When I attended my first CRS conference in 2018, the Young Scientist Committee (YSC) is where I felt a sense of close community. Through a trivia happy hour and designated scientific sessions, I met my first friends in the international CRS network. At that point, the committee was a few years old and had successfully organized Annual Meeting workshops and events targeted to early-career scientists. Now, the committee has grown to 11 executive members, 19 general members, and 27 ambassadors to local chapters and focus groups. This team represents 11 countries across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and includes 36 women. In the face of a global pandemic, we have adapted to new challenges while remaining true to our mission: to bring dedicated programming to CRS’ young scientists.
The pandemic, lockdowns, and move to virtual programming have caused many young scientists to feel isolated and anxious. At the start of this year, the YSC organized a subgroup-- humorously named “Your Social Club”, yet another YSC-- to strengthen the sense of community among early-career individuals in the CRS. The team is led by Sara Nogueira, a postdoctoral researcher at Merck KGaA, and assisted by Tania Hidalgo (postdoc at IMDEA Energy), Juan Luis Paris (postdoc at the Andalusian Centre for Nanomedicine and Biotechnology), Claudia Martins (PhD student at the University of Porto), Mohammed Bhia (PharmD student at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences), and myself.
In February, we hosted our first event, a happy hour with games and CRS trivia. In March, Professor Helder Santos delivered a presentation on nanomedicine and nanoscale drug delivery-- which is the CRS Focus Group that he leads-- and invited trainee discussion on the future of the field. In April, we organized a roundtable discussion around the pandemic: “Back to Normal vs A New Normal”. Drawing on the perspectives of Claudia Martins, Linda Hong (postdoc at the University of Freiburg), Kanika Suri (Drug Product Development and Operations Researcher at Takeda), and Hagar Labouta (Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba), young scientists discussed both the challenges of the pandemic as well as its unforeseen positive effects. Most recently in May, we invited YSC Chair Sara Cordeiro, a Senior Lecturer at De Montfort University, to talk about her career trajectory. Among many fun slides, below is a snapshot of the YSC leadership committee over Sara’s years of involvement.
Sara Cordeiro (highlighted speaker) discusses the importance of the YSC to her career trajectory.
Group photo after Sara’s talk, including most of the organizers in Your Social Club.
The YSC has also been busy with many other activities. One popular recent event was the “Ask the Experts” panel on COVID-19 vaccine development which featured drug delivery scientists Joy Wolfram, James Moon, and Guarav Sahay. This event was organized by Professor Santos and Max Regenold supported by YSC members Kan Kaneko, Nidhi Raval, Tushar Jumeria, and Santhni Subramaniam. In another effort, Santhni has revitalized interest in the CRS Forum with regular discussion posts from a rotating schedule of young scientist contributors. Chelsea Thorn, the Vice-Chair of the YSC, organized our first Mentorship Program. This program has so far connected approximately 15 mentors (postdocs and experienced scientists) with 15 mentees (students and trainees) through regular check-ins and a dedicated Slack group. Hannah Zierden, the Sponsorship Chair of the YSC, has connected with industry sponsors including Particle Metrix, CureVac, and Novartis to obtain more than $4000 in funding for the CRS and YSC activities. Finally, nearly all the YSC members and executive officers have been involved in planning 10 exciting events for the 2021 CRS virtual Annual Meeting. Stay tuned to our page on the conference website, https://2021.controlledreleasesociety.org/young-scientist-committee.html, for more updates. As usual, we will open the application process for new YSC members immediately following the Annual Meeting. If you are interested in joining our team, please introduce yourself to any of the current members (https://www.controlledreleasesociety.org/meet-team) or follow us on social media (https://twitter.com/CRS_YSC).
Although 2020 and 2021 have come with many challenges for young scientists, the YSC has continued to demonstrate hard work and innovation to keep members engaged within the CRS community. We are looking forward to an amazing virtual Annual Meeting next month where I am particularly excited to reconnect with many old friends from the YSC-- and maybe even meet some new ones who have found us through this article!
This article was originally written for the Controlled Release Society quarterly newsletter (July 2021). The original post is available here: https://www.controlledreleasesociety.org/news/driven-community-how-crs-young-scientist-committee-adapted-and-grew-during-global-pandemic