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Making connections

Science, Medicine networking event helps grow research productivity


By Kelly Foss

Faculty members in Science and Medicine came together recently for a special networking event.

For the first time, researchers in both units sat down to discuss their individual areas of research and possible opportunities to work together.

The idea came about when Dr. Proton Rahman, associate dean of research with the Faculty of Medicine, met with Dr. Len Zedel, associate dean of research and graduate studies with the Faculty of Science, to consider potential opportunities for collaboration between the two faculties.

Potential partners

“At the meeting, Dr. Rahman indicated that Medicine was hoping to foster links between Science and clinical researchers in the Faculty Medicine in particular,” said Dr. Zedel. “As we talked, the scope of opportunities was not really clear to me, and, I suspect, either of us. I could identify some obvious faculty members or departments that might have interest, but it seemed somewhat inappropriate for me to identify potential partners.”

He suggested they invite all faculty to a “connector event” instead and, to gauge interest, discussed the idea with department heads in the Faculty of Science. Their response was beyond his expectations, says Dr. Zedel, with interest from virtually all units—including some he hadn’t anticipated to hear from at all.

Dr. Len Zedel welcomes researchers at the connector event.
Dr. Len Zedel welcomes researchers at the connector event.
Photo: HSIMS

Dr. Zedel stresses the collaboration was initiated by Medicine, but any time there are collaborations across disciplines, it opens up new opportunities for research in new areas.

“By facilitating such collaborations, we grow research activity and productivity in the university as a whole,” he said.

The format of the event saw presentations on a mix of research projects that spanned basic sciences, clinical research, community-based projects and more. Researchers from both faculties give short, minute-and-a-half talks using one Powerpoint slide to highlight important points. At the conclusion, presenters mingled and made their own arrangements for followup discussions.

Overwhelming success

Dr. Rahman says the event allowed the two faculties to share a lot of valuable research information in a very short amount of time.

“I was impressed by the breadth of people who came,” said Dr. Rahman. “There was a wide mix of people from very different areas of research. We weren’t expecting full-on research projects to come out of it, per se, but the event was held to provide a chance for people to connect.

“We now have an opportunity for more focused programs in the future, and we’re still looking at future themes and ideas to incorporate. One possible area is examining qualitative and quantitative research.”

Both parties consider the event an overwhelming success.

“I was a bit unsure about the short presentations, but, the room had energy, almost a party atmosphere.” –Dr. Len Zedel

“Many attendees were surprised by the range of research happening at Memorial, and many didn’t know what others were doing,” said Dr. Rahman. “Even within the Faculty of Medicine, we have many areas of research – clinical, biomedical and community health and humanities – yet many of our researchers are not aware of each other’s passions and projects.”

“I was a bit unsure about the short presentations, but, the room had energy, almost a party atmosphere,” added Dr. Zedel. “After the formal presentations, there was no real need to structure the group. People stood around at the refreshments table and chatted with old and new acquaintances for about an hour and then slowly drifted away.”

A number of linkages

Both associate deans say feedback since then has been overwhelmingly positive with researchers suggesting it be done again with different faculties, or even networking events for those just within their own faculties.

“I am already aware of two immediate efforts at collaboration that arose even before the meeting,” said Dr. Zedel. “I’m not aware of exactly how many linkages have been formed since, but I’m sure there have been a few. Even myself, who was there more as a bystander, actually established a potential teaching collaboration through the process!”

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