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Dawn Eastmond Steps into Larger Role in TSRI Graduate Office



Dawn Eastmond Steps into Larger Role in TSRI Graduate Office

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

Dawn Eastmond is playing a bigger role in The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) graduate program these days. Late last year, she assumed responsibility for management of the California graduate office, as well as the recruitment and other responsibilities that she has been handling since her arrival at TSRI in 2009.

A recent weekend on the La Jolla, California campus found her attending events in one of several “recruitment weekends” for prospective students in TSRI’s graduate program, which offers PhDs in biology and chemistry.

“Scripps is different from a traditional university, and the science is unmatched,” she said. “We provide our students with everything they need to be able to focus on their research.”

Eastmond oversees the planning of the recruitment weekends on the California campus, working with Dean Jamie Williamson and the admissions committee to set up the agenda, arranging faculty interviews for the prospective students and planning additional trips to the zoo and the beach for them to explore the San Diego area.

Similar visits are hosted every year by the graduate office on the institute’s Jupiter, Florida campus. Both campuses hosted a record number of prospective students this year.

“For me, the most enjoyable part of the weekend is meeting the students,” said Eastmond. “I talk to them about their research interests, and I try to connect them with other faculty in that area.”

Spreading the Word

Other times of the year will find Eastmond attending graduate school fairs at scientific conferences to find promising students and spread the word about TSRI’s program. Recent trips included a visit to the American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas, Texas.

Eastmond also has taken the lead in redoing the office's website to help reach students who might be interested in any of TSRI's educational or outreach programs. These include long-standing internships for high school and middle school students and teachers on both the California and Florida campuses. Eastmond recently assumed supervision of Florida’s educational outreach programs, working with Deborah Leach-Scampavia, who is located on the Florida campus.

In 2010 Eastmond started a summer internship program for undergraduates, called the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program. The SURF program (which merged with another internship offering from the Department of Immunology last year) welcomes undergraduate students from across the country into TSRI labs on both campuses for a summer of hands-on research and career development.

“Undergraduate interns learn critical thinking skills, they learn communication skills, they learn how to read scientific papers, they get to hear from different faculty about their research,” Eastmond said. “The program is really trying to give its participants a broad understanding of the research that’s here at Scripps and what it would be like to be a Scripps graduate student.”

Since the SURF program began, Eastmond has seen former undergraduate interns apply for spots in the graduate program. The graduate program is also starting to see an increase in the number of applications from underserved and underrepresented students—which has been one of Eastmond’s goals.

Completing the Cycle

Once the TSRI graduate admissions, recruitment and selection cycle has run its course in the winter and spring, a new class of TSRI graduate students arrives on the campuses, ready to start classes August 1. At that time, Eastmond also plays a role in getting them settled.

Eastmond knows that graduate school is intense—she earned a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania—so she helps students find supportive mentors.

She urges incoming graduate students to interview with several faculty members and try working in several labs during their first year in the program. In their first few months at TSRI, students might spend 10 weeks in a lab doing x-ray crystallography and then 12 weeks in a lab screening compounds for new drugs—this helps them find a good match for mentors and research areas.

It typically takes five years for students to complete TSRI’s graduate program and earn a Ph.D. Their training culminates with the writing and defense of a dissertation that represents an original contribution to the field.

This year will be the first year Eastmond is the main point person for TSRI’s commencement, which will be held on May 16, 2014. Students will graduate in the remarkably personal ceremony, in which each graduating student’s advisor shares personal remarks about the individual student’s accomplishments.

For more information about TSRI’s graduate and outreach programs, visit

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“We provide our students with everything they need to be able to focus on their research,” says Dawn Eastmond, director of graduate studies, shown here at a recent recruitment weekend on the California campus. (Photo by Cindy Brauer.)