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Why belong to ISEH? New Investigators share their thoughts

Posted By connections editor, Friday, August 25, 2017

Why belong to ISEH? New Investigators share their thoughts

ISEH New Investigators Committee

Following the International Society of Experimental Hematology (ISEH) Annual Scientific Meeting in Frankfurt, some of you may be wondering what else you can get out of your ISEH membership. To give some ideas, we asked members of the ISEH New Investigators Committee (NIC) why they belong to ISEH.

Isabel Beerman (NIH, USA) added “One of the most valuable aspects of my ISEH membership is the access to the network of outstanding researchers. This is highlighted at the annual meeting. This intimate gathering promotes interactions with investigators at all career stages and allows for open discussions of developing research programs. In addition, interactions between members is fostered throughout the year by ISEH sponsored events on the website that highlight relevant publications and provide great educational opportunities from the introduction to hematology (Hematology 101) to learning about emerging technologies driving the field forward (New Investigators Committee Webinars).”

Nina Cabezas-Wallscheid (Max Planck Institute Freiburg, Germany) also told us “I attended my first ISEH meeting after it was recommended by Mick Milsom in 2012. I enjoyed the conference so much that since then I have joined every year. Why? Because I believe that the ISEH community provides each scientist, from junior to senior, a niche to interact and collaborate to drive the hematological field forwards. In addition, I find that ISEH has an extremely important task driving young investigators to top level science and enrolling well-established scientists in this process. I believe that this is partially achieved by keeping the size of the Annual meeting small. Moreover the ISEH community organize state-of-the-art Webinars, journal clubs and keep scientists updated on the latest news through several platforms such as Facebook, Connections, and Simply Blood.”

Novella Guidi (USC, USA) told us “I’ve been a member of ISEH since 2015. At that time I was still a PhD student and I attended my first annual meeting in Kyoto, Japan. Until that time I attended larger meetings, so I was positively surprised of the smaller size of ISEH and the great setting, which provides a focus on interaction between new investigators and PIs. I so enjoyed being able to discuss my research with peers in the field and with other students as well that I immediately decided that I wanted to be closer involved in the society, joining the NIC. After two years I still believe being part of it it’s an honour because it’s the perfect niche to grow as a junior scientist - it builds up my network and collaborations with the bigger names in the field and always keeps me up to date on all the new hematology discoveries.”

Simon Haas (DKFZ Heidelberg, Germany) said “A few years ago when I was a PhD student, Mick Milsom, a senior colleague of mine, encouraged me with much enthusiasm to attend the ISEH meeting. Now, I share his enthusiasm about the conference, as well as the society. It was the first international conference I was attending, and until now remains my favorite meeting. The atmosphere is great, cutting edge hematology research presented in a casual and interactive manner. The ratio of world-leading PIs to PhD students and postdocs is excellent, facilitating the interaction of junior scientist with the big PIs. There are many special events organized particularly for junior scientists. Therefore, I can highly recommend this meeting, as well as to become a member of ISEH.”

Eric Pietras (UC Denver, USA) told us “ISEH is a uniquely cohesive and trainee-focused community where scientists at all levels can create a strong network of friends and collaborators, that includes leading investigators in the hematology community. What I’ve liked most about ISEH, and what motivated me to become a member of the New Investigator Committee, is the emphasis ISEH places on fostering the next generations of scientists, and the level of involvement from members at all levels in creating this culture. Few societies provide the wealth of opportunities for trainees and new investigators to interact with each other and access scientific and career development resources, both at the annual meeting and year-round. It really is a great community and has provided me with numerous opportunities to learn and grow as a scientist, and to help others coming up in the field.”

Sofie Singbrant (Lund University, Sweden) said “I’ve been a member of the ISEH for over ten years, attended the annual ISEH meetings close to every year, and I am currently the chair of the ISEH New Investigator Committee. The reason I got engaged in the society and keep going to the meetings is the perfect mix of outstanding science presented and the many opportunities to network with everyone from PhD students to senior professors in the field. The society also has a large focus on new investigators, which has provided me with valuable knowledge, opportunities to present my work, and a great international network of friends and colleagues over the years!“

Steve Sykes (Fox Chase, Canada) said “I belong to ISEH for a variety of reasons. First, I really enjoy the ISEH newsletter and the new Simply Blood blog posts – both have interesting information I may not otherwise come across. Second, I very much enjoy the webinar series. And of course, the ISEH annual meeting is a big draw for me. Prior to my first ISEH meeting in Melbourne, Australia (2010), I had only attended larger meetings. The intimate and interactive environment of the ISEH meeting provided me easy opportunities to meet other trainees as well as experts in my field. Lastly, being a member of ISEH, which is a tight-knit but welcoming community of normal and malignant hematologists, has allowed me to build meaningful collaborations and long-lasting colleagues.”

Cedric Tremblay (Monash, Australia) also noted “The ISEH community is one of the most active in the field of stem cell and hematology research. I’ve been a member of the ISEH for seven years, and the annual meeting represents the best opportunity to interact with other new investigators and international experts in the field, in a casual ambiance. That’s what makes the ISEH annual meeting so special, and definitely the highlight of the year! Over the years, the ISEH provided me incredible professional opportunities, which deeply influenced my current career path. But what makes ISEH so unique as a society, is the true sense of community that new and more senior investigators contribute to maintain throughout the years.”

Adam Wilkinson (Stanford, USA) added “ISEH membership gives me access to the ISEH webinar series, the ISEH blogs and newsletters, and the ExpHem journal. These help me to stay up-to-date in this fast-moving research field and consider the broader aspects of research and academia. And then the ISEH conference offers a rare opportunity to hear about yet-to-be-published stories emerging in experimental hematology, network with international researchers, and develop new collaborations.”

We hope that this gives you some ideas of how to make the most out of your ISEH membership and some extra reasons why you should join the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting in 2018!

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Interviewing- Social Fit vs Endogenous Competence; How do You Find or Create a Great Lab Dynamic?

Posted By Connections Editor, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Heather O’Leary, Novella Guidi, Simon Haas, Daniel Lucas, Eric Pietras, Cédric Tremblay, and Sofie Singbrant-Söderberg.

From the start of scientific training, and persisting throughout a career, there are consistent states of either trying to find a lab to join or identifying people you will hire for your own laboratory. Both of these can be exciting, but challenging, prospects and this article focuses on providing insight on finding the right lab for you as well as choosing the best people to hire for your lab. To address these important topics, we sent out a survey to obtain multiple perspectives from both the side of how graduate students/post docs found laboratories they wanted to join, as well as insight from Principle Investigators regarding what they are looking for when they are hiring.

We started this quest for knowledge by asking postdoctoral fellows how far in advance of needing to start their postdoc they started looking, and the value they placed on aspects such as funding, size, publication history, mentoring, technical support, life balance, and social interaction between lab members. They started looking for a fellowship on average 6 months to a year before they were planning to finish their Ph.D.’s, and many of them did not have a specific location in mind. As one would expect, funding and publication history were high on the priority list. Other important aspects in their search for a good postdoc lab were finding a project they were excited about, a good mentor and good life balance (location, activities and time). Additionally, many responders commented that they weighed if it was a more junior or senior PI as. Many stated that they felt a young PI could be very motivated for productivity and provide more hands on mentoring, but have the drawback of being under stress for tenure, which they may not obtain, and would not be as well known in the field. We then asked if there was a certain interaction, question etc. that made them know a specific lab was going to be the right or wrong choice. The response was relatively unanimous; it was more the general lab atmosphere/sense of happiness of the lab, the ability to determine where previous graduate students and postdocs from the lab ended up, and the personality of the PI that played the largest role in their decisions. Interestingly, questions they wished they would have asked prior to choosing a lab (but didn’t) included the average time from start of a project to publication, the ability to utilize technicians if needed, if the PI is a workaholic, the overall social interaction between the lab members, levels of collaboration between teams of the institute, the lab members typical interactions and relationship with the PI, if lab members get together sometimes for coffee/lunch, and last but not least, the average time allowed for traveling to scientific conferences etc. per year.

To address the PI side of hiring into a laboratory we asked both junior and well-established PI’s how they go about hiring someone new for their laboratories, and what characteristics they focus on. In addition to the required posting in their own universities and mentioning it when they give talks, many PI’s advertise available positions using social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In) and society pages (such as ISEH’s facebook page), as well as placing the position on their own lab web pages to obtain a broader applicant pool. When hiring students and postdocs they are looking for someone who is excited about the work with a strong work ethic, good organizational skills, is trustworthy and has good hands. Interestingly, almost all respondents said that they greatly value their lab dynamics and that they would take a (good, but) slightly lesser candidate that had a good personality and is a team player over a slightly more capable person that may not fit comfortably into the lab group. To that end, many PI’S reported having the current lab members vote on incoming students, postdocs and technicians and take those votes into heavy consideration.

Obviously, a PI will want to know why someone wants to work in their lab, what projects they are interested in, what their overall goals are and what they want to do when their training is completed. Some more non-conventional questions they have found to be telling included: Please describe your worst day at work ever. What do you want out of this position/experience and why? Why do you think this experience will help you? What is most important to you in life? What do you feel you need from me as your mentor, and what do you need to be successful? Other topics of interest included what they are passionate about (that is not science), how they handle disagreements with peers and colleagues, how they personally resolve conflicts in their life, as well as a time they failed or succeeded at something, what they learned from the experience, and what they might do differently.

Surprisingly, information from CV’s and references, although clearly utilized, was not uniformly weighted in their importance. However, there were a few things that almost all PI’S surveyed said raised a red flag and would make them concerned about a candidate. These included a disorganized CV or one with may spelling or formatting errors, non-productivity in previous setting (graduate training or previous postdoc), frequent change of teams for unclear reasons, or not listing previous graduate or postdoctoral mentors as references. To that end, many of the PI’s surveyed do not heavily rely on actual reference letters, and may not call the references unless they know them and feel they can trust that an honest opinion will be provided. Others said that they call the references, but only to look for large red flags such as creating a bad lab environment, not being able to focus etc. When making the final decision on hiring a candidate, most PI’s that responded said that they weigh heavily the input of the lab as well as the passion, collaborative behavior and complementary skills of the potential hire.

Interestingly, in multiple articles and videos discussing this topic with Nobel Laureates,1 Drs. Martin Chalfie (, Randy Schekman (, and others, suggest that most people go about interviewing for a postdoc in the wrong way. They encourage potential postdocs to take the time to carefully read the work of the lab, and apply as more of a colleague, suggesting experiments they would like to do based on the work that has already been done in the lab and say that they don’t even read applications that do not have some insight into the work. These comments suggest that scientific effort and fit is extremely important in the choice of a laboratory, while maintaining the lab dynamic is also critical.

Taken together, it is important to choose a lab or lab members that will enhance you and that you in turn add value to, both personally and professionally, resulting in an ideal win-win scenario for everyone.

