Alumni Spotlight: August 2017 – Dr. Sonia Hall

Dr. Sonia Hall

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Dr. Sonia Hall
Class of 2015: Department of Molecular Biosciences

What is your area of study?

I received my degree in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the Department of Molecular Biosciences under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Ward.

What is your current career or position title?

I am the Director of Engagement and Development for the Genetics Society of America (GSA), a scholarly society committed to supporting the next generation of geneticists. The GSA provides leadership and professional development training for graduate students and postdocs and promotes interaction among an international community of geneticists.
What do you do?

In my role, I design and develop innovative programs to address the needs, interests, challenges, and concerns of our community of scientists. Some of these programs are conducted remotely, which allows participants to develop professional skills while not having a negative impact on research productivity. Other programs take place at our national and international meetings where scientists are gathered to share their most recent scientific discoveries, again a benefit to research productivity. My understanding of the importance of time efficient professional development opportunities is deeply rooted in my graduate experience at the University of Kansas.
As a Jayhawk, my graduate advisor encouraged students in the lab to build a strong professional portfolio, by participating in competitive and novel programs.  He also made it clear how these experiences were important for our success as scientists. What I learned through my experiences at KU, advocating on Capitol Hill, organizing professional development programs, and serving in a national leadership position, was that I was perfectly poised to have an impact on more than just my own professional development because I really understood the challenges that existed in the scientific community. This lens, through which I view the scientific community, is critical for my current position.

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What does your typical day look like?

I spend time reading through the scientific literature each day. I’m excited by the advancements and discoveries – this reinvigorates my commitment to advancing the scientific enterprise every morning. It is important that I am continuously aware of the changing landscape, not only of discovery but also, of policy, workforce development, and business. Because of this, I do a fair amount of reading – which speaks to my scholarly interests. But, I also have many conversations within and outside of the scientific community. I’m fortunate that in my role that I have a service aspect that allows me to serve on a few steering committees – dedicated to early career scientist professional development. I also have a virtual open office door for early career scientists and colleagues – via Skype. All of these activities allow me to keep my finger on the pulse of the community. If a concern or need arises, I typically hear about it through my “office door.”
In addition to being in touch with what’s happening, I spend quite a bit of time doing project management tasks related to programs in progress or under development. I really enjoy this aspect of my position – thinking about the project life cycle, organizational influences, resource allocation, time management, quality assurance, and stakeholder engagement. I really depend upon my ability to think like a scientist during these activities. I have to be very analytical and consider how all of the working parts sync together.

What is your favorite aspect of your job/career?

My absolute favorite aspect of my job is helping others succeed. It is very rewarding to advocate for and build programs to address the needs, interests, challenges, and concerns of stakeholders – and to then see these efforts lead to successful outcomes.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

During your graduate work, find ways to get involved and become a leader in your community. These experiences will take you very far in your career and can also help you sculpt your own career.
Also, never forget the individuals that contributed to your success. Find ways to give back to those communities that have invested in you. We are stronger together.
Learn more about Dr. Hall and the GSA’s Early Career Scientist Leadership and Professional Development Program here!