Building a COMPASS

As any boy scout knows, you can make a compass from water, a cork, and a needle, but you need to spend time brushing that needle over and over with a magnet to align the dipoles in the right direction. New committees also require considerable brushing up. To properly orient ASCB’s newest, COMPASS (the Committee for Postdocs and Students), its 15 members and eight associates have exchanged thousands of words by email, committed over 300 edits to our internal wiki, and interrupted each other dozens of times in our first all-committee conference call.

We’ve outlined our plan for taking our first steps toward making the ASCB a more useful and supportive community for trainees in science. But, in this formative time, we need a few more brushes of feedback from you on how ASCB can serve you better. Please read on, and let us know what you think.

Our Cardinal Points

As young scientists, our interests are broad-ranging, but we share a passion for learning to communicate about our science effectively, helping our peers prepare themselves for the diverse career possibilities available to them, and expanding the reach of the ASCB. To these ends, we’ve formed four subcommittees, each addressing one cardinal point.

  1. Connecting trainees with professional skills and opportunities. The Career Development subcommittee (headed by Brittany Belin and Erin Turk) has devised a plan to revamp the Career Center at the Annual Meeting with Q&A sessions hosted by job seekers. They’re also interviewing recent PhDs on varied career paths to uncover the skills and steps required to pursue the diverse job opportunities available to cell biology trainees. Finally, they’re collaborating with iBioSeminars to produce a beautiful and engaging career development video that will be freely available on the ASCB website.
  2. Participating in Our Communications subcommittee (headed by Josh Nicholson and Laura Diaz-Martinez) is committed to producing regular content for “COMPASS Points,” a new section of the ASCB Post geared toward trainees. They’ll feature interviews, tutorials, and reviews of new technology, round-ups of news stories, and interactive content like polls and surveys.
  3. Strengthening the ASCB network. The Social Committee (headed by Pinar Gurel) is looking for ways to connect trainee members to each other and to more senior members of the ASCB community. Toward this end, they’re collaborating with the Membership Committee on a Buddy Program for the Annual Meeting that will provide guidance for first-time attendees.
  4. Sharing the joy and beauty of science. Our Outreach subcommittee (headed by Bruno Da Rocha-Azevedo) aims to help young ASCB members hone the skills needed to communicate science to varied audiences. We’ll start by helping the Public Information Committee promote Celldance as a way to engage the public with the beauty of cell biology.

Beyond this, we have many exciting ideas in various stages of completion, which we look forward to sharing with you over time. In particular, we’re interested in learning what exactly it is that grad students and postdocs need and want out of their ASCB membership, not just at the annual meeting, but throughout the year. Please contact me at with any comments or thoughts. Or, you can use this handy (and optionally anonymous) form. Whether to let us know about an unmet need, share a great idea, or just to say hello, we’re waiting to hear from you!

– Jessica Polka and the rest of COMPASS

About the Author:

Jessica Polka is director of ASAPbio, a biologist-driven nonprofit working to improve life sciences communication. She is also a visiting scholar at the Whitehead Institute and a member of ASCB's public policy committee.