*The ISEH New Investigator Committee (NIC) would like to thank everyone that contributed to this article by filling out the survey*

1) Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative, Insights from Nobel Laureates, for scientists everywhere. (

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New Investigator Digest

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, April 21, 2017

Brexit and Science - Many Uncertainties Remain:
an Interview with Bertie Göttgens and Michael Milsom

Simon Haas, Heather O’Leary, Eric Pietras, Cédric Tremblay and Sofie Singbrant-Söderberg

The referendum held on the 23rd of June 2016 in the United Kingdom will go down in history; 52% of the British citizens voted for leaving the European Union (EU). The British exit from the EU (Brexit) process has been initiated and should be finalized within the next two years. Since the EU is a political and economic union with common laws, and free movement of people, capital and goods in a common market, Brexit is expected to have far-reaching implications on economy, society and politics in the UK, as well as in the rest of the EU. Brexit will most likely have a large impact on science and the lives of scientists too. The EU provides wide funding regiments for research. For example, the EU funding program Horizon 2020 and the main EU funding body for science, the European Research Council (ERC), provide an estimated €24 billion for basic research funding over a 7-year period. The EU fosters EU-wide collaborations, helps young researchers to gain and consolidate independence, and is one of the most important funders for student and postdoctoral fellowships. Furthermore, citizens of EU member states have the freedom to move and work in any other EU country, facilitating the exchange of PhD students, postdocs and principle investigators within the member states.

Many uncertainties remain with regard to the impact of Brexit on science and scientists. How will EU funding and mobility of researchers be restricted upon UK’s withdrawal from the EU? And will the attractiveness of the UK decrease when it comes to recruiting talented researchers?

To gain further insight we asked two renowned scientists working in the fields of hematology and stem cell research how they think Brexit will impact their research, as well as their personal lives. Both exemplify the geographic mobility granted to researchers by the UK's membership in the EU, and each now finds themselves in a country different from their place of birth. Bertie Göttgens is a German citizen, leading a research group at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Conversely, Michael Milsom is a UK citizen leading a research group at the German Cancer Research Center and HI-STEM in Heidelberg, Germany.

Bertie Göttgens – a German group leader in the UK:

What was your first reaction when you heard that British citizens voted for leaving the EU?
I flew to the ISSCR meeting on the day of the referendum. Crossing London, there was an abundance of “Remain” posters, but I knew the referendum could go either way. When I arrived at the airport in San Francisco, I connected my phone to the WIFI, and saw the first results had come in, and the predictions were that the vote had gone for “Leave”. I was agitated and upset. When I arrived back in England, for the first couple of weeks, I kept thinking when walking down the streets that every other person I see doesn’t want me to stay here. This is particularly frustrating as I had experienced the UK as an open and welcoming society, and in fact have not noticed any change in the way I am treated (of note, the city of Cambridge voted over 80% “Remain”). I know from listening to the news that experiences of EU nationals in other parts of the UK have been much more negative.

How is Brexit impacting on your research / funding?
It is too early to say. The government increased the funding for research in their first budget after the Brexit vote. Also, I have never directly received European Union funding, so my group would see no difference if the UK stops being a partner in EU or ERC programs.

I think it will become harder to recruit the best talent to come and work in the UK, at least until the dust has settled. One advantage I have is that I work at the University of Cambridge, which over its 800 years of existence has got through some very turbulent times, and I am confident will remain a very attractive place to do research in future.

How is Brexit impacting on your personal situation / life?
I am getting British citizenship, and my children are getting German passports. That way we will remain free to work and live in either the UK or EU. The pound sterling has lost 15% in value, so holidays abroad will be more expensive.

Is Brexit impacting on students or postdocs in your group?
My research group is 17 strong, with 7 British, 8 rest of the EU and 2 non EU. There clearly will be some uncertainty until we get more clarity on the future relationship between the UK and EU.

What do you think might be the implications for the UK as a research site?
Again, too early to say. For example, it is not clear what the UK government will do with the money that is currently sent to Brussels to be spent on research administered through the EU and ERC. If the money remains dedicated for research but administered through the UK, I think this could work out well since I personally have been frustrated about the way the EU spends research money (except for the ERC). For example, I was a small partner in two Horizon 2020 submissions in 2015, which I thought was the most ridiculous grant review process I have ever seen. There were two rounds, with 50% of the proposals filtered out at the first round. Then, the remaining applicants were asked to put in a huge amount of work and put together full proposals of 200 pages for the second round, yet at the second round 95% were thrown out. What a colossal waste of time by applicants, reviewers and grant panels! Why not throw out 90 or 95% in the first round? And at such a low funding rate, there is always the suspicion that what ultimately gets funded is about politics as much as science.

So, as long as the UK continues to ring-fence its previous contribution for EU-funded research to still spend on research, it should not be too difficult to do a much better job with it than for example Horizon 2020. The worry is that the UK economy will suffer generally, and then ring-fencing money for research may not be a high priority. There are also some areas where international collaboration is vital, such as clinical trials where a single country just does not have enough patients for a given disease. Hopefully, ways can be found that UK scientists can continue to collaborate on such initiatives with their EU colleagues.

In the short term, the potentially most detrimental impact I can see is that the top European young investigators wanting to return from the US to Europe may be reluctant to come to the UK. The UK has been a really strong base for science, but this can only be maintained if underpinned constantly by bringing in the best young talent.

Michael Milsom – a British group leader in Germany

What was your first reaction when you heard that British citizens voted for leaving the EU?

I remember that my wife (who is also British) and I went to bed on the evening of the referendum and, based on the last-minute polling results, felt relatively reassured that a remain majority would be returned. My wife woke me up at 3am and told me it looked like the vote was going in the direction of leave. We just couldn’t get back to sleep after that and spent the rest of the early hours (as well as the next days, weeks and months) speculating about what this would mean for our family, our native and adopted country, and Europe as a whole. I would say that surprise, shock and worry were our initial emotional responses to the outcome. This was quickly replaced by an overriding sense of frustration that both the leave and remain campaigns hadn’t exactly been providing the electorate with much factual information on which to base their decision. If there is anything I have learned from this, and other recent political events, it’s that democratic societies need to strive towards making sure their citizens are equipped to discern fact from fiction and can identify what is a trustworthy source of information, regardless of whether it fits in with their pre-existing ideas or politics. I could probably come to accept the outcome of the referendum a little better if I felt that the majority of the voters were making an informed decision.

How is Brexit impacting on your research / funding?
As I write this, the UK government has just formally notified the EU of its intent to leave, so not much has changed yet. In the longer run, I really have no idea how this is going to impact on my research since the possible outcomes of the negotiations which will determine how the UK leaves the EU are not clear, and will likely take a long time to resolve. As a British citizen working in continental Europe, in an international research institution with a work force made up of all EU nationalities, I am clearly concerned about potential restrictions of freedom of movement. Also, there is likely to be an extended period of financial instability across Europe and this may well impact on how much funding there is available for research. Having said that, one of the reasons that I decided to establish my group in Germany in the first place was that the state chooses to prioritize funding research and technology development, with the longer term view that this will help drive the economy. I’m confident that Germany will sustain this policy and remain a welcoming environment for international scientists to live and work.

How is Brexit impacting on your personal situation / life?
Again, nothing much has changed at the moment, but we spend a lot of time speculating (and worrying) about how this might impact on us. All five of us have UK citizenship, so worst case scenario, my wife and I would have to get visas to continue to live and work in Germany. This would then complicate (and potentially compromise) our access to things such as free education for the children, healthcare, sickness and unemployment benefit and the like. We’re currently seriously considering what we need to get in place in the next two years in order to be eligible to apply for German citizenship. I definitely need to prioritize improving my German, as I don’t think the language test is going to exclusively focus on my ability to order food and drink at restaurants and the shops!

Is Brexit impacting on students or postdocs in your group?
Apart from myself, I don’t currently have any other British citizens in my group, but do have employees from across a range of EU and non-EU countries. Although there isn’t going to be any direct impact on their ability to live and work in Germany, the UK has traditionally been a powerhouse of European life sciences research and any restrictions on my people’s ability to travel to the UK and interact with our British collaboration partners would clearly be detrimental.

What do you think might be the implications for the UK as a research site?
I think only time will tell. I don’t think anybody has a really good idea what the result of the UK-EU negotiations will be. As I’ve mentioned above, I think that funding and international mobility are two of the key areas that may be compromised by Brexit and negatively impact on the UK research community. In the short term, I think that the uncertainty about what will happen is quickly going to figure into scientist’s decisions about whether they want to start or continue working in the UK. This is one of my greatest fears as, since I was trained in the UK, I recognize that one of the main reasons it has really punched above its weight in biomedical research has been its ability to recruit and retain excellent scientists from all over the world.

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New Investigator Digest

Posted By Connections Editor, Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Combating Gender Disparity in Academic Science

Stephen M. Sykes, Heather A. O’Leary, Sofie Singbrant- Söderberg and Adam C. Wilkinson

The term “glass ceiling” is a metaphor for the unseen blockade that impedes a certain demographic from reaching the upper echelons of a given hierarchy. It is commonly used in reference to the invisible barrier that obstructs women from climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, though it also applies to other demographics and industries. The ultimate glass ceiling in the United States (US) was recently challenged when former Senator and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate – a historical first. However, she lost the US’s top job to the Republican nominee, President Donald J. Trump. Though there are numerous possible reasons for Clinton’s defeat, President Trump’s victory has reignited discussions about gender disparity and how females are viewed in today’s world. To stimulate conversation and awareness regarding women in academic science, Drs. Teresa Bowman (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, US) and Louise Purton (St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, AU), released the first of their five-part series on Women in Science in November 2016 on the ISEH Simply Blood blog. In conjunction with Drs. Bowman and Purton, myself and the other members of New Investigators Committee (NIC) have put together the following New Investigator’s Digest to complement that series, as well as poll the opinions of various academic scientists in the greater hematology research community.

Does the Glass Ceiling Exist in Academic Science?

Retracing the steps along my own academic career path, I recall a well-balanced distribution of females and males in my undergraduate and graduate classes as well as in both of my postdoctoral laboratories. However, my recollection is that male professors drastically outnumbered their female counterparts throughout. Consistent with my experiences, several studies report that gender parity exists at the early career stages of biological and medical scientists, such as PhD awardees, those admitted to medical school and medical school instructors [1,2]. However, in the mid-2000s, women represented only 29-39% of tenure-track professor positions and just 17-25% of tenured professorships at US universities and colleges, including medical schools/institutes [1,2]. This disparity worsens in the sciences: US National Science Foundation reports that only 21% and 7% of full professors in science and engineering, respectively, are women despite approximately half of the PhD awardees being female [3]. In addition to unequal gender distribution among professors, female scientists overall, are significantly underrepresented in the pool of investigators funded by the US National Institute of Health [1], paid less than their male counterparts [3], display lower rates of patenting [4], and when in a prominent authorship position (e.g. first or last author) are less likely to have their papers cited [5]. Dr. Celeste Simon (University of Pennsylvania, US) points out that Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Scientific Advisory Board Memberships also tend to be male-dominated.”

