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New conference provides professional development for research staff

May 7, 2018 By Marilyn Gardner


A new professional development conference for UW–Madison employees will focus on the unique needs of research staff who are working as laboratory technicians or laboratory managers.

The inaugural Research Staff Professional Development Conference will take place Wednesday, June 20, from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. (with registration and continental breakfast at 8 a.m.) in Cooper Hall at the School of Nursing. There is no cost to attend.

The conference is designed to provide professional growth and opportunities for idea exchange to employees who work as research staff in schools and colleges across campus. Excellence in research and scholarship is a key component of the university’s strategic framework.

“Research specialists and laboratory managers are a backbone of the
UW–Madison research enterprise,” says Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Norman Drinkwater. “This conference is designed to enhance the skills and strengthen relationships of the UW–Madison research staff to ensure continued growth at the individual and campus levels.”

Conference attendees can choose breakout sessions from three different conference tracks: leadership skills, career development, and job skills. The event will also feature a keynote presentation and complimentary lunch.

The conference will also provide opportunities for networking and information exchange among research technicians and laboratory managers. These are individuals who do not often have opportunities to connect with each other in their daily work. The conference concludes at 2 p.m. so that participants have time to return to their labs and check on their research projects.

“Research staff do not have many professional development opportunities,” says Sharon Blohowiak, senior research specialist for the UW Department of Pediatrics/Neonatology at the School of Medicine and Public Health.  “Many academic staff activities are geared towards staff in more administrative roles. They also usually do not attend research conferences, which are directed at principal investigators and graduate students. The duties of research staff are very different than other campus staff, so it is refreshing that UW–Madison recognizes the needs of research staff.”

Conference planners solicited input from research staff across campus to help ensure that the conference topics would meet the needs of these employees. The Lab Management Community of Practice also played a significant role in conference planning.

Nicole Schmidt, a co-founder of the Lab Management Community of Practice and research program manager at the Waisman Center and Center for Health Minds, says of the conference, “it is important to step away from your immediate environment to see the bigger impact of your work. This event will illuminate important ways we can learn from each other and inspire fresh approaches.”

The Research Staff Professional Development Conference has numerous UW–Madison sponsors, including the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Letters & Science, School of Human Ecology, School of Medicine and Public Health, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, School of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Human Resources, Office of the Secretary of the Academic Staff, and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

The deadline to register for the conference is June 11. Additional information and a link to registration can be found at