Developing Trainees, Expanding Horizons

  • 5 October, 2018

I take seriously my responsibility to support and nurture future generations of stem cell scientists. Indeed, it is critical for all of us in this evolving field to help trainees and others coming up in the field, to ensure they have opportunities to learn, grow, make connections, and share their science.

The ISSCR shares this focus. For example, I was impressed to learn about the important role of the society in the personal and professional lives of women stem cell leaders featured in Women in Stem Cell Science, Part I, a Voices feature in September’s Stem Cell Reports. In short narratives and video interviews, these scientists recount how they began and then advanced their careers, and the role the society has played in connecting them to mentors, colleagues, and opportunities to speak and present throughout their careers. [The series continues with Part II this month].

Benefits of Constant Self-Renewal*
Trainees and young scientists are the beneficiaries of an ever-evolving field for which change is the greatest constant. Opportunities to learn and grow are ever important. As stem cell research rapidly advances, new tools and technologies are transforming how we do our work. We see the adoption of new techniques and methods accelerating the pace of discovery and progress toward the clinic like never before. The continuum between basic research in academia and advances in industry is striking and ever more important. This is particularly so as the biotech industry is burgeoning, bringing more medicines to patients.

To keep pace, the society is undertaking strategic planning to anticipate future areas of growth and adjust our programs and events to accommodate the needs of scientists entering the field. The ISSCR is well-positioned for this effort and has called on leaders and members across the organization to provide feedback in their areas of expertise. We expect their recommendations will be considered in the next few months, and we hope to set a direction and begin implementing some of the ideas as early as next year. We welcome your thoughts and ideas at

New Annual Meeting Opportunities
As the premier professional stem cell gathering in the field, the annual meeting is an ideal setting to address new trends and directions, and to assist new and younger members with professional development. The 2019 meeting in Los Angeles will feature young researchers and emerging science in new ways. The Program Committee, chaired by Marius Wernig, has carefully blended presentations by leaders in the field with presentations of cutting-edge research coming out of labs around the world.

Poster_Teaser_2017_2ISSCR 2019 will feature 112 abstract-selected speakers and presenters, and 15 of them will be selected to present their science in plenary sessions alongside more seasoned researchers in each subject area. The goal is to showcase young talent and new ideas, while providing opportunities for young researchers to grow and build their professional portfolios. Researchers at any stage can do a transformative experiment that changes what we know and how we think about biomedicine. The next important experiment or advance may well be uncovered in an ISSCR meeting session.

In my experience it is gratifying to learn new ideas and approaches from the next generation, and I look forward to having young trainees take the stage to present their work before the largest collection of stem cell professionals in the world. The annual meeting is exactly the right platform to share important learnings from our colleagues at all career levels; I’m hoping it will reinvigorate us all and motivate presenters to highlight their best research. 

Sharing Science BroadlyPlenary
In 2019, the annual meeting plenary session format will be slightly different than in the past, with a goal of connecting people in new ways, across stem cell disciplines. Plenaries will be organized around tissue type, with speakers representing a variety of scientific approaches: molecular, cellular, animal model, and clinical-based in each area. This new format showcases the diversity of science and we hope will broaden understanding and expand horizons. By introducing scientists to new research areas outside their usual scope, we hope to inspire new insights and break through some of the accepted dogmas to find new possibilities.

With the field at the leading edge of biomedicine, the annual meeting is more important than ever as a place for scientists and clinicians to explore fundamental stem cell science and collaborate with colleagues on applying research findings to treat disease. Trainees have excellent opportunities to learn about the science, be exposed to new applications, and make connections with colleagues and mentors who will be important for years to come.

We hope you will mark your calendar for 26-29 June in Los Angeles and join us for exciting and innovative stem cell science.

Douglas Melton
ISSCR President, 2018-2019

* In this video, ISSCR founder Leonard Zon talks about his vision for the society--constant self-renewal.