These patterns of gender disparity are not just exclusive to North American society either. A 2006 analysis conducted by the European Commission (EC) revealed that only 15% of full professorships in European countries are held by women [6-8]. An updated analysis from the EC in 2015 reported that, while progress had been made in some countries, patterns of gender disparity remain [9]. In addition, gender inequalities and imbalances are commonly found in scientist-generating powerhouses such as Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, China and India [10-16]. It is clear from these reports – which represent just a handful of the numerous studies describing the current state of gender inequality – that the glass ceiling, also referred to as a ‘leaky pipeline’, does exist in academic science. So, what are the sources of these inequalities and what strategies can be used to establish gender parity in the scientific community?

Factors Contributing to Gender Inequality in Academia

In order to develop actionable strategies to solve any problem, one must first recognize the underlying source(s) of the problem. Like many complex problems, gender inequality arises from multiple factors. When we asked academic scientists what factors contribute to gender inequality, in their opinions, many respondents acknowledged issues related to child-rearing. Dr. Keith Humphries (Terry Fox Cancer Center, CA) comments “I cannot back up my impressions with hard facts but…my strong sense is that a major factor relates to the lack of support for child rearing.” Prof. Tariq Enver of the UCL Cancer Institute in London, UK, where career development or junior fellowship hires are nearly equal between females and males, adds that he often sees a disproportionate reduction of female candidates making it to the next career stage roughly equating to Senior fellow/Reader or Associate Professor in the North American system and that maternity may be a significant factor in some of these cases. Indeed, regardless of society, the primary responsibilities of child-rearing often fall on the shoulders of females and this may in part contribute to gender inequalities in the workforce. In fact, women are often paid – and even valued – less than men because it is presumed that their responsibilities as a mother will hinder their productivity and worth. Moreover, mothers are 79% less likely to be hired and are more likely to be underpaid [17]. In a 2002 report, Mason and Goulden found that men with children are more likely to achieve tenure that their female counterparts [18]. However, the study also found that women without children were still less likely than men to obtain tenure indicating that parenthood does not fully account for the attrition of female scientists or gender biases. As pointed out by Dr. Meg Urry in a 2015 Nature Comment, if gender inequality was solely explained by women being the primary child caregivers, then countries such as Sweden and Denmark, which have vastly superior family-support programs, should have much better gender balance than countries like the US [19]. However, though gender imbalances countries such as Sweden and Denmark may be less than others, they still remain prevalent [20,21].
What then are additional factors that contribute to gender equality? Obviously, as a society we must consider our own perceptions and potential biases. In a recent study conducted by the L'Oréal Foundation, it was found that 67% of European and 93% of Chinese people surveyed, do not believe that women possess the necessary attributes for becoming high-level, successful scientists [22,23]. Moreover, although the survey respondents believed that nearly one-third of the highest academic positions in the European Union are occupied by women, the reality is that only 11% of women occupy such positions [22]. These statistics indicate that not only do our stereotypes influence our consciousness, but they are also ingrained into our unconscious psyche. In a seminal study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, Moss-Racusin et al. reported that both men and women have gender biases rooted in their unconsciousness. These conclusions were based on a randomized, double-blind study in which professors evaluated female and male applicants for a lab manager position. Male applicants were consistently rated higher and were seen as having more potential than their female counterparts. Interestingly, a similar bias was discovered regardless if the hiring professor was a man or woman [24]. This study shows that both women and men carry biases towards women, suggesting that there are societal factors that strongly influence our unconscious, which ultimately direct our behavior.

Professorship turnover is also a contributing factor for the disparity between the number of male and female professors. As pointed out by Dr. Catherine Porcher (University of Oxford, UK), the slow turnover of males not only limits the number opportunities but also creates a male-dominated atmosphere: “a male-dominated culture [has been] present for decades in the academic world for historical reasons, mainly owing to the fact that more men earned PhDs until the mid-90s. This has perpetuated male senior recruitment and not facilitated female recruitment to academic leadership positions.” Also, the reduced number of female professorships leads to “a shortage of appropriate female role models… especially in med schools where the senior leadership is largely male” as stated by Dr. Marisa Bartolomei (University of Pennsylvania, US). Dr. Simon adds that “as the number of female “role models” increases in tenure track professorships, this will also help increase the number of female scientists seeking this type of job.” However, the rate of turnover in some settings can be very slow. Dr. Giuliana Gobbi (Università degli Studi di Parma, IT) notes that, in Italy, “the retirement age is about seventy and most of the Academies are reducing the number of professors. For this reason, the professor turnover is slow and the mean age is quite high, therefore contributing to the low number of female professors”.

In search of additional factors contributing to female attrition along the academic scientist career path, Ley and Hamilton performed a retrospective analysis of US National Institute of Health (NIH) grant applications over a 10-year period [1]. One interesting observation that came out of the data was that female physician-scientists make their decision to leave the academic career path sooner and more often than female PhD scientists or male physician-scientists. One plausible explanation for this pattern is that female physician-scientists actively leave academic science to pursue more attractive and amenable career options, such as clinical practice [1].

While many save the best for last, here we have saved the worst for last: as a strong contributor to gender inequality appears to be old-fashioned chauvinism. Though overt chauvinistic comments and behaviors have decreased over time they still occur. Consider the comments made by Nobel laureate Dr. Timothy Hunt [25] or the resignation of Geoff Marcy for continually sexually harassing female students [19] as just some of the more high-profile recent events. However, speaking with many of my female friends and/or colleagues, it is clear that subtle forms of chauvinism remain prevalent. Dr. Glenn Rall (Fox Chase Cancer Center, US) says “that gender inequalities are less obvious than when I was a graduate student in the 1980s…though there are still subliminal ways in which one’s gender as a scientist impacts one's reputation and relationships.” As an example, Dr. Rall recalls multiple occasions of sitting in seminars where female trainees are presenting, yet instead of asking questions directly to the trainee, audience members relayed their questions to the male mentor whom was also sitting in the audience. Some other examples of such behaviors include: patients and/or fellow medical staff referring to a male physician as ‘Doctor’ and a female physician as ‘Miss’ or ‘Nurse’; or when female colleagues are referred to as ‘over-emotional’ whereas males are ‘passionate’; or when tough male managers are called ‘task managers’ whereas tough female managers are described with derogatory terms. While it is said that “you can’t take such comments personally” or “the person did not intend them to be sexist”, the aggregation of such comments, regardless of their intention, can act like a thousand cuts to anyone’s psyche, and both women and men need to understand that such comments/behaviors are unacceptable.

Actionable Strategies for Balancing Gender in Science

So: gender inequality in academic science exists and many of the causes are known. The question that remains is “what can we do to combat gender disparities?” Several of the respondents we spoke to, commented that multiple strategies are needed at several levels, such as governmental/policy, institutional/resources, and personal/emotional support. Therefore, we have attempted to provide several examples of actionable strategies within each of these three realms.

Government/policy based-initiatives:

In February 2014, The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) organized the first Initiative on Women Science and Engineering (IWISE) meeting, which brought together women from various walks and career stages of science to discuss and develop actionable strategies for promoting gender equality. The IWISE working group recently published the summation of this meeting, which recommended seven actionable strategies towards gender equality [26]. Of these seven strategies, two were policy-based:

  1. Implementation of a flex family-care spending policy;
  2. Establishment of “extra hands” awards.

The flex family-care spending policy recommends that a certain percentage of grant award funds should be eligible for use towards childcare, eldercare or other “family matters”. The aim of this gender-neutral policy is to encourage female or male caregivers to travel to scientific symposiums or give invited talks, which are critical for career advancement. The ‘extra hands’ award is a funding mechanism aimed at female and male scientists who have recently become primary caregivers. The award would provide funds to supply extra personnel (e.g. technicians, administrative assistants, etc.) that make work life more seamless as young principal investigators become caregivers. Such ‘extra hands’ awards have already been implemented at many institutions [26].

Indeed, Dr. Ayako Nakamura-Ishizu (Cancer Science Institute at the National University of Singapore, SGP) mentions that “the [Japanese] academic society does provide grants and fellowships specifically targeting researchers who are raising children”, but she also points out that “I am not sure to what degree these measures promote female scientists to continue to higher positions”. Dr. Porcher provided another example that has shifted people’s perceptions and aims at reducing gender imbalances in the UK: “In the UK, the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognize commitment to promoting the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM) and, more generally, addressing gender equality. In 2011, Dame Sally Davies, then head of the UK National Institutes of Health Research (NIHR), mandated every University Department to have an Athena SWAN Silver Award (a milestone-driven moniker of progress in promoting gender equal work practices) to apply for funding from NIHR research programs. This single action changed attitudes to Athena Swan and has really triggered a momentum for change. Everyone is now more conscious of the gender imbalance as a problem that needs to be addressed.” Dr. Porcher also recommended “removing age and time restrictions in eligibility requirements for all personal fellowships especially those for the transition from trainee to professor, as this is being implemented in the UK. This allows for the extra years that can be required to finish building a competitive CV. It is also critical to increase specific funding schemes for women coming back from a career break.”

An additional strategy that may help quench the child-rearing factor that influences female attrition in academic science is to improve the maternity and paternity policies. Drs. Humphries and Enver cited Sweden as a source of model maternity/paternity laws. Dr. Humphries recalled “I have spent some time in Sweden and they seem to have it right in terms of providing support for families. Excellent maternity leave shared between mother and father.” Dr. Enver added “partners don’t always do their share of childcare. In Sweden, some child leave days are assigned specifically to the mother or the father; these are not transferable between parents and are lost if not used. There are also days that may be used flexibly by either parent. There is also a financial bonus if days taken are divided equal between the partners.”

Institutional/resource-based initiatives:

The IWISE working group has also proposed five strategies that can be applied by scientific institutions (e.g. universities/organizing committees/journals/funding agencies/etc.) to promote gender equality [26]:

  1. External review boards and organizing committees should adopt gender-balanced selection approaches (studies have shown that having at least one female on a selection committee leads to significantly more invited female speakers);
  2. Implicit bias statements should be incorporated in the hiring process, grant reviews or selecting reviewers for submitted manuscripts;
  3. Use of education as a tool to diminish gender inequalities and biases;
  4. Development of institutional report cards of gender equality;
  5. Creation of easy-to-use databases that can be used as a tool to identify females that can serve as journal reviewers, board members, invited speakers, grant reviewers etc.

Dr. Enver provided four specific examples based on his own experiences/institute: “Some institutes will only fill an open professor position if at least one female candidate is identified on the shortlist. We also insist that at least 25-30% of interview panels are comprised of females. We also do online diversity and gender bias training to challenge people's inherent biases. Finally, my executive board has a 50% gender distribution.” 


Dr. Simon pointed out that gender inequalities still exist at high-impact journals: “It’s very clear that editorial boards are still more favorable to male senior authors than female senior authors.” After recognizing their own gender biases in the world of journal publications, Nature recently implemented a series of internal policies to improve gender equality [29]. While 54% of Nature’s 70 editors are females, it was recognized that only 14% of referees were women. Moreover, only 18% of profiled scientists were women and 19% of externally-written Nature Comment or World View articles were penned by females. In an attempt to progress towards neutrality, prior to commissioning referees, authors, etc., Nature now has its Editors ask themselves “Who are five women I could ask?” While this is a subtle initiative, it should help to combat against the unconscious biases that nearly all people have.

