2017 STEM Symposium

By Director of GDBBS Nael McCarty

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The 5th Annual Emory University-Laney Graduate School STEM Research and Career Symposium was held October 1-3 at the Emory Conference Center.  The Laney Graduate School provides much of the financial support for the symposium, and a considerable amount of the work is done by GDBBS faculty, graduate students and staff.  The Symposium is a premier diversity-focused event that draws students from all over the United States.  This year it was a bit challenging for some of the students from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to travel to the event so soon after the hurricanes that devastated the region, but several were able to make the trip.  This year we received over 230 applications; 97 students and 20 faculty members attended. The opening speaker was Leslie Caromile, PhD, Assistant Professor at UCONN Health. She shared her personal path to the PhD as well information on her current research.  Kenneth Gibbs, PhD, Program Analyst at NIGMS, also shared his personal path to the PhD, as well as statistics about URM populations and recent career trends. Both speakers were engaging and very well received, especially by the visiting students.

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The Symposium provides visiting students the opportunity to present their research, with 10 oral presentations among the many poster presentations.  The students also participate in professional development workshops and tour our campus, while interacting with both faculty and students to learn about Emory and the programs we offer. The event is an outstanding opportunity to showcase who we are and share information about our programs.  This event is possible because of all the volunteers who share their time; it takes a small village to pull this off.  This includes the many judges that are needed, presenters for the professional development breakout sessions, program representatives for the lunch discussions, hosts to greet the guests at the airport, tour guides and those who interact with the guests at social events.  Most notably, Edward Morgan (GDBBS) chairs the symposium, and has done so for the past five years; his Co-Chair is James Kindt (Chemistry).  Three of the four committees are chaired by GDBBS representatives, including graduate student Eric Salgado from the Molecular and Systems Pharmacology program, who chairs the Transportation Committee.  In addition, four alumni sit on the Organizing Committee, three of which trained in GDBBS programs; Triscia Hendrickson (BCDB, PhD 2001), Ward Kirlin (BMB, PhD 1996), and Tiffany Oliver (GMB, PhD 2008). Graduate students Morgan Barham (Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis) and Trenell Mosley (Genetics and Molecular Biology) provided leadership organizing the presentations and the judging, both of which are very large tasks.  Special thanks to Kathy Smith of the GDBBS for hours and hours of labor to make this an excellent event. 

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Eleven awards were presented at the awards banquet on Monday night, and a list of winners can be found here.   The Symposium continues to make a positive impact on the students who visit.  Students mention gaining insight and direction, and some gain the information and confidence needed to make the decision to apply to graduate school.  One mentioned that it was a “great and unforgettable experience.” Students are able to see the “collaborative, inclusive environment” and the “cutting edge research” at Emory, resulting in more applications and offers of admission.  During the last admissions cycle seven students who attended the Symposium enrolled at Emory, and five of those enrolled in GDBBS programs.  Faculty members comment how much their students enjoyed the experience, and in one case how their students “have been talking about the Emory experience since we left.”  Many continue to send their students each year, and some express an interest in collaborating.  The Symposium continues to be a very important diversity event for the Laney Graduate School and the GDBBS.  The 6th annual Symposium will be held September 30-October 2, 2018.

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Edited by Kathy Smith, GDBBS Administrator