From Micro-communities to Macro-communities: GIVE Program Keeps on Giving

By Erica Bizzell, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics ‘17

GIVE 1.jpg

            Since its start in 2008, the GIVE (GDBBS Involved in Volunteerism at Emory) organization has provided students with opportunities to expand beyond the molecular world into the communities outside the walls of their labs.  Buried under scientific literature and experiments, it can become difficult for graduate students to dedicate time to address other pressing needs of the world. However, some students within the GDBBS are actively addressing these needs right here in the neighborhoods of Atlanta. Through the wide variety of volunteer efforts organized by GIVE, not only graduate students but also alumni can work side by side in community enrichment.

            One of the greatest aspects of GIVE is that it is an SGA-sponsored, student-run organization.  This means that graduate students who are passionate about volunteering have the opportunity to devote some of their time outside of lab to coordinating and participating in numerous GIVE events throughout the semester. I recently sat down with current GIVE vice president, Rachel Turn, and former GIVE president and current member, George Inglis. Rachel Turn is in her third year of BCDB studying in the lab of Dr. Richard Kahn, and George is in his fourth year of GMB studying in the lab of Dr. Andrew Escayg. Both provided me with not only more insight into GIVE but also their personal thoughts on the benefits of being involved with the organization.

What motivated you to become involved with GIVE?

Turn: I’ve been so lucky with the life that I’ve been given that it’s only fair that I should be giving to other people as well.

Inglis: I was looking for something new to try, so I went to one of the meetings.  Everyone was very passionate about GIVE and about service, so I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

What types of volunteer activities are organized by GIVE?

Turn: We basically do every kind that you can think of.  We work with animal shelters, with Trees Atlanta helping to restore the forest, at the Children’s hospital with kids, as well as teaching at name it.  The biggest thing that I love about GIVE is [that] we’re not limited.  If anyone has a vision or a passion that they care about, we’re willing to help with it.

Inglis: One of the more notable things that we’re proud of as an organization is our long-standing collaboration with Fernbank Science Center.  We’ve been invited every other month or so to go, and we help with whatever the master gardeners there may need. We try to have a mix of indoor activities and outdoor activities.  We reached out last year to Perkerson Park, which is an accredited part of the beltline project.  We weed, plant flowers, and things like that.  We’ve gone to Furkids, we do a toy drive for Toys for Tots every winter, we’ve been to Hope Lodge a few times, and we’ve also worked with the DeKalb library system.

Which event(s) is your favorite?

Turn: GIVE day. Because we’re able to work at 4-5 different sites all over Atlanta.  We do it once a semester.  It’s a way to make everybody passionate because there are totally different events for different people.  What I most like doing is a tie between working with kids and working outside.  I really love Habitat for Humanity.

Inglis: The one that I’m the most partial to is when we volunteer at Furkids animal shelter in Alpharetta.

What is the average number of volunteers at a GIVE event?

Inglis: Around 10 people at individual events and around 25-30 people on GIVE day split across multiple events.

How has your involvement with GIVE added to your graduate school experience?

Turn: It helps me to be a better leader.  [I’ve realized] that a true leader is not someone who bosses you around.  A leader works with you.  Their hands are also in the dirt working with you by your side.  It keeps me seeing the big picture.  I work with minuscule parts of the cell.  All of this is really cool, but at the end of the day, I have to remember that there are people.  That one day my one discovery about this protein relates back to people.  Having that direct connection reminds me of where I am.

Inglis: In one sense, it’s a great stress relief and change of pace.  Last year we started doing family science nights and elementary school activities, so when you do that, you have to boil down complicated scientific concepts to a kid.  So if you can do that, you can explain it to anyone.

What would you like alumni to know about GIVE?

Turn: If you ever want to come back, we would love to have volunteer alumni.  Thank you guys for any work that you may have done with GIVE.  It’s still going strong.

Inglis: We are totally open to other service opportunities in the Atlanta area.  There are a lot of charities out there that go under our radar.  So, if there are any alumni within the area who have suggestions, we’d love to hear them.

GIVE 2.jpg

Agar plates

from the mycrobe project streaked by students at a local elementary school during a GIVE-run STEM night event.


From planting gardens to teaching children about the wonders of science, GIVE not only provides a needed service to those outside of the Emory community but also gives GDBBS students a more diversified graduate school experience.  The GIVE organization has grown immensely in its community partnerships since its 2008 founding year. Fueled by student passion for volunteer service, it seems likely to expand even more over the next decade.  If you find yourself interested in donating your time, effort, or suggestions to GIVE, or if you would like to be added to their mailing list, please contact Rachel Turn at

Edited by Brianna Jeanne, Genetics and Molecular Biology '17 and Amielle Moreno, Neuroscience '12