CSUPERB in the news



Before I hit the road for vacation, I want to share some quick news hits.

The new 2015 Vision & Change Report (“Chronicling the Change, Inspiring the Future) from AAAS, NSF, HHMI, NIH and USDA highlights CSUPERB.  Check out pages 8-9 (pages 28-29 of the pdf)!  The feature content is pulled from a poster that Jim Henderson and I presented at the 2013 Vision and Change meeting.  Who knew our participation would result in CSUPERB’s inclusion in such an important national publication?

AAAS.org published a teaser story yesterday at their website; I’m quoted in it. Surprisingly Ms. Wren (the author) wanted to follow up on things she read on this blog. CSUPERB is not alone in seeing the connections between high-impact practices, deep learning, and a creative and professional life sciences workforce.

Our work on the WM Keck Foundation-supported PKAL Framework project is featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Peer Review, titled “Navigating Institutional Change for Student Success in STEM.”   This work led to the CSU STEM Collaboratives projects across the CSU, just now ramping up their summer bridge programs, as well as follow-on funding from Keck to support a STEM Service Learning Research Study led by the Center for Community Engagement.

The CSUPERB community was happy to see that the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee (ICOC) approved a 5-year Bridges 2.0 program.  CSUPERB will host proposal writing workshops for campus teams after the official Program Announcement issues (we’re nervously eyeing the predicted October 1 deadline looming).  The CSU is proud of the work the existing Bridges programs have done; it is wonderful our Bridges graduates are and will continue to be integral to the growing regenerative medicine ecosystem.

Lastly yesterday was a big day for the Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM).  The White House announced an expansion of I-Corps across a new set of federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration.  With SBDC’s hosted on many CSU campuses, I see many interesting ways to scale what we’ve started with CSU I-Corps.  I’ll keep monitoring these new I-Corps programs as they launch.

I occasionally struggle to explain the reach, effectiveness and impact of the CSU’s biotechnology education and research network.  How can I explain the power (and magic?) of a renewing, system-wide community created to support biotech education and research? Why invest in CSUPERB, its peer review community, its collective experience “on the ground” in deans’ offices, departmental units, in classrooms, laboratories and communities, its institutional memory?  In short – I think communities like CSUPERB provide an effective way to scale up evidence-based ideas, test out promising ones, or “bend” culture (or accelerate tipping points