COMPASS: Supporting and Representing Trainees in ASCB

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Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) is a committee within the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) made up of postdoctoral and graduate student trainees. COMPASS represents trainees within the ASCB organization, advocates for their interests, and promotes what they care about. The primary goal of COMPASS is to provide opportunities for trainees to support their development as young scientists. It is dedicated to providing trainees with resources and programming for diverse career development and outreach initiatives. COMPASS plans and organizes a wide variety of events at the annual Cell Bio meeting as well as several year-round activities. The committee is divided into career and outreach subcommittees.

Career subcommittee

The Career subcommittee showcases myriad career paths available to trainees by promoting interactions between young scientists and science professionals from diverse careers. To achieve this, the subcommittee hosts professional development sessions at the annual meeting as well as at year-round events such as webinars and discussions. The committee aims to provide resources for trainees to evaluate academic and non-academic career routes and to identify and pursue a career that they are truly interested in. The sessions range from one-on-one career coaching sessions to seminar sessions and panel discussions. Topics that we have covered include bench-based industry careers, careers in management and business development, careers in science writing, editing and communication and advocacy, starting a lab at an R1 institution, mental health and managing stress in academia. Some past webinars and annual meeting sessions can be found in the on-demand videos section of the ASCB website. Do you have new ideas for COMPASS to consider incorporating during the annual meeting or for year-round programming? Please email us at; we would love to hear your input!

Outreach subcommittee

The Outreach subcommittee provides support and a forum for ASCB trainees to interact with the greater scientific community and the non-scientific community. It supports science outreach initiatives primarily from trainees via the COMPASS Outreach grants. The subcommittee has funded several projects in the past, such as “#ProjectSTEM: Becoming an Investigator,” “Science Advocacy for Youngsters Initiatives,” a gallery event as a part of “the Journal of Stories in Science,” and many more. Do you have a cool science outreach idea that you want COMPASS to fund? Consider applying for an Outreach grant! Applications for Outreach grants are solicited three times per year in January, June, and September. COMPASS started funding virtual outreach grants in response to the pandemic and these programs have been a huge success.

The Outreach subcommittee also helps trainees improve their writing skills and acts as a platform to give a voice to trainees via the COMPASS Blog. Even a non-COMPASS member may write blogs. If you would like to pitch an idea for a blog, check out this article. We always welcome content from other trainees!

Being a member of COMPASS helped me as a trainee

I first came across COMPASS at the 2018 ASCB annual meeting during one of the professional development sessions. As a graduate student, I was interested in learning more about non-academic career opportunities for cell biologists. Soon after, I realized that many trainees were unaware of the diverse career opportunities that were available to them. This motivated me to join COMPASS, as I saw this as an opportunity to help other trainees by showcasing diverse career options. I have been a part of both the Career and Outreach subcommittees for more than three years. Our planning and discussions usually take place via emails, Slack, and Zoom. We normally meet via Zoom to review outreach grant applicants, brainstorm ideas for year-long professional development sessions, and discuss the proposed ideas for the annual meeting. I have realized that my active participation in COMPASS has not only helped my career development, but has also provided several networking opportunities, helped me become a better researcher, and connected me with amazing fellow COMPASS members.

Are you a graduate student or postdoc interested in outreach initiatives and exploring career opportunities outside academia or want to meet like-minded cell biologists from universities all across the country? Do you want to have an impact on trainees’ career development? Do you like to plan career development events or write blogs, or are you interested in science outreach activities? If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, you should consider joining COMPASS. You can join COMPASS and get involved in either one or both subcommittees. If you want to apply to become an associate member of COMPASS, please see the last section, “Interested in applying?” on this webpage.

About the Author:

Sumana Sundaramurthy is a member of COMPASS and is currently one of the co-chairs of the Career subcommittee. She earned her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from SUNY Upstate Medical University, where her work focused on investigating the roles of formins in striated muscle development in the Pruyne Lab. She recently transitioned to an industry role, project manager at Sino Biological. Twitter: ranjusunda. LinkedIn: (