Letter from the Director

Dr. Keith Wilkinson

Originally published December 1, 2015

Welcome to the GDBBS newsletter! This will be my last Letter from the Director as I have decided to step down after thirteen years and turn the reins over to someone else. As I reflect on my years of service as the Director of the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences I am most grateful for the respect and cooperation of thousands of students, faculty members, and University administrators. Equally important has been the financial support provided by the Laney Graduate School, research grants from the NIH, and numerous training grants and individual fellowships that our community has obtained. In fact, we top the nation in the number of F31 individual NRSA awards from the NIH, an incredible achievement attributable in large part to the courses in grant writing to which all students now have access.

Many other significant events have come to fruition during my tenure:

  • this newsletter;

  • the establishment of the annual Division Student Advisory Council Graduate Research Symposium;

  • the addition of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program;

  • the move of the Nutrition and Health Sciences program to the School of Public Health;

  • the founding of the Student Career Seminar series to showcase the successes of our graduates and inform our trainees;

  • reorganizing Early Start to fund incoming students to do a summer research rotation;

  • consolidation of the Graduate Program Coordinators into one office providing strong professional support for students and faculty;

  • and a complete redesign and implementation of our GDBBS Database, used to track student progress and outcomes, as well as to prepare the required training tables for NIH T32 grant applications.

Finally, two other developments have enriched the graduate experience for our trainees; the increased emphasis on diversity and the expansion of professionalization and career awareness opportunities. Three years ago we established the STEM Research and Career Symposium, a national meeting that brings over a hundred underrepresented students and their advisors to campus for a two-day research symposium. It is rapidly becoming a premier event for these students and encourages them to consider graduate studies, hopefully at Emory. We also sponsor several of these undergraduates for Summer Undergraduate Research at Emory (SURE) and support 32 underrepresented graduate and undergraduate students with fellowships and scholarships from our NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD). As a consequence of these and other efforts our graduate programs now admit 20% of their incoming students from demographic groups that are underrepresented in the sciences. Once our students arrive at Emory they have many opportunities that go beyond standard research training. Students assess their career directions using electronic resources such as MyIDP, MentorNet and the BioCareer Center. They incorporate career planning with an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that they develop and discuss at each dissertation committee meeting. Finally, thirty to forty students and postdoctoral fellows each year undergo extensive exposure to careers and have an opportunity to do internships in their chosen career area sponsored by our NIH-funded Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program.

It has been exciting times to lead our GDBBS graduate programs, even if it feels like herding cats at times. I will miss it and hope that my successor enjoys the same support, encouragement and satisfaction that I have experienced. Thank you.