Bringing together top young investigators at the frontiers of science.

  • Mary Heng
  • Published 2009 in Disease models & mechanisms


The newest members of scientific communities, namely graduate students and postdocs, face unique challenges in their careers as scientists. In order to address these challenges, several of the Gordon Research Conferences (GRCs) have extended their meetings to include a two-day pre-meeting called a Gordon Research Seminar (GRS). Following the Gordon tradition of bringing the scientific community together, these seminars invite talented young scientists to share their experiences and research with each other. What sets these international meetings apart is that everything, from planning and coordinating the event to giving talks or mediating symposia, is done by graduate students and postdocs. Since 1931, the GRCs have been regarded as the premier venue for leading scientists to present and discuss cutting-edge research in biology, chemistry and physics. Recognizing that graduate students and postdoctoral scientists from around the world contribute much to the discoveries that drive science forward, the GRCs’ Board of Trustees approved the first GRS in 1996 to draw on the unique perspectives of emerging young investigators in the GRS experience. The inaugural GRS generated a high level of interest in the scientific community and led to the successful organization of 42 GRSs to date. Since its inception, the GRS Program has flourished and evolved into a cost-conscious and valuable forum for top graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, and other scientists with comparable levels of experience and education. Attendees present their work, discuss their research and build collaborative relationships with their colleagues at a crucial time in their career development. The GRS experience is unique from other conferences. The environment fosters active participation of all attendees in structured discussion sessions. The meetings are small with a focus on graduate students and postdocs, and are less intimidating than many large society meetings. Participants gain from both scientific content and opportunities for collaborative networking. All GRSs precede a related GRC. This format provides a smaller and relaxed setting where graduate students and postdocs can meet each other before the larger GRC. In 2009, GRC will organize 17 two-day GRSs on a diverse range of topics, each immediately preceding an associated GRC. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic student or postdoctoral scientist acts as chairperson for each GRS. The chairperson is responsible for accepting applications from fellow graduate students and postfdocs, selecting speakers from the most outstanding abstracts, and developing a thought-provoking program. GRS participants who do not give an oral presentation contribute actively through poster presentations. Many GRSs invite select senior faculty mentors to offer support to young scientists in their scientific endeavors and to advise them in their career development. All participants benefit from engaging in topquality scientific discussions at the forefront of their fields and networking with peers in a highly stimulating and nonintimidating atmosphere. This year, I am the chairperson for the GRS on CAG triplet repeat disorders. The CAG Triplet Repeat Disorders GRS will be an exciting opportunity to identify innovative areas that are emerging within the field and to realize how individual subjects fit together. Organizing a GRS in conjunction with this GRC is a particularly exciting challenge since this is the first GRS in this field. The goal of the meeting is to provide a greater overall vision of the future direction and progress of the field. Participants will learn about novel breakthroughs and how emerging tools may benefit their research. In order to develop a stimulating program, GRS chairpersons work very closely with the GRC Chair. We raise funds to offer travel support to GRS participants, choose topics and speakers that can appeal to a diverse audience, and plan a program to highlight the newest findings in the field. We also select a keynote speaker for the opening session and invite established scientists to serve as discussion leaders and mentors for the GRS. To view a comprehensive list of the 47 Gordon Research Seminars scheduled in 2009 and 2010, and to submit an application today, visit the ‘Student/Post-Doc Resources’ section of the Gordon Research Conferences website: Mary Heng is the Chair of the 2009 Gordon Research Seminar on CAG Triplet Repeat Disorders. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan studying Huntington disease in murine genetic models.

DOI: 10.1242/dmm.003640

Cite this paper

@article{Heng2009BringingTT, title={Bringing together top young investigators at the frontiers of science.}, author={Mary Heng}, journal={Disease models & mechanisms}, year={2009}, volume={2 7-8}, pages={322} }