Doug Hilton of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia recently chastised the Australian Academy of Sciences (AAS) for not only having just 8% female membership, but also that in 2013, none of the 37 short-listed candidates were women [30]. Dr. Hilton discussed two options for remedying this situation: (1) prohibit funding to universities or institutes that do not have gender equity plans in place (recommended by the AAS) and (2) allow only one man join the academy for every woman [30]. In a bold move, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) recently announced that it will hold two extra rounds in 2017 and 2018 that will only admit women. This courageous leap was ignited by the fact that 87% of the current 556 members are men [31].

Institutions can help to alleviate some of the stresses associated with being a parent scientist. Dr. Harvey Lodish recently wrote an article describing his experiences mentoring both female and male scientists and he noted that creating a family-friendly atmosphere in the lab and at institutes is crucial to retaining women in science [27]. This of course includes providing easily-accessible and affordable childcare options. As noted by Dr. Hilton [28], institutions can also provide additional family-supportive resources such as designated rooms for breast-feeding/milk production or for small children to play as well as older children to do their homework.

Personal/emotional-based strategies:

When asked, what actionable strategies are needed to promote gender equality, Dr. Bartolomei responded “greater support for woman at all stages, whether it be emotional (help create the perception that women can do this job) or whether there be resources available for families.” Dr. Bartolomei continues, saying that “some female trainees feel that [they] can’t do this job and have a family. I think that you can IF you have a partner who is willing to contribute substantially to the family, home etc.” This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Simon who has “seen male and female partners share the burden and both be extremely successful scientists, so [being a parent scientist] need not be a major problem”. Indeed, the importance of a supportive partner is crucial component to the success of the parent scientist. However, there are certain aspects of the mother-child relationship that cannot be substituted by someone else. Dr. Rall reminds us that “while both men and women have kids, only women carry and deliver babies, and often are the early source of food for them; thus, a working mother’s challenges are different, and more, than a man’s.” Moreover, a female colleague of mine expressed to me “I personally limit my attendance to conferences and seminars away from home to maximize the time I can spend with my children, no matter the quality of the childcare I could get for them when I am away.” Thus, while policies and support are key strengthening components to assisting female parent scientists, the emotional aspects of the mother-child emotional bond must also be considered.
Combatting gender inequality also requires that both females and males acknowledge that gender biases exist as well as be introspective about their own roles in gender imbalances. As pointed out by Dr. Rall, “It’s not, I think, wrong to acknowledge gender (or race, or orientation) differences and how that affects the workplace environment; it’s just wrong to make assumptions about one’s professional capacities based on them. It’s a problem that we as diverse scientists need to solve together”. In fact, acknowledging different behavioral patterns between men and women is key to developing initiatives that promote gender balance. For example, Dr. Enver expresses his anecdotal experience that “women [tend] not put themselves forward for promotion as readily as men” and provided the following scenario: “If promotion has X criteria, men will apply if they meet 1/2 of them. Women won't apply until they meet 100%.” As a result, Dr. Enver says of his institute that “we now have a promotion panel that reviews everyone who is eligible for promotion regardless of whether they apply or not.” Dr. Marella de Bruijn (University of Oxford, UK) cites several studies [32-34] suggesting that “Women and men are both ambitious, but women are more likely than men to value a work-life balance that allows them to pay attention to other interests and commitments too.” Dr. de Bruijn also mentions that “Women tend to get promoted when they already have the skills for the next job, while men tend to be promoted on the basis of their potential. There are some suggestions this is unrelated to them not putting themselves forward.” While Dr. de Bruijn acknowledges that these are generalizations, they do fit her experiences. Another female colleague of mine also believes that difference in gender behavior may also contribute to imbalances: “The intrinsic competitive nature of science (grants, publications…), makes it, in my opinion, more attractive for men in general than it is for women”. Dr. de Bruijn points out that it is also key for women to recognize their strengths: “women can actively contribute by being aware of the specific strengths and unique skills they bring to their department/institute, learn to play to their strengths, and learn to advocate for themselves.”

Personal/emotional support for female scientists often comes from their scientific mentors. Dr. Porcher says that “joining a mentoring scheme” and “planning one’s career at an early stage: making sure data end up in a paper, applying for fellowships” are steps that female scientists need to be particularly pro-active about and this is where mentors play a key role. Choosing a PhD or postdoc mentor is a challenging task for any young scientist. After all, one’s mentor will likely be the person that most-significantly contributes to a junior scientist’s career path – so be sure to make an informed decision. Besides scientific track record, it is also important to consider mentorship record – how many scientists (female and male) has the prospective mentor previously trained and how many went onto to stay in academic science?

Additionally, Dr. de Bruijn comments that “Women (and men) should be actively encouraged to hone their professional skills in their postdoc, to make the transition to a tenure track position easier. This can be ‘on the job’ (supervision, grant writing, etc) and/or by following specific courses. EMBL, for example, has courses for postdocs on how to run a lab, and several places run grant writing courses. In general, career support and encouragement can in many cases be improved.” Dr. Porcher also expressed the importance for women to be proactive about networking, volunteering for committees and opportunities to present, attend international meetings and build collaborations. This is essential to help them increase their visibility. To help young female scientists realize their full potential and maximize their total output to propel their future careers, postdoctoral fellows, Drs. Sanjeevani Arora, Ilsiya Ibragimova, Jacqueline Simonet and graduate student Jennifer Alexander (all of Fox Chase Cancer Center, US) developed their own program, called the Women Love Science Group. This community helps female scientists promote their careers by conducting professional development activities and by providing opportunities to network with women leaders in academic research and in healthcare industry. Programs such as these empower and provide confidence to young female scientists, as well as building networks among female scientists.

In Summary

The goal of this New Investigator’s Digest was to promote the discussion regarding gender imbalances that exist in academic science. It is clear that gender inequalities remain prevalent and our aim here, was to contact fellow scientists to identify some of the root sources of such inequalities as well as present a collection of strategies that are currently being applied/developed to combat such inequalities. There are multiple factors that contribute to gender imbalances and both men and women, as individuals as well as at the levels of government, institution and industry, need to work together to develop actionable strategies to extinguish such inequalities. We hope that this article will raises awareness of such societal discrepancies and helps readers open the discussion and consider ways to achieve gender equality.




First and foremost, we express our thanks and gratitude to all of the interviewees, who have provided such great input regarding this topic. Second, although much of this article is written in the first person, all of the members of the NIC, in one way or another, helped to generate this piece. Special acknowledgments to Heather O’Leary, Sofie Singbrant Söderberg and Adam Wilkinson for editing, and Teresa Bowman and Louise Purton for their wonderful blog series.


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  5. Larivière V, Ni C, Gingras Y, Cronin B, Sugimoto CR. Bibliometrics: global gender disparities in science. Nature. 2013 Dec 12;504(7479):211-3.
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  13. Lewison G, Markusova V. Female researchers in Russia: have they become more visible? October 2011, Vol 89 (1): 139–152.
  14. Pautasso M. The Italian University Habilitation and the Challenge of Increasing the Representation of Women in Academia. Challenges 2015, 6, 26-41
  16. Gupta N. Gender equality in science in India: an undeveloped agenda. Current Science, Vol 109 (1) 10 July 2015.
  17. Correll SJ, Benard S, Paik I. Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? Am. J. Sociol. 112, 1297–1339 (2007).
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  19. Urry M. Scientists must work harder on equality. Nature. 2015 Dec 24/31;258:471-3.
  24. Moss-Racusin CA, Dovidio JF, Brescoll VL, Graham MJ, Handelsman J. Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 9;109(41):16474-9.
  26. Smith KA, Arlotta P, Watt FM; Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering Working Group., Solomon SL. Seven actionable strategies for advancing women in science, engineering, and medicine. Cell Stem Cell. 2015 Mar 5;16(3):221-4.
  27. Lodish HF. Accommodating family life: mentoring future female faculty members. Trends Cell Biol. 2015 Mar;25(3):109-11.
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New Investigator Digest

Posted By Connections Editor, Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Art of a Good Pitch - How to Skillfully Sell Yourself and Your Science

Heather O’Leary, Isabel Beerman, Simon Haas, Sofie Singbrant, and Stephen Sykes

During all stages of the professional progression of a scientific career, from student, to trainee, junior-faculty and onto senior principle investigator, you will be challenged with the task of selling your science and yourself. Whether it is to your peers, interviewers, reviewers or potential donors, you must be able to briefly and effectively convey the nature, conclusions, implications and applications of your life’s work. Therefore, this Connections article is focused on how to expeditiously, and skillfully, sell yourself and your science with some helpful tips from the well-established investigators and talented communicators: Dr. Leonard Zon (Harvard Medical School/ Children’s Hospital Boston) and Dr. Michael Milsom (The Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine/ German Cancer Research Center).

Their first piece of advice was to prepare a few versions of your elevator pitch based on the different subsets of people to whom you may wish to sell your science. In other words, know your audience and gear the information to their level. Dr. Milsom explained: “For example, preparing a talk for the specialist in your field that you may encounter at a meeting would have the expectation of technical language and include the key experimental data that supports your story. However, a broader scientific audience, such as a non-specialist conference, some funding agencies or editorial staff, may require less technical language and additional context about the relevance and potential impact of your work. Finally, the hardest one to compose in terms of effort and preparation, is the educated non-scientist. This could be when dealing with the press, members of the public, or potential donors. Here it is important to break down your key points into non-scientific language and take the time to run your talk past non-scientists friends to make sure you are effectively getting your points across and pitching at the right level”.

Dr. Zon recommended a simple structure to help keep your pitch short and to the point by incorporating 6 key sentences into the talk. “The first sentence should be a broad introduction of the topic to try and inform the audience and get them excited about your work. The second sentence provides the rationale/meaning of your work followed by two sentences of well communicated, quality data. The final two sentences are a summary of the work you have actually completed, and the conclusions you were able to draw from it, followed by the future uses and applicability of those findings.” An example of a pitch following this outline by Dr. Zon about his own research can be found in the following link:

Finally, Dr. Milsom emphasized “It is important to practice, practice, practice. You never know when you are going to need to deliver your pitch so, like a good scout, be prepared!” Dr. Zon also added that “If you are shy, basically get over it. Because this is a skill that you will have to utilize for the rest of your life.”

With this helpful advice from established investigators in mind, we hope that you feel better equipped to more effectively convey yourself, and the value of your work, to a broader audience.

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Recap of the 2016 ISEH Annual Meeting in San Diego

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, October 21, 2016

ISEH Connections: Recap of the 2016 ISEH Annual Meeting in San Diego

Novella Guidi, Daniel Lucas, Sofie Singbrant-Söderberg, Cédric Tremblay and Stephen Sykes


Now that this year’sl International Society forExperimental Hematology (ISEH) Annual Scientific Meeting – held in sunny San Diego, California – has come to a close, we here at the New Investigator’s Committee (NIC) wanted to recap and review some of the highlights, special sessions and the emerging scientific themes of the meeting.


