JCC Annual Symposium reconvenes in person

May 25, 2023

The JCC Annual Symposium was held on Roosevelt Island between May 5th and May 7th. This year marked the first in-person Symposium since 2019, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was also the first year the Symposium was hosted at Cornell Tech. JCC Executive Director Dr. Anita Pepper noted the parallels between Cornell Tech / Roosevelt Island and JCC; both have storied histories and are facilitating modern-day cutting-edge science.

View of New York City from Roosevelt Island. Picture from JCC Fellow Dr. Carlos Mendez-Dorantes.

The weekend began with John D. Childs, Chair of the Board of Managers, sharing the history of JCC. Briefly, the JCC fund is named after Jane Coffin Childs who died of cancer in 1936. Her husband, Starling W. Childs, and her sister, Alice S. Coffin, started the fund in her memory. The mission of the JCC fund is to support research that promotes better understanding of cancer, with the hope to eventually conquer the disease.

Childs noted that JCC was the largest cancer research funder in the world at its outset. As governmental funding for cancer research increased, JCC pivoted to support scientists during the pivotal years of their postdoctoral training. Furthermore, Childs hopes that involvement with the JCC Fund will encourage Fellows to focus on cancer-related topics during their independent careers. Many Childs family members, including John, have served the foundation over the years on the Board of Managers and in other capacities.

Childs continued by recognizing of JCC Administrative Director, Kim Roberts. Kim has served JCC for the last 24 years, and this year marked her last symposium. See our recent blog to learn more about Kim’s lasting impact on JCC and a generation of Fellows.


Dr. Leslie Vosshall delivers the keynote address

Dr. Leslie Vosshall was the keynote speaker for the weekend. Vosshall is the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor at The Rockefeller University. She shared her lab’s recent work on identifying chemicals on human skin that attract female mosquitos. Vosshall then continued to discuss issues of equity in science, and how she is working on these issues in her role as Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In particular, Vosshall discussed HHMI’s increase for postdoc salaries (JCC recently implemented increased salaries as well), as well as the upcoming announcement of the first class of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski scholars.


JCC Fellows present talks and posters

3rd year JCC Fellows gave verbal presentations of their research throughout Saturday. Their topics represented broad areas of science including the neuroscience of organismal behavior, molecular and structural biology, microbiology and bacterial pathogens, and genetic regulation and genome engineering (See JCC’s Twitter account for brief summaries from all speakers). The presentations included active question and answer sessions that promoted further scientific discussion during coffee and meal breaks.

1st and 2nd year JCC Fellows shared their research during poster sessions. These interactive sessions also included rigorous discussion and helped brainstorm new ideas to test. Scientific conferences are often hyperspecialized in their focus. In contrast, JCC Fellows’ verbal and poster presentations spanned a broad swath of biological science. Dr. Jingyi Chen, a JCC Fellow, noted that this breadth helped her remember why she chose “biology in the first place – because biology is fun!”


Additional Symposium Activities

Symposium attendees enjoyed Saturday’s dinner with a spectacular view of New York City. Then, the evening concluded with a roundtable discussion on the current state of biomedical science. The roundtable panel featured Dr. Katherine Wu, a Scientific Staff Writer for The Atlantic; Dr. Chi Van Dang, Scientific Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Cancer Medicine at Johns Hopkins; and Dr. Eric Van Dang, Tenure-Track Investigator at NIH and former JCC Fellow. The panelists covered topics including modern-day career trajectories and scientists communicating via traditional and social forms of media.

Symposium attendees enjoy the view of New York City. Picture from JCC Scientific Advisor Dr. Sue Biggins.

The weekend finished with a Fellows-only training led by Dr. Carl Cohen. The training focused on “Difficult conversations and interactions in the research workplace: Fundamentals of negotiation”. Dr. Cohen discussed principles of effective negotiation and provided tips on interpersonal communication, particularly with challenging people. JCC Fellows role played scenarios ranging from discussing authorship order to dealing with collaborators. This workshop will help JCC Fellows negotiate on the job market and as they transition to managerial positions.

Dr. Carl Cohen from Science Management Associates led a negotiations training for JCC Fellows.