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Postdocs recognized at second annual CBS Postdoctoral Awards

Postdoc Awardees 2018
Postdoc Awardees L to R: Nat Graham, Robyn Rebbeck, Associate Dean for Graduate Education Carrie Wilmot, Petra Kranzfelder, Liana Burghardt

The second annual CBS Postdoctoral Awards were held on Thursday, September 20 as part of National Postdoc Appreciation Week. At the event, four postgrads were recognized for their contributions to the college.

CBS Associate Dean for Graduate Education Carrie Wilmot spoke at the event, noting her excitement at getting to highlight the work of these postdoctoral researchers and associates, especially since each winner was from a different CBS department.

"The CBS postdoctoral community contributes so much to the richness of the College of Biological Sciences from research in labs and facilities to teaching, outreach and service. There are currently 168 postdoctoral scientists in CBS--115 postdocs and 53 are research associates-- and we are here today to bear witness and celebrate the many vital ways in which this community is pivotal to the success of CBS at the University of Minnesota." 

This year's awardees are:

Impactful Research: Liana Burghardt (PMB)
Conducting research or developing techniques that will make a significant difference to others beyond the immediate field of expertise

In the words of mentor Peter Tiffin, “While at UMN, Liana has contributed substantively and extensively on our work on understanding genotype-phenotype relationships in the legume-rhizobia symbiosis. She has led efforts characterizing transcriptomic variation in this interaction and investigating the potential for plant hosts to shape microbial communities. Most excitingly, Liana was instrumental in developing a new approach for assaying bacterial identifying the selective importance of naturally occurring allelic variation and estimating fitness among strains of a single bacterial species. The assay has the potential to transform not only the study of natural variation of plant mutualists but also agriculturally and medically important pathogens.” 


Teaching and Mentoring: Petra Kranzfelder (BTL)
Strong commitment to training and educating people from diverse backgrounds

In the words of mentor Abdi Warfa, “Since arriving in August 2017, Petra has mentored multiple undergraduate students from a diverse set of backgrounds and has created a learning environment in which these students feel valued as independent researchers. I’m thrilled to nominate her for the Teaching and Mentoring Award.” In the words of some of the students: “My favorite was that everyone in the group made me feel like my ideas and opinions mattered even though I was just an undergraduate student with a bunch of people with advanced degrees. I have not had that same experience in all of my other places of work, so that was something I really appreciated.” “One thing I really appreciated from my experience this semester was the collaborative nature of the research. I really felt a part of the team, and that we’re all working together for a common goal. With this, I was able to enhance my collaborative skills and really reflect on how I play my role in a group.”


Outreach and Communication: Nat Graham (GCD)
Those who have made significant, demonstrable contributions to the public good through research, teaching, and/or public service.

In the words of mentor and nominator Dan Voytas, “Nat has spent much of his own personal time on outreach tasks. In the Twin Cities, has presented at Market Science and the Bakken Museum Innovators Day. Nat has also participated in Amplicomm: a multiuniversity forum in which he has developed a science communication training program. The program is an online based program that can bring scientists from anywhere with an internet connection together with experts in communicating science and forming communication programs. The course will eventually contain workshops that can be run by groups at scientific meetings as well as a YouTube channel containing videos with various experts in the field.”


Service to Community: Robyn Rebbeck (BMBB)
Supporting and promoting the postdoc community and building community at the department, college, or university level.

In the words of mentors Dave Thomas and Razvan Cornea “Not only has Robyn continued to contribute high-impact papers in muscle biophysics, but she has done so while also contributing to the postdoctoral community through her role on the CBS Postdoctoral Committee and the UMN Postdoctoral Association. Robyn has taken it upon herself to serve as faculty and PDA liaison, a role in which she is working toward the development of new and innovative policies that are meant to reshape academic culture and community for postdocs in CBS. In the past year and a half, Robyn has helped draft the CBS Postdoc Handbook (a previously nonexistent aid for post-docs), organized networking events to promote interdepartmental collaboration and career planning strategies, and worked directly with faculty to create new support mechanisms for post-docs in terms of research mentoring. Overall, Robyn’s ability to recognize a need within the academic institution and act on it, promoting forward-thinking policies with far-reaching impact, speaks to her passion for implementing true change that benefits her academic community.” 

September, 2018