The 1st Annual Pre-meeting workshop

2016 was also the first instance of the ISEH Pre-meeting Workshop. The workshop focused on providing career advice and networking in a more informal setting for graduate students and postdocs. The Pre-meeting was organized by Dr. James Palis and trainees were mentored by senior ISEH faculty. The workshop consisted of two career development talks, student presentations and a poster session. In the first career development talk, Dr. Michael Milsom gave a lecture on “How to Give a Good Talk”. In the second talk, Dr. Nancy Speck provided a retrospective of her own career, the decisions that she made that helped or hindered it, the pitfalls to avoid, and the critical milestones necessary to build a successful career in academia.  


The senior ISEH faculty also selected two trainee talks for presentation at the main meeting in the “Therapeutic Manipulation” session. The first one was by Mathew Angelos from Dr. Dan Kaufman’s lab where he presented his work demonstrating that inhibition of Aryl Hydrocarbon receptor can be used to greatly increase the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into CD34+CD45+ hematopoietic progenitors. The second was by Marta Derecka from Dr. Rudolf Grosschedl’s lab presenting her discovery that the transcription factor Ebf1 functions in mesenchymal progenitor to maintain their ability to support HSC.


The Donald Metcalf Award: Thalia Papayannopoulou (University of Washington, US)

This year’s recipient of the Donald Metcalf Award – presented to distinguished scientists in hematology research – was Dr. Thalia Papayannopoulou. Dr. Papayannopoulou’s historic career as an experimental hematologist has transcended 6 decades and had yielded numerous seminal observations that have helped shape our view of the hematopoietic system. Her extensive research portfolio extends to many facets of hematopoiesis and erythropoiesis, from her role in defining how integrins contribute to hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) biology to her discoveries regarding globin regulation and switching – just to name a few. Her research has enlightened so many in the scientific community and so we say thank you and congratulations to Dr. Papayannopoulou.


Emerging & Continuing Themes in Experimental Hematopoiesis

            The conclusion of Dr. Papayannopoulou’s lecture marked the opening of a festival of exceptional invited speakers and short oral presentations. With over 60 scheduled oral presentations, we observed many new and continuing themes emerging throughout the meeting. In the session (Hematopoiesis I) immediately following the Donald Metcalf Award, Emmanuelle Passagué (University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), US) presented work describing the importance of metabolic switching and autophagy in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) activation, differentiation and return to quiescence. This presentation was complemented by that of Danica Chen (University of California at Berkeley, US) in the Californian Sampler session, who discussed the roles of the mitochondrial unfolded protein and the mitochondrial oxidative stress responses in HSC activation, quiescence and aging.


Mick Milsom (Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine, DE), who also spoke Hematopoiesis I, presented data showing the impact of inflammatory stress on HSC biology. The role of inflammatory cytokines in HSC biology was also the showcase of talks by Katherine King (Baylor College of Medicine, US), Eric Pietras (University of Colorado at Denver, US) and Masayuki Yamashita (UCSF, US).


The continuing trends of HSC aging and the role of the HSC niche were also on display at this year’s meeting. Specifically, talks by Kateri Ann Moore (Mount Sinai, US), Stavroula Kousteni (Columbia University, USA) and Novella Guidi (Ulm University, DE) provided new insights about how HSCs age. And, in a titan-filled session entitled “Niche”, John Chute (University of California at Los Angeles, US) discussed how niche-derived factors influence both normal and malignant hematopoiesis. In the same session, Paul Frenette (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, US) spoke of the role of a specialized Nestin+ niche population in developmental hematopoiesis and Sean Morrison (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, US) used specialized transgenic mice to introduce adipocytes as a niche component that support HSC biology following irradiation.


Several technological advancements were also on display at the 45th annual ISEH meeting. For example, the use of single cell sequencing techniques to address complex hematological and non-hematological questions was a common theme amongst the talks of Lee Grimes (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, US), Peter Lansdorp (BC Cancer Research Centre, CA), Claus Nerlov (University of Oxford, UK) and Fan Zhou (Academy of Military Medical Sciences, CN) as well as the topic of the New Investigators Career Session (discussed below). Konstantinos Kokkaliaris (ETH Zurich, CH) presented a new method for three-dimensional multicolor quantitative imaging of bone marrow niches and François Mercier (Massachusetts General Hospital, US) described the development of a new congenic mouse model for hematological research.


In addition to the many fantastic talks on the regulatory mechanisms governing normal HSPC biology, there were also numerous talks focused on malignant hematopoiesis. In particular, Ulrich Steidl (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, US) presented exciting data showing the role of PU.1 in leukemogenesis as well as a novel strategy for pharmacologically targeting PU.1 in myeloid malignancy. Guy Sauvageau (Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), CA) presented data from the Leucegene project, which aims to identify novel, effective chemotherapies for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by combining RNA-seq data from a large cohort of AML patients with chemo-genomic screens. Irene Baccelli (IRIC, CA) presented the results of a targeted chemical compound screen where specific bioinformatic approaches were applied to identify drug combinations that work in synergy across different sub-types of AML. Several other talks also provided new mechanistic insights with therapeutic implications in hematological malignancies. Specifically, Henny Maat (University Medical Center Groningen, NL) and Anne-Katrine Frank (University of Copenhagen, DK) showed that the Polycomb proteins, USP27 and JARID2, respectively are potential therapeutic targets in leukemia. Sal Lee Goh (MRI-UQ, AU) showed evidence that pharmacological blockade of macrophage colony stimulating factor (CSF-1) may be another possible therapeutic strategy in AML.


The role and potential targeting of epigenetic enzymes in hematological malignancies was discussed in multiple talks. Mark Dawson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, AU) discussed epigenetic therapies currently in early stage clinical trials and also presented a fascinating chemical strategy for tracing the cellular penetration of epigenetic therapies in cells and in vivo. Warren Pear (University of Pennsylvania, US) provided insights on how specialized domains within super-enhancers dictate drug resistance in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). Grant Challen utilized mouse models to show that deletion of Dnmt3a – mutated in ~20% of T-cell malignancies – leads to defects in normal T-cell development and allows progenitors to become more susceptible to NOTCH1-induced T-ALL. Additionally, Patricia Ernst presented data that selectively targeting just endogenous MLL1 in MLL-rearranged leukemia may be ineffective due to the actions of MLL2.


In the realm of myeloid neoplasms and pre-malignant syndromes, Radek Skoda (University Hospital Basel, CH) and Goro Sashida (Kumamoto University, JP) both used sophisticated mouse models to identify the cooperative molecular effects that result from compound genetic mutations that are commonly found in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs).

Additionally, Rafael Bejar (University of California at San Diego, US), Teresa Bowman (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, US) and Carl Walkley (St. Vincent Institute, AU) presented data showing the cellular and molecular consequences of spliceosome mutations – commonly found in MDS and AML patients – on both healthy and malignant HSCs.


The NIC Sponsored events

Sprinkled in amongst the meeting program were three NIC sponsored events, the first of which was the New Investigators Technology Session that focused on the advancements and utilities of single-cell RNA-seq technology in hematological research. This session featured two talks, the first by Bertie Göttgens (University of Cambridge, UK) who discussed platforms and bioinformatic methods for analyzing of single-cell RNA-seq data and the second by Doug Hinerfeld (Fluidigm, San Francisco, US) who discussed the applications for existing Fluidigm systems but also tantalized us with Fluidigm technologies in the pipeline. The second session, the New Investigators Meet-the Expert session, took place on a lovely San Diego evening following the first poster session and provided trainees the opportunity to carry on scientific (and non-scientific) conversations with mavens of the experimental hematology world.


The third and final session was the New Investigators Career Session, which was a jam-packed one-hour that featured talks from Keith Humphries (Experimental Hematology, CA) and Sheila Charia (Cell Stem Cell, US), who both provided advice and insights for submitting manuscripts. The career session also included talks from Gerald de Haan (University Medical Center Groningen, NLD) and James Palis (University of Rochester Medical Center, US), who discussed grantsmanship techniques as well as Terry Bishop (NIDDK/NIH, USA) who provided advice from those within funding agencies.


Special Sunday

The last day of the ISEH meeting was by no means the least. Following a morning of great oral presentations, Sunday concluded with three very special sections.


1.   New Investigator Awards Session: “And the Winner is…”

One of the most important sessions of the annual meeting is the “New Investigator Award Session”, which this year was opened by our invited New Investigator Speaker; Dr. Vijay Sankaran (Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston and the Broad Institute, US). Dr Sankaran started his own laboratory only three years ago, and has already made incredible contributions to the field of hematology through his studies of rare mutations resulting in blood disorders and population based studies of variation in blood cell traits. Dr. Sankaran’s talk included a story on how genetic studies on a young patient with Diamond Black Fan anemia, which in spite of a successful bone marrow transplantation remained transfusion dependent, lead to the identification of a mutated form of the erythroid promoting hormone Erythropoietin (EPO). Elegant mechanistic studies showed that the mutated form of EPO had altered binding kinetics to its receptor, resulting in defective production on red blood cells.


Thereafter, the top scoring abstracts from three PhD students (Sisi Chen – Indiana University School of Medicine, US, Sandra Capellera-Garcia – Lund Stem Cell Center, SE and Marissa Rashkovan – IRCM, CA) and three postdocs (Evgenia Verovskaya – UCSF, US, Benjamin Cao – Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation, AU and Nina Cabezas-Wallscheid – German Cancer Research Center, DE) were presented in a competition for the best PhD and Postdoc presentation, respectively. In fact, all participants selected for this award session were already winners and all received awards named after exceptional scientists in the field of experimental hematology, including personal prize money. However, only one could be tops, and the winner of the Dirk van Bekkum award was PhD student Sisi Chen, who shared her story on how a gain-of-function mutation in p53 disrupts epigenetic pathways, resulting in the development of pre-leukemic HSCs. First prize in the postdoc category, the Eugene Cronkite Award, went to Dr. Evgenia Verovskaya for her studies demonstrating that remodeling of the multipotent progenitor pool directly contributes to blood aging. Congratulations to you both!


2.   Presidential Symposium

As with each annual ISEH meeting the Presidential Symposium was a Hematologist star-studded event, with this year’s event centralizing on hematopoietic development. Nancy Speck (University of Pennsylvania, US) shed new light on the embryonic development of murine HSCs using genome-wide expression and epigenetic analyses. Len Zon’s (Boston Children’s Hospital, US) talk provided new insights about clonal diversity associated with transplantation in Zebrafish. Gordon Keller (University Health Network, US) rounded out the Symposium by improving our understanding of human hematopoietic development with data from pluripotent stem cells.


3.   The McCulloch & Till Award: Benjamin Ebert (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, US)

The final talk of the 2016 ISEH annual meeting was given by Ben Ebert – this year’s recipient of the McCulloch & Till award, which is presented annually to outstanding mid-career scientists in the fields of hematology and stem cells.  Dr. Ebert presented exciting findings from his lab regarding clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) and myelodysplastic syndromes. CHIP is characterized by the presence of clonal acquisition of somatic mutations in hematopoietic cells during human aging, in the absence of cytopenia and dysplasia. This pre-malignant state is associated with an increased risk of developing myeloid or lymphoid neoplasia. Dr. Ebert’s team investigated the mutational profile of samples collected from CHIP patients and examined the phenotypic consequences of these mutations. Using exome sequencing, they identified in CHIP samples a set of common genetic lesions affecting epigenetic regulators, such as DNMT3A, TET2 and ASXL1, which are acquired during the pre-malignant state of other hematological malignancies. The identification of this set of genetic lesions will significantly improve our understanding of CHIP and the molecular mechanisms involved in the progression from this pre-malignant state to neoplasia.


