A Reflection: Exploring AIOG’s History and Celebrating our Victories

Nearly three years ago, started with their inaugural networking event to help students and postdocs connect with professionals. While some universities have formal programs to showcase the various careers students can pursue in STEM, founders Giulia Vigone and Robert Pijewski thought their colleagues at UConn would also benefit from such a program. With the assistance and mentorship of Dr. Vaibhav Saini and Giulia Vigone, treasurer of the postdoc association, developed a program that could foster career development for graduate and postdoctoral students at UConn and other universities in the Greater Hartford area. This program became what is now known as AIOG. The goal of AIOG is to both inform students of careers beyond just academics as well as careers in STEM that don’t necessarily require a graduate degree. The hope was that if we could get 4 or 5 students to each seminar, then we would be helping educate the student and postdoc population.

Like most things, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we had to approach networking and educating our audience of young STEM professionals. To rise to the challenge AIOG adopted an online format with Zoom seminars and an online networking event. With the increased flexibility of using Zoom, we were able to host and invite speakers from around the globe, as well as reach students and postdocs around the world from other universities (geographic schematic below). We were also able to grow our team to include scientists at other universities. To date, we’ve had over 400 unique individuals join us from around the globe. 

Over the past 12 months we have also utilized our website more to provide resources for students. The website features scientist interviews, video interviews through our youtube channel, and editorial articles about our events to help educate students about the spectrum of potential careers (see word cloud below of a summary of careers) they can use their transferable skills learned throughout their scientific training. We have also adopted a name-change Beyond the PhD to promote our brand on social media outlets including twitter, facebook, and linkedIn. We hope this re-branding will help AIOG reach more students furthering our impact.  

Compared to our first networking event that featured 12 industry guests and over 35 students and postdocs, our third networking event that was held about a month ago featured 25 professionals and hosted over 70 students. This event was made possible through partnerships with Dimensions Sciences (DS) a nonprofit organization and their science outreach program DS-CAMPUS. Moving forward we plan to continue to collaborate with organizations that share our vision, to share our resources and thus expanding our network of careers and professionals that our student-base may have access to. See below for names of organizations we have hosted or interviewed. In the future, we would like to create a mentoring program that matches students with professionals. 

For Fall 2021, we are organizing an Ambassador program for students on their campuses across the United States. This program will provide a platform for college upperclassmen and graduate students to lead discussion, help organize events, and disseminate information about AIOG hosted events that aim to educate their peers about careers in STEM. Stay-tuned for more information on how you can become an Ambassador on your campus this coming Fall. 

The success of AIOG’s events has demonstrated a prominent interest in learning and networking with scientific professionals in and outside of academia among the upcoming generation of STEM professionals. Looking back, we at AIOG are beyond excited to have hosted a myriad of career topics. It is hard to think back to all the advice these guests have given, but many themes remain prominent (themes represented above). Some themes that have been referenced in all of our seminars is being a team player, being a critical thinker, and being able to adapt. 

Written by Rob Pijewski and Britt Knight

Special thanks to the entirety of the AIOG Team for organizing and making the schematics and graphs for this article.

Published by Britt Knight

I am a postdoctoral fellow at UConn. I am studying novel therapeutic drug formulations for the management of oral facial pain. Long term, I am interested in how these potential therapeutics can be applied in the biotech industry for the treatment of chronic pain conditions such as musculoskeletal pain. My hobbies include listening to movie soundtracks, watching nature documentaries, and cooking.

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