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Graduate Symposium Engages and Inspires



Graduate Symposium Engages and Inspires

Cool mountain rains didn’t dampen spirits at this year’s Graduate Student Symposium, held October 23 to 25 at the UCLA Conference Center in Lake Arrowhead, California. Despite the weather, the atmosphere was warm and energetic as students and faculty convened for this annual scientific, networking and mentoring event.

Informally known as the “retreat,” the Graduate Student Symposium is the single largest event hosted by The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) Graduate Program each year, drawing nearly 200 attendees to the idyllic alpine hideaway from both the California and Florida campuses. Based on post-event feedback, the science presented at this year’s symposium was engaging and the interaction among faculty and students was meaningful and productive.

Professor Thomas Kodadek, chair of the Department of Cancer Biology, opened the symposium with an evening presentation on his research and the choices he made throughout his career—both good and… well, less good. On the second night, TSRI alumnus Alan Saghatelian delved into his research as a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

But current TSRI graduate students made most of the presentations. Seventeen students from a variety of fields gave 12-minute talks on their research and responded to questions from faculty and fellow students.

Afterward, attendees evaluated the talks using online or paper ballots. When the votes were tallied, Graduate Students Artiom Cernijenko of the Baran lab and Nick Petersen of the Hansen lab received the highest scores.

In addition to the oral presentations, nearly 70 students presented research at one of three poster sessions. Each poster session was preceded by lightning presentations, an unusual (and in some cases, highly amusing) opportunity for attendees to preview the content of students’ posters and for students to practice their “elevator pitch.” Participants had 30 seconds at the podium and a single slide to persuade audience members to visit their poster.

Students and faculty had numerous opportunities for networking and mentoring interactions throughout the symposium, both informally between sessions and over meals. In one mentoring luncheon, tables (and ensuing discussions) were themed around different career paths.

Next year’s retreat will again take place in Lake Arrowhead, but earlier in the fall: September 24 to 26, 2017.

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Wen-Chin (Brian) Huang, a fifth-year student in the Page lab, was one of 17 students giving oral presentations of their research.

Second-year student Christian Zwick (left) presents his research findings to two fellow students at one of the symposium’s three poster sessions.