questions about and discuss the mentor’s career paths and receive advice on how to enter their respective fields. Mentees gave highly positive feedback when discussing their experiences talking with the mentors. One mentee noted that “it shed light on important ways to build out-of-lab experiences that will help launch my career once I complete my degree.” Another mentioned how it “gave perspective on what choices I want to make in the coming years.” and how to market oneself. Others praised how the conversations improved their networking skills, broadened their options and interests, relayed relevant and useful information on the specifics of various careers and gave them the motivation to pursue their paths of interest. One of the best takeaways can be surmised by one noteworthy mentee stating: “I realize I have more choices than I had expected.” 

Some mentors also participated as keynote speakers or panellists in the symposium. In between the roundtables, the symposium hosted two keynote talks. MoGen alum and mentor Dr. Elena Kuzmin from Concordia University was our first speaker. She discussed how best to secure a postdoctoral fellowship after grad school for attendees interested in academia and industry, such as resume/CV and networking tips and where and when to search for positions. Afterwards, faculty member and former chair Dr. Brenda Andrews introduced Dr. Barbara Funnell, who retired from the Department in January and is a Professor Emerita, as the next speaker. She discussed her 20-year tenure as a MoGen faculty member and insights into her time as an academic scientist and student mentor in a conversation with MoGen faculty member Dr. Jessica Hill, highlighting her mentee’s diverse career paths and accomplishments. At the end of her talk, Barb received a bouquet to celebrate her career and service to students. 


After the final roundtable, the symposium hosted a panel discussion moderated by MoGen Ph.D. candidate and Schramek lab member Iosifina Fotiadou. The panellists consisted of five MoGen alumni and mentors, Joby McKenzie (Teladoc Health), Jeff Wintersinger (Deep Genomics), Farah Qaiser (Evidence for Democracy), Phil Goldbach (TIAP) and Calvin Mok (UofT), each of which represented a differing career field. They discussed their career journeys and struggles with getting into their current positions alongside giving advice and suggestions to audience members about entering their respective fields. Towards the end, the organizers held a raffle, and five mentees won customized heat-changing mugs with a logo designed by MD-Ph.D. student and Dirks lab member Matthaeus Ware. 

The symposium ended on a triumphant note with a wine-and-cheese reception! Even if one did not attend this year’s event, there are countless other networking events and opportunities held by the University, Faculty of Medicine, this Department and our affiliated research centres and student associations. We also encourage you to view the Career Development page on our website. Panellist and mentor Phil Goldbach summarized the symposium’s primary and critical takeaway with this quote: “Just learn the skill of networking!” 

*This event was supported by the Department and further sponsored by affiliated institutes and companies, with the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research as our platinum donor. Other patrons included UofT-affiliated institutes Donnelly Centre, LTRI, SickKids, GLSE and McLaughlin Centre and corporate sponsors Norgen, Qiagen and Cytiva. 

*To view more photos, check out our 2022 CDS page!

*We would like to thank all the mentors, mentees, sponsors, event organizers, staff and student volunteers for taking the time to attend and facilitate a triumphant return to an in-person CDS!