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Science Academy Selects St. John’s Doctoral Students for Training Program

Trudi Denoon, Siddarth Sunilkumar, and Natalie N. Orie
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

While balancing a heavy teaching load with in-depth research activities, three toxicology graduate students at St. John’s recently participated in a special program targeting an often overlooked aspect of an academic’s professional growth—developing “soft” or interpersonal abilities.

“Too often, graduate students focus on their work and do not have the opportunity to develop other professional skills,” said Sue M. Ford, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at St. John’s. “This was a unique program that focused on self-assessment, interpersonal communication, networking, and conflict resolution.”

The training session was created by the Science Alliance Leadership Training (SALT) program, a partnership between the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and a consortium of universities, teaching hospitals, and independent research facilities. The St. John’s students participated in two components: an in-person track and virtual lectures.

The in-person track took place from July 10 to 14 at the NYAS location in lower Manhattan’s World Financial Center. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided a grant to support SALT for 12 additional months of training that includes eight virtual lectures.

“To be a truly effective leader and/or team member, it is important to be cognizant of the way your behavior can impact the task and the group,” said Trudi Denoon ’18Ph.D., who specializes in pharmaceutical sciences with a concentration in toxicology. “If I know my strengths and weaknesses, I can self-regulate and adapt to the task at hand. That’s why this training program is essential for my development.”

“The in-person program was spectacular, with very helpful tasks and exercises,” said Siddarth Sunilkumar, who is expected to graduate in 2018. “The post-session analyses taught us what roles we most like to play in a group dynamic. It helped us to accept our flaws in order to broaden our thinking.”

Natalie N. Orie, who also will earn her Ph.D. in 2018, applied for the program after seeing an advertisement on the NYAS website. “It was a highly competitive application process,” she noted. “I was thrilled to be selected.”

Another benefit of the program, said Dr. Ford, was the opportunity to interact with participants from other disciplines and institutions. “I am delighted that three of our students were selected for this prestigious program, which will prepare them for leadership roles in their careers,” she said.