Vol 10. Issue 15 /May 5, 2010

Inaugural Event Showcases Research Talent of Scripps Florida Postdocs and Graduate Students

By Eric Sauter

Scores of visitors, some from as far away as Miami, and representatives of more than 50 scientific vendors came together at Scripps Florida on April 20 for ResearchFest 2010. The first in what is expected to become an annual event, the gathering highlighted the work of the institute's graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, showcasing the scientific talent being developed at Scripps Florida.

The day-long event was sponsored by the Scripps Florida Society of Research Fellows.

"Congratulations to our postdoc community for organizing and running the very popular and successful ResearchFest event," said Harry Orf, Scripps Florida vice president for scientific operations. "We received many positive comments from faculty, staff, and participating vendors. The atmosphere was lively all day, great science and products were on exhibit, and excellent presentations were given. The success of the event bodes well for making it an annual occurrence and an integral part of our culture."

"The event went extremely well," said Laura Solt, the society's new president, a co-founder of Women in Science at Scripps Florida, and research associate in the Burris lab. "We had people from Max Planck and FAU and some who even drove up from the University of Miami to attend."

In addition to about 50 scientific posters, the event featured lectures by four postdoctoral fellows: Solt; Antonio L. Amelio of the Conkright laboratory; Emmanuel Sturchler of the McDonald laboratory; Seth Tomchik of the Ron Davis lab.

Solt seemed surprised by the number of vendors who signed up and paid to attend, but she noted they all seemed pleased to be there and looked forward to coming back next year. The event raised more than $10,000 for the society, which will be put to good use in the coming year.

"Some of the money will be used to fund next year's ResearchFest," Solt said, "and some will be used to jumpstart a postdoctoral speaker series."

Solt credited a number of people for the day's success, including Mike Tarselli from the Micalizio lab, Heidi Walsh from the Smith lab, and Kapil Lokare from the Periana lab.

"There's no other comparable event like this being held in south Florida," said Tarselli, "which explains why people came up from Miami to attend."

The society also received financial help from its counterpart, the Society of Fellows in La Jolla, and broad support from the Scripps Florida administration, Tarselli noted.

Starting Out

The Scripps Florida Society of Research Fellows was founded in 2007 by Antonio L. Amelio, a research fellow recruited to the Conkright laboratory in early 2006, well before the new campus was built. The Scripps Florida society marks the second scientific organization founded by Amelio to serve the needs of junior scientists, the first being the College of Medicine Graduate Student Organization launched while he was a doctoral student at the University of Florida.

"I think it's important to stress that these scientific organizations are created to serve the needs of developing scientists," Amelio said.

The Scripps Florida Society of Research Fellows sponsored a pair of well-attended lectures last year, given by Professor Bernard Roizman of the University of Chicago, who spoke on targeting herpes simplex virus for therapy of malignant glioma, and Professor Arnold Levine of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who offered his views on single nucleotide polymorphisms in the p53 pathway.

In addition to hosting scientific lectures, the society also offers a number of practical seminars during its Lunch n' Learn series, including tips on automobile purchases, first-time home buying, and estate planning.

Amelio said he was particularly interested in building a forum for graduate students and postdocs that would address issues surrounding their professional and career development needs.

"We want to help scientists understand the various paths open to them, that it isn't just a choice between research and academics," Amelio said. "There are lots of other opportunities out there."

Laura Solt thinks that this year's ResearchFest event – and the ones that will come after it – will help junior scientists learn how to network, get collaborative projects going, and develop their careers. It's also a way to help them get noticed by the larger scientific world.

"This is a good way to reach out to the larger scientific community and show what we do at Scripps Florida," she said. "When you think of research centers, you generally think of places like Cambridge or Berkeley, not South Florida. We want to show people how well we're doing here."

Judging from Tuesday's results, they are doing quite well indeed.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



Visitors, vendors, and members of the Scripps Research community all turned out for ResearchFest 2010.