February 26, 2015
Cross-discipline conversations aka “Speed Dating for Scientists”
Dr. Srijan Sen, Dr. Mark Schlissel, and Dr. Rajesh Rao
ANN ARBOR—Collaboration among scientists from multiple disciplines is vital if we are to continue to achieve major advances in research and discover new treatments for patients. But establishing multi-discipline connections can be difficult at a large institution like Michigan where young faculty do not often have contact with investigators from other departments.
The U-M Medical School aims to help junior faculty make those important connections by forming the Early Career Research Faculty group for faculty who spend 50% or more time in research. The group met in January to share the perspectives of their varied disciplines with each other.
U-M President Dr. Mark Schlissel welcomed the group and shared some of his experiences as a junior faculty member, including the excitement and challenges of starting a laboratory, hiring trainees, and applying for grants. Rajesh Rao, M.D., assistant professor, ophthalmology and visual sciences, and Srijan Sen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, hosted the event, which was co-sponsored by their departments and the Office of Research.
"Speed dating for scientists" session
The bulk of the meeting was devoted to a "speed dating for scientists" session, where faculty had a series of one-on-one conversations with other scientists chosen at random. Topics included metabolism in brain tumor cells, epigenetic mechanisms during differentiation of stem cells, and an investigation of surgical outcomes across the state.
The meeting may have spawned a few new projects. Faculty members in radiation oncology and psychiatry found they have a common interest in biomarkers that could apply to treatment of women with breast cancer and children with anxiety. Another potential project could bring together faculty from pathology and ophthalmology to study the metabolic control of epigenetic regulation as stem cells become retinal cells.
Drs. Rao and Sen are organizing another Early Career Research Faculty event for the spring of 2015.