From White Water Rafting to Innovation in South Africa: The Best of the BEST program

Jessica Coates

With the first cohort of students completing their internships, the BEST program here at Emory has a lot to share. During this past summer students got the opportunity to experience a wide array of activities from drug development in South Africa to white water rafting to build confidence. As a part of their summer experience, four BEST scholars continued the 8 year tradition of working South African inventors to strategize for new technologies to propel African life sciences and promote health innovation. For those who didn’t participate in the South Africa excursion, they faced a unique challenge of white water rafting on the Ocoee River. Scholars described the adventure as challenging and forcing them to overcome their fears and prevail. 

   The BEST (Broadening Experience in Scientific Training) program was established as an initiative to expose graduate students to careers outside of traditional academia. Graduate students are invited to apply to the BEST program in their third year of graduate school. As participants in the program, students are required to attend seminars associated with career tracks in entrepreneurship, communication, and outreach to name a few. As students progress throughout the curriculum, they gain valuable career advice and even the opportunity to get hands on experience in alternative career tracks.

   I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Elizabeth Zoeller and gain a first hand account of all BEST has to offer its scholars. Upon hearing about all the BEST program had to offer from Dr. Bill Rice, GDBBS alumnus and donor, she didn’t hesitate to become involved with the program. Only having been exposed to

the traditional academic career path, she was leery to pursue graduate school because she didn’t envision herself spending a lifetime as a professor.

Once she heard about the BEST program, she immediately applied so she could learn about career options more fitting to her personality. When asked to sum her experience with the BEST program, Elizabeth feltthe word “enlightening” was the best to describe her time with the BEST program because she’s been able to learn so much about career opportunities and career development. She credits the BEST program with her growth and development as a scientist and future career professional. Participation in the program has allowed her to not only learn about her own potential but also what skill set she possesses and how to utilize those skills to propel her career path.

   The growth and experiences she’s gained doesn’t stop there. Elizabeth commends the BEST program because it has given her the opportunity to network and build communities with other students. Having differing career interests from the majority of students could be a bit isolating. However, through participating in the BEST program Elizabeth now has a sense of community to know that she is not alone. Based on her wonderful experience with the BEST community, she encourages other students to become involved with the program. For anyone interested in learning more about the BEST program, don’t hesitate to visit their website ( or contact Tammi Hutto at The BEST program also releases periodic magazines ( showcasing all the wonderful endeavors their students have embarked upon in the past semester.