Anna Miller, PhD
In honor of 75 years of ASHG, we are looking back on ASHG trainees to see where those who were once in our place are now. The Nascent Transcript reached out to prior winners of the ASHG award for Trainee Research Excellence, which honors excellent research conducted by predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees via abstracts submitted and presented at the ASHG Annual Meeting. The Trainee Research Excellence award has been bestowed for nearly 30 years. Below, we provide some advice and insight from prior winners.
Dr. Rajendra Kumar-Singh, a Trainee Excellence Award winner of 1997 and current Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, attended the ASHG Annual meeting as a trainee and emphasized the importance of networking. Two other winners, Dr. Yih-Chii Hwang, a 2014 winner and current Principal Scientist / Product Manager at DNAnexus, and Dr. Pamela Guerrerio, a 2001 winner and current Chief of the Laboratory of Allergic Diseases at NIAID, also attended the ASHG Annual Meeting yearly to present their work.
When asked how winning the Trainee Excellence Award impacted them, Dr. Marwan Tayeh, a 2007 winner and current Director of the IU Diagnostic Genomics Laboratory, Associate Professor, and Program Director of the Laboratory Genetics and Genomics Fellowship, emphasized the impact the award had on his confidence as a researcher – and it boosted his CV too! Dr. Hwang echoed the confidence she gained in her research and her presentation skills. Dr. Guerrerio noted the invaluable support and recognition the award provided early in her career, and Dr. Kumar-Singh found it helpful to include in his grant applications.
Based on their current careers, we asked these prior winners what they wished they had taken more time learning as a trainee. Dr. Hwang wished for more collaborative work with others outside of the lab. Dr. Tayeh wished for more education on cancer genetics, whereas Dr. Kumar-Singh wished for more emphasis on grant writing skills.
Finally, with many more years of ASHG to come, we asked these winners what they were most excited about in the field of genetics. Dr. Kumar-Singh noted the importance of gene therapy in the future of medicine. Dr. Hwang highlighted the collaborative environment in the field of genetics for students to share ideas, methods, and data for advancing precision medicine. Finally, Dr. Tayeh emphasized the delivery of state-of-the-art genomic testing for patients.
Dr. Tayeh wisely added that the trainee award was achieved not solely by himself but with the support of a great laboratory team and mentors. As we wrap up the 2023 ASHG Annual Meeting and the calendar year, it is a good reminder for us trainees to celebrate our achievements – big and small – and all those who support us in achieving our goals.