Of note, Dr. Ebert will also be participating in the upcoming ISEH Technology Webinar: Utility of CRISPR/Cas9 Systems in Hematology Research on October 25th, 2016, 13:30 EST. Register at:


Final remarks

Overall the 45th ISEH annual meeting was a success and for our concluding remarks we would simply like to thank the ISEH board of directors, the organizing committees, reviewers, ISEH staff and all of those who attended for making it such a great meeting. We apologize to those whose work we did not have space to acknowledge but we encourage all to check out the entire ISEH program, which can be found at: as well as the late-breaking abstract information, which can be found at:



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New Investigator Digest: A Look Inside the Upcoming 45th Annual ISEH meeting

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, August 19, 2016

A Look Inside the Upcoming 45th Annual ISEH meeting

Isabel Beerman, Novella Guidi, Heather O’Leary, Peter Van Galen & Stephen Sykes

With Summer in full swing, it is time to start turning our attention towards the 45th meeting of the International Society for Experimental Hematology, taking place this year in sunny San Diego, California, August 25-28th. By now many of you who are attending have likely taken a peek at the program (found at:, which promises to deliver a variety of exciting talks and poster presentations. In addition to these presentations, there will be the inaugural Pre-Meeting Workshop on the morning of August 25th, as well as three fantastic sessions sponsored by the New Investigators Committee (NIC): The New Investigator Technology Session midday of August 26th, The Meet-the-Expert Mixer on the evening of August 26th and then The New Investigator Career Session midday on August 27th. Here we have provided you with some details about these upcoming sessions to get you fired up!

The Pre-Meeting Workshop (Thursday, 25 August – 8:00-14:00 PDT) – Plaza ABC
The inaugural pre-meeting workshop is catered for young investigators who will have the opportunity to present their research, network with peers, and perfect their elevator pitch to colleagues. Participants will also have the opportunity to get expert advice from leaders in the field in a relaxed environment. The workshop will include a presentation from Mick Milsom (German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, DEU) on “How to Give a Good Short Talk or "Elevator" Pitch” as well as a keynote address focused on career advice by Nancy Speck (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA). A full run down of the additional workshop events and directions for registering can be found at: In addition, some friendly members of the NIC such as Isabel Beerman, Novella Guidi, Konstantinos Kokkaliaris, Daniel Lucas, Tiago Luis, Mick Milsom, Sofie Singbrant and Cedric Tremblay will be there to answer questions and let participants know more about getting involved with the society.

The New Investigator Technology Session (Friday, 26 August – 12:45-14:00 PDT) – Plaza ABC
Chairs/Organizers: Ayako Ishizu, Heather A. O'Leary and Peter Van Galen
There are many existing intriguing and fundamental questions in the fields of normal and malignant hematopoiesis that have been difficult to address due to technical limitations, such as: When do progenitor cells irreversibly commit to one lineage? Does a sub-population of myeloid-biased HSCs accumulate with age? Is tissue heterogeneity affected by disease? These questions may finally be resolved using single-cell technologies, which is the subject of the New Investigator Committee technology session. This free-of-charge event will feature three 15-minute talks by Doug Hinerfeld (Fluidigm, San Francisco, USA), Colin Brenan (1-Cell, Cambridge, USA) and Bertie Göttgens (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Cambridge, GBR). The speakers will present the strengths and challenges of single-cell RNA-seq as well as discuss state-of-the-art technologies and bioinformatic approaches for transcriptional analyses and provide new insights from analyzing the hematopoietic system at the ultimate level of cellular resolution.

Meet-the-Expert Mixer (Friday, 26 August – 20:15-21:45 PDT) – Plaza ABC
Chairs/Organizers: Novella Guidi, Konstantinos Kokkaliaris and Sofie Singbrant
Do you want to get in touch with leading experts in our field in an informal event? Do you want to share and discuss your science around a table with a fresh drink? Well the meet-the-expert mixer is a fantastic opportunity to break the ice in a great atmosphere! This event will be lead an all-star cast that includes this year’s recipient of the Donald Metcalf Award, Thalia Papayannopoulou (University of Washington, Seattle, USA) as well as this year’s McCulloch & Till awardee Ben Ebert (Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA). Other hematology mavens include Sean Morrison (UT Southwestern, Dallas, USA), Paul Frenette (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NYC, USA), Len Zon (Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA), Emmanuelle Passegue (UCSF, San Francisco, USA), Guy Sauvageau (Université de Montréal, Montréal, CAN), Marella de Bruijn (University of Oxford, Oxford, GBR) and Vijay Sankaran (Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA). The NIC welcomes you to this ticketed event, which at $30 USD is an absolute steal!!!

The New Investigator Career Session (Saturday, 27 August – 11:45-13:00 PDT) – Plaza ABC
Chairs/Organizers: Isabel Beerman, Sofie Singbrant and Cedric Tremblay
Want to wow your next reviewers? If the answer is yes, then join us at this free-of charge-event to get tips on writing grant proposals and manuscript submissions from our expert panel that includes Keith Humphries (Experimental Hematology, CAN), Sheila Charia (Cell Stem Cell, USA), Gerald de Haan (University Medical Center Groningen, NLD), and Terry Bishop (NIDDK/NIH, USA). They will be giving advice on how to get that fundable score on your initial grant submission and how to present that data you generated with your grant money. Additionally, they will be providing pointers for putting together the strongest manuscript for your next journal submission.

For those of you attending this year’s annual meeting, we the members of the NIC look forward to seeing you there and welcome you to these events!

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Becoming an Assistant Professor: Interviewing and Negotiations

Posted By Connections Editor, Thursday, June 16, 2016


Becoming an Assistant Professor: Interviewing and Negotiations

Heather O’Leary, Stephen Sykes, Daniel Lucas, and Michael Milsom

The transition from postdoctoral fellow to faculty member is an exciting time allowing for the establishment of your own laboratory and scientific niche. However, this evolution is preceded by the application, interview, and negotiation processes which can be challenging to navigate. To gain insight into this process, members of the New Investigator Committee (NIC) and I have contacted a panel of investigators who have either recently obtained faculty positions or sit on faculty search committees in order to determine their views on the “make or break points” of a faculty interview and start-up negotiation.

What are the best ways (do's and don'ts) to approach negotiating a contract including startup funds? 

Unanimously, the suggestions converged on how essential it is to be well prepared. For negotiating a startup, this involves understanding what reagents, resources, cores, animals, and equipment are your “must have” items to assure success versus additional items that are helpful, but not essential, for your research. A good starting point is to discuss with new faculty members at your own institution what they asked for to set up their own group. Also examine how much money did you spend per year as a postdoc (salary + core facilities + reagents) to use as a basis to estimate how many projects/people you will be able to support with a given amount of money and to Further, negotiating for specific items or discounts at core facilities instead of money may be beneficial, and clarification of specifics such as payment for major equipment, limitations or contingencies on start-up funds (such as amount, duration of funding, if it remains if you obtain funding, restrictions on funds, etc.) are critical. Ideally, negotiations should be very limited prior to a second visit. Finally, it is important to make sure that everything that is negotiated for is written in the offer letter and that your salary, funding expectations, length of support from department, teaching/service/clinical duties and protected research time are plainly spelled out. It is important to highlight how the money, time, reagents, and resources are important for your research plan.

What were the most valuable things you learned during the interview process?

Many of the faculty that we interviewed said that the most important things that they learned on their interviews were: 1) during your seminar and chalk talk, present a clear picture of your future plans and tailor your presentation to you audience
2) Make sure that all the aims in your proposed project are related but independent and that your experiments are mechanistic, not descriptive..
3) Indicate how your specific aims are based on your own expertise and show how your projects and expertise are a good fit for the program to which you are applying.
4) Although the format of the chalk talk can be variable, it is beneficial to practice a “mock chalk talk” with faculty from your own institution prior to your interview.

The chalk talk provides an opportunity to demonstrate how well you can communicate your science, elaborate on the novelty of your project, highlight how your expertise is an asset to the program and provide the search committee with an idea of what faculty in the department you would learn from and collaborate with. Even if you are not offered the position, a good attitude, and interview, provide you the opportunity to build your network, make new contacts and establish new collaborations.

What CV tips do you have for enhancing a candidates' chance of getting an interview?

Although your CV “is what it is”, to some extent, there are things you can do to enhance the document’s clarity and highlight your achievements. Make sure that it is formatted according to the institution’s requests and proofread for spelling and grammatical errors. Bolding your name to emphasize your author position such as co-first, co-corresponding, or corresponding author can help to ensure that avoid these details are not missed. It is best to make your CV as concise as possible since long documents may dilute out important achievements rather than underscoring them. In addition to publications and funding, highlight honors, awards, and leadership positions may help make you distinguish yourself from other candidates.

What do you look for the most when a candidate is interviewing or what would make you not want to hire a candidate who had a very competitive CV?

The faculty responses clearly showed that it is important to sell yourself as someone who will be a good colleague and collaborator and who has a research program that fits well within the department. You should be prepared to give a clearly conveyed, enthusiastic seminar and be willing to acknowledge the strengths and caveats of your proposed research. Further, the talk should be all encompassing, as far as previous work, and specifically delineate how your program/scientific vision is separate from your postdoctoral mentor(s) and highlight the unique skill set you have to ensure the project can be carried out. Finally, be sure to underscore the high profile nature and funding potential of your research program.

Aspects that will significantly diminish a search committee’s enthusiasm, even a candidates with a very strong CV is being unrealistic about what can be achieved in the start-up period as well as having a weak/unfocused research plan. During informal meetings with faculty it is good if asked questions, to more thoroughly explain your past, present and future work, however, it is critical to show interest in their work including aspects for potential collaboration. Finally, it is critical to remember that at all times you are being evaluated and a candidate that appears arrogant or disparaging of others will not be viewed positively even if they have considerable scientific merit.

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Reviewers Provide Tips for Writing Meeting Abstracts

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, March 25, 2016

Reviewers Provide Tips for Writing Meeting Abstracts

Ayako Nakamura-Ishizu, Heather O’Leary, Cedric Tremblay and Stephen Sykes

The madness of March is coming to a close and we are now 5 months away from the 45th annual International Society of Experimental Hematology (ISEH) meeting in San Diego, USA and the deadline for submitting abstracts is quickly approaching (April 9th, 2016). In an effort to help those of you who are preparing abstracts for this year’s meeting, we contacted a panel of investigators who have previously reviewed abstracts for ISEH as well as other entities such as the American Society of Hematology (ASH) or the European Hematology Association (EHA) and asked them what attributes make for a compelling abstract as well as those that can sink it.

‘As a reviewer, are there certain aspects or attributes that stand out for you in an abstract?’


Novelty & Significance

Novelty and significance are two aspects that were highlighted by several reviewers. For example, Dr. Ann Mullally from the Department of Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital (Boston, USA) says: “I think the same metrics as for grant applications apply: Significance, innovation, novelty.” Mick Milsom of the HI-STEM Institute and German Cancer Research Center (Heidelberg, DE) also said: “As a reviewer, I’m trying to select work that I think will translate into a presentation that will engage and interest the conference attendees. In that context, novelty is clearly something that figures very highly on my list of desirable attributes.”


Andrew Elefanty of the Blood Cell Development and Disease program at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (Melbourne, AU) said that novelty and significance have the potential to separate your abstract from others: “For an oral presentation, I am looking for a story with a clear aim and outcome with sufficient supporting data. Often novelty in the approach becomes a distinguishing criterion, or new information related to a topic in which it has been difficult to make progress.” 


Dr. Margaret Goodell, Director of the Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Center at the Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, USA) comments: “There are no specific attributes, but we all want to learn something new that we did not know before. So think about what is novel, and make it clear to the reader.” Another expert emphasizes: “It is very important to highlight the novelty of your findings, while putting them in the context of what is already known.”


Dr. Karen Keeshan of the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow (Glasgow, UK) suggests that you emphasize the novelty of your abstract: “It is nice to read abstracts that clearly state the current ‘state of the art’ in the field and how the results advance current knowledge, improve an aspect of the state of the art.” When Dr. Hal Broxmeyer of the Program on Hematopoiesis, Malignant Hematology, and Immunology at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center (Indianapolis, USA) reviews an abstract he is looking for answers to the following questions: “Are the studies Meaningful? Relevant? Significant?”


Dr. Goodell says: “I see abstracts as an advertisement for the work – it is something that will bring people to your poster and possibly get the reviewers to want to see more, in inviting you for a talk.”


Dr. Connie J. Eaves of the Terry Fox Laboratory and BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver, CA) echoes this notion saying: “In my view, the most compelling and exciting abstracts are ones that articulate an important problem or question in the field followed by the description of a strategy used to address it and some exciting results that take the field one step further or require current dogmas to be revised.”


Another reviewer underscores the importance of explaining your message: “Explain the unmet need or question your study answers and why we should be excited.” Dr. Steven Lane of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, AU) provides a helpful suggestion for strengthening the significance of your abstract: “Abstracts are rarely long enough to provide detailed data or statistics. However, if you can identify 2-3 key pieces of data and provide basic results including error, n and replicates, the reviewers will have confidence in your results and your scientific rigor.”

Make a Good First Impression

Dr. Claudia Scholl of the NCT Clinical and Translational Research Groups, German Cancer Research Center (Heidelberg, DE) recommends to bring the novelty and significance of your abstract to light in the title: “The title is very important, since people decide whether or not to read the abstract based on the title. It should be as short as possible and convey the key findings.” Dr. Mullally confirms this point saying: “The main thing I look at is the title. I am primarily interested if the topic is interesting and, in particular, if it is novel.” Dr. Scholl also suggests that you close your abstract the same way it begins: “The last one to two sentences should summarize the key message and the significance.”

Provide a Clear and Concise Structure

When asked if there are specific aspects or attributes of an abstract that they are looking for, many of the reviewers gave emphasis to abstract structure. As an example, one reviewer replied: “Structured and clearly written abstract. Briefly address the state of the art, then preliminary work (if applicable), hypothesis (define the specific question that you want to answer) and findings (including specific information on how the experiments were done).”


Dr. Lane is also looking for clear structure: “I think the composition of the abstract is more relevant than any one specific attribute. It's important to identify the problem and provide a clear, but succinct scientific rationale for pursuing this work.” In agreement, Dr. Stefan Fröhling of the NCT Clinical and Translational Research Groups, German Cancer Research Center (Heidelberg, DE) states: “Provide clear structure: specific research question, experimental approach, results, conclusions. Sufficient detail in the Results section combined with an interesting and timely research question and then using innovative and creative experimental approaches are all keys.”


Dr. Keeshan provides a helpful suggestion for abstract structure: “I highly recommend stating what systems (patient samples, mouse primary cells etc.) were used for the findings presented. I prefer to read this as part of the abstract rather than a separate methods section. This way, the description of method/tools is used to sell the results.” Dr. Milsom also suggests: “Try to come up with a clear narrative that runs through your abstract and then be clinical about deciding which data adds to the narrative, and therefore should be included, and which data is irrelevant and should be rejected.”
To ensure your abstract is clear and understandable, Dr. Goodell provides another helpful suggestion: “Clear writing will set your abstract apart. As a trainee, have graduate students from other labs, not working in the field, read the abstract. Ask them: Is it clear why this is important? Is it clear what we have accomplished?”

‘Are there red flags/things that bother you as a reviewer (i.e. pet-peeves)?’

Avoid Being Vague

Many of the responses that we received to this question revolved around abstracts being too vague. Dr. Milsom said: “I’m always a bit concerned when abstracts propose an interesting idea, but are extremely vague about describing their experimental work. I’d always be quite reluctant to award such an abstract an oral presentation slot as I would be worried that they might not actually have much substance to speak about.” Another reviewer expressed concerns with the: “lack of specific information such as properly introducing mouse models; specific information on cell populations investigated such as which population was used for next-generation sequencing (NGS) or global gene-expression profiling (GEP)”. Dr. Eaves also commented on vagueness being a negative: “failure to articulate the question being addressed or its significance and/or an absence of results because experiments have not yet been done or completed.” Dr. Elefanty explains his frustration with a lack of details: “Insufficient data do not enable me to judge the quality and/or the significance of the work.”


Drs. Keeshan and Fröhling both advised to clearly state the results of large experiments such as screens. Dr. Keeshan specifically said: “Expression analyses or big screens that concludes “a difference” but don’t actually state what the difference is or its importance is very disappointing.” Dr. Fröhling’s example was: “Vague description of results: we performed a screen and looked for this and that and will tell you at the meeting what we found.” In line with this, Dr. Lane said: “I also dislike a generic "additional data will be presented" statement. If you have the data, present it.”


Dr. Julie-Aurore Losman of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, US) also warns not to spare on details about controls: “Frequently, in the interest of space, controls that were done to establish the specificity and robustness of the findings are left out. I think this is a bad idea. Including a description of the controls (especially negative controls) can really elevate the level of the abstract.”

The Happy Medium
Although you want to avoid being too vague, Dr. Goodell points out that you can also provide too much detail: “as scientists, we want details and hard core results. So, there is really a “Goldilocks” place where you don’t want so much detail that reviewers get lost, but you want enough for reviewers to believe that you have good and exciting data.” This idea was also conveyed by another reviewer who recommends: “Write enough detail to make your abstract believable and relevant but not too much to bore the reader.”


In fact, several reviewers commented that over-detailing is a big pet-peeve. Dr. Mullally said: “The thing that bother me most is an overly detailed abstract, where you struggle to determine what is the central question the abstract addresses.” Another reviewer also said: “Too much background is another pet peeve if its not relevant enough.” To avoid over-detailing Dr. Milsom recommends: “to focus on your key experimental findings and make sure you convey their meaning in a clear manner than to try and show off the body of work that you have performed by including a (poor) description of every experiment you have ever done.”


Another subtlety that can annoy reviewers is abstracts that violate limits. Dr. Keisuke Ito of the Department of Cell Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, USA) says: “We sometimes see abstracts that are too long, but its length or format must conform to the guidelines.” Dr. Elefanty echoed this response saying: “Abstract word counts vary - stick within the limits!”

Let the Results Tell the Story
Another no-no that should be avoided is over-interpreting the results of the studies. Dr. Losman laments her experiences with over-interpretation: “I see far too many correlative studies that beautifully demonstrate a particular finding and then the authors make huge assumptions about the mechanistic basis for the correlation without having done any real biochemical or functional studies.” Dr. Ito also commented: “In some abstracts, it is unclear how the conclusions are supported by the findings described. It should be clarified well.” Dr. Broxmeyer is also bothered by over-interpretation and insufficient data: “Weak data; not enough replicates, misinterpretation of the results, extending conclusions beyond what the data shows.” He also adds: “Just be clear and keep the conclusions and interpretations consistent with the data obtained.”


Dr. Eaves also warns not to get too over-enthusiastic about certain data: “Usually, trainees who are excited about their findings will convey that excitement but over-interpreting findings should also be avoided. The possibility that the methods used and/or the data obtained do not eliminate other interpretations or conclusions is also a frequently overlooked negative.”

Watch Your Spelling and Language
Before submitting your abstract, we recommend that you have multiple colleagues review it for grammatical errors. Dr. Eaves says: “Poor English is a negative” and Dr. Mullally adds: “Obviously, spelling errors, poor grammar, tiny figures etc. are all very annoying red flags.”


Both Drs. Fröhling and Scholl are not impressed with bombastic language using words such as: ‘striking’, ‘tremendous’, ‘interestingly’ or phrases such as ‘we discovered for the first time’. Dr. Elefanty also recommends avoiding: “Abbreviations or jargon that render the work difficult to understand for the non expert.”

So as you are preparing/finalizing your abstracts for submission, we recommend that you consider the following factors:
1. Establish a clear and concise narrative that appropriately conveys the novelty and significance of your results.
2. Make sure the title reflects the importance of your studies.
3. A great abstract is structured: Significance (i.e. what is the outstanding question), Methods, Results and Concluding remarks that sum up the results.
4. Deliver sufficient detail/results (including controls, replicates and possibly statistics) without being excessive.
5. Do not over-interpret or embellish results.
6. Be sure to have other people review your abstract for both grammatical errors and clarity.

Hopefully, this article will be of help to those of you who are planning to submit an abstract to the upcoming ISEH meeting (submission deadline, April 9th). Good Luck!

We thank all of our interviewees for their input and help.

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Scientific leaders discuss emerging trends and technologies in experimental hematology

Posted By Connections Editor, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Scientific leaders discuss emerging trends and technologies in experimental hematology 


With each passing year, the number and magnitude of scientific breakthroughs in hematological research seem to increase. 2015 was no exception as numerous outstanding studies were published, so many that to only name a few would be unjust. These advances have not only paved the way for developing future therapies and technologies but they will also shape the scientific trends and avenues of investigation for the coming years. As members of the ISEH New Investigator Committee, we wondered what scientific themes and technologies will become vogue in the fields of normal and malignant hematopoiesis in the near future. We therefore asked leaders from our field what topics they foresee will emerge in 2016 and beyond.

Many of the experts that we spoke with emphasized that exciting developments are expected on several fronts. Past ISEH president Paul Frenette (The Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA) replied: "I don’t think there is a single area but many areas that are being transformed. Our understanding is in constant evolution and the pace is very exciting with the rapid technological innovations (genetic engineering, sequencing, imaging, etc.).”

Dr. Iannis Aifantis (Langone Medical Center, New York University, USA) also displayed excitement saying: “This is the best time in blood research and obviously the most exciting time to be a hematologist. We have witnessed astonishing development in the treatment and understanding of blood malignancy.” Dr. Aifantis went on to emphasize that multiple areas are emerging in malignant hematopoiesis: “Obviously, immunotherapy is becoming one of the most exciting fields. We should not forget that CAR T cells were introduced first in blood tumors with amazing outcomes. Targeted therapies are also here to stay with a huge amount of studies testing compounds that can target the epigenome in blood malignancies, including BET, DOT1L, DNMT inhibitors to mention just a few. As we enter the “metagenomic” era we will see novel areas to open, including the study of 3D genome topology and the role of long non coding RNAs in blood cancer initiation, progression and treatment.” Dr. Jonas Larsson (Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy, Lund University, SWE) also hinted to the emergence of ncRNAs: "A fundamentally new mechanism of gene regulation mediated by non-coding RNAs."

Gene Editing
A major contributor to the acceleration of any scientific field is technology and one technology that is revolutionizing biology is gene editing. Dr. Margaret Goodell (Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, Baylor College of Medicine, USA) remarks: "CRISPR will transform hematology research. I think even for primary cells, it is just around the corner and it will change the way we do a lot of things.” Dr. Louise Purton (St. Vincent’s Institute for Medical Research, University of Melbourne, AUS) also agrees that the application of gene editing technology will continue to move hematological research forward: “A focus on CRISPR/Cas9 technology and getting it to work properly in human cells and thus leading to gene therapy in future”. Dr. Keith Humphries (Terry Fox Laboratory, University of British Columbia, CAN) also predicts that gene editing will play a large role in the development of new models for normal and malignant hematological research: “I think even a fairly cloudy crystal ball will accurately predict that "next generation" gene editing will revolutionize much of experimental hematology. "Simple" gene insertion using lentiviral vectors and traditional gene knockout/knockin methods will seem so old school compared to accurately placing a gene of interest into a safe harbour or engineering a specific mutation or knockout/knockin using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. And all of this will be possible in primary cells, such as hematopoietic stem cells, and open up unprecedented ways to create disease models, study gene function and carry out complex screens.”

While it is clear that gene editing will have huge impacts on both hematological research and therapy, Dr. David Scadden (Center for Regenerative Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, USA) anticipates that: “new solutions to old problems of efficient mobilization, engraftment and conditioning will emerge and help deliver on the promise of gene editing technologies." This sentiment was also echoed by Dr. Derrick Rossi (Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department, Harvard University, USA) who offered that: “In order to fully realize the therapeutic potential offered by gene therapy and gene editing, methodologies for preparing patients for transplantation that don’t rely on chemotherapy or irradiation — that are associated with significant collateral damage — need to be developed."

Single cell analysis
Several experts emphasized the need for techniques for improving our ability to carry out single cell analysis. Dr. Hartmut Geiger (Institute for Molecular Medicine, University of Ulm, DEU) comments: “Will there be a post-omics time? A lot of mid- and high throughput data collecting approaches that we currently apply are weak with respect to taking dynamics and spatial distribution into consideration. We urgently need novel post-omics approaches that will allow us to address regulatory mechanisms in space and time, which will comprise exciting novel developments in single cell stem cell biology.” Dr. Marella de Bruijn (Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, GBR) adds: “The increasing sophistication with which molecular processes can be analyzed at the single cell level will greatly facilitate our understanding of cell fate decisions during the birth of the hematopoietic system.”

Dr. Ravi Majeti (Division of Hematology & Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine, USA) also commented on the importance of single cell analytic tools: “I think one of the next hot/big topics or technologies that will emerge in malignant and normal hematopoiesis is the investigation of subclonal epigenetic heterogeneity. The concept of subclonal genetic heterogeneity has been extensively investigated over the last few years using next generation sequencing and genomic technologies. The use of single cell RNA-seq has advanced studies of single cells and revealed a great amount of heterogeneity within functionally-defined cell populations. The development of low cell/single cell methodologies to characterize epigenetic features will enable the investigation of subclonal epigenetic heterogeneity over the next few years. This will allow the field to examine the role such heterogeneity plays in hematopoiesis and hematologic malignancies.” Dr. Atsushi Iwama (Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Chiba University, JPN) adds: “Although already noticed, application of single cell RNA sequencing to the hematological malignancies without specific selection markers is a really powerful approach to unravel the whole picture of the diseases.”

Dr. Cristina Lo Celso (Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, GBR) predicts: “In the next few years I expect that we will start making sense of the heterogeneity we observe and especially of the 'noise' that single cell analyses invariably bring up to light. This will no doubt exponentially increase our understanding of the haematopoietic system and inform the development of novel and more successful curative and preventative therapies.”

The contribution of HSCs to long-term and clonal hematopoiesis
In 2015, several publications shed new insights into clonal hematopoiesis and the contribution of HSCs and MPPs to long-term hematopoiesis in mice, which have provoked interest from some of our experts. Dr. Len Zon (Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department, Harvard University, USA) remarks: "I think that understanding clonal hematopoiesis (including establishment of long term progenitors) is a new area that is really developing." Dr. Purton predicts: “We will revisit the concept of HSC and MPPs and what really are the cells that are most useful in steady-state and therapeutically- both in mouse and human. I think the Sun and Busch Nature papers from 2015 are starting to challenge our concepts of these cells.” Dr. Toshio Suda (The Cancer Science Institute Singapore, National University of Singapore, SPG) points out that: “Steady state hematopoiesis is different from hematopoiesis in emergency under the stress such as BMT [bone marrow transplant] and inflammation. Thus, BMT might be not a real functional HSC assay. We should clarify the difference of [these two states] from the various aspects of cell cycle, niche and cytokines.”

Dr. Scadden also highlights that, “Defining how heterogeneous populations of stem and progenitor cells respond to physiologic challenges and change with age will give us new insight into how the system produces what we see as the hematopoietic response.” Dr. Scadden continues: “Clonal diversity in hematopoiesis will emerge as a basis for declining immune function and increased inflammation related disease with age. This will become a topic of therapeutic interest.”

The HSC Niche
The hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche has been a hot topic since Richard Schofield first put forth his hypothesis in 1978 that HSCs are influenced by their surrounding cellular microenviroment. However, there has been a recent explosion of papers redefining the HSC niche and based on the responses from several experts this trend will continue. Dr. Frenette believes that: “a greater understanding of the microenvironment will be transformative.” In agreement, Dr. Hartmut Geiger (Institute for Molecular Medicine, University of Ulm, DEU) points out that: “HSCs and stem cell niches are like Siamese Twins. We will, over the next decade, better understand the regulatory networks of interactions [between HSCs and the niche] and how they influence each other reciprocally in health and disease, in addition to novel information on localization of niches and stem cells. This will start a new paradigm for stem cell biology in general, and hematopoietic stem cells will be again at the forefront.” Hartmut Geiger also hints: “Maybe there will be also a focus on HSCs niches outside bone marrow.”

Dr. Scadden indicates that a clearer definition of the HSC niche will also contribute to the development of novel therapeutics: “Heterogeneity in hematopoietic cells is likely to be paralleled by heterogeneity in cells comprising the niche and matching those populations will help us understand how blood production is governed and may be manipulated for therapy or corrupted by disease. Dr. Purton also discusses the relationship between the HSC niche and therapy: “A better understanding of how haematopoiesis is regulated by microenvironment cells will lead to new therapies to manipulate haematopoiesis in vivo - we are getting there but still have a lot to learn.”

HSC Aging and Disease
The observation that HSC-derived hematological malignancies commonly arise in older individuals has fueled the study of aging HSCs. This trend will continue in the near future according to Dr. Gerald de Haan (Department of Stem Cell Biology, University Medical Center Groningen, NLD): “We will see the emergence of multiple papers delineating the epigenetic changes that occur in hematopoietic stem cells as they develop and age, and will witness how these changes are brought about and how they may contribute to clonal dominance. In addition, the relevance, or irrelevance, of assessing clonal hematopoiesis in aged mice or humans will become apparent.” Dr. Iwama also mentioned that: “Epigenomic alterations in aged HSCs could be a hot topic in association with the pathogenesis of age-related hematological malignancies.”
In addition to epigenetics in aging HSCs, Dr. Geiger suggests that models for studying aging hematopoiesis in disease will emerge in the next few years: “Diseases in Hematology are usually diseases of older adults. Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) for example is a classical HSC-driven disease and most patients are 70 years and older. An emerging innovative trend we will see in the next couple of years is the development of disease models in aged model organisms.”

The Progression of Pre-leukemia to Overt Leukemia
The advent of next-generation sequencing has resulted in a surge of newly identified mutations in hematological malignancies such as myelodyplastic syndrome (MDS), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and many others. Dr. Benjamin Ebert (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA) comments that we are on the verge of understanding how these mutations contribute to the leukemogenic process: “Large-scale genetic studies have identified many mutations that are associated with hematologic diseases, but the molecular consequences of most of these lesions are poorly understood. In the coming years, mechanistic insights into the activity of human disease genes will inform the basic biology of hematopoiesis and lead to the development of novel therapeutics.”

The emergence of pre-leukemic clones have provided new insights into leukemogenesis and Dr. Ross Levine (Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA) says that now it is time to take it to the next level: “New studies into the factors, which govern progression from pre-leukemic states to overt hematologic malignancies, and the development of therapies, which might be used to target pre-leukemic states which can be tested pre-clinically and then subsequently in the clinic, as a first example of true preventative medicine in hematology.” Dr. Suda provides his insight into factors that could contribute to the development of frank leukemia: “Age-related diseases such as MDS and CLL should be analyzed by the accumulation of DNA damage in HSCs. It will be interesting to see how pre-leukemic clones will develop to overt leukemia.

Human HSC biology
For years the mouse has provided a stellar model for studying HSC biology, whereas comparable assays in human HSCs has lagged. However, Dr. Stefan Karlsson (Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy, Lund University, SWE) suggests that advances in human HSC biology are coming on strong: “One area that could be important in the coming years is human hematopoiesis. John Dick’s recent work, improves substantially the possibility to purify/enrich human HSC and progenitors and this may make it possible to perform better molecular studies and even functional studies of human HSC.”

Paul Frenette also commented: “I hope to see in my lifetime the development of protocols to make expandable and functional HSC from ES cells. Dr. Hal Broxmeyer (Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine, USA) suggests that: “Generation of human engrafting HSCs from pluripotent cells (such as ESC and iPSC) in numbers and functional capacity so that they can be used clinically for transplantation” is on the horizon as well as a “means to expand HSCs without expansion of other cell types and more in depth understanding of HSC self-renewal, proliferation, and migration at a molecular level”.

Between the novel insights that have resulted from recent publications to the emerging trends/technologies that have been discussed here, echoing Dr. Aifantis it is indeed an exciting time to be a hematologist. In fact, Dr. Humphries exclaimed: “I wish I were starting my career today!” While we consulted expert hematologists to identify emerging scientific trends Dr. Suda emphasizes that: “Trends should be cultivated and made by the strong interest of young investigators!! When you just ride on the apparent trend, it may be too late.”

We would like to thank all of the experts who participated in this article – we are deeply appreciative.
Written by: Stephen Sykes & Peter Van Galen
Edited by: Mick Milsom & Sofie Singbrant Söderberg
Quotes obtained by: All NIC members

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ISEH 47th Annual Meeting - Los Angeles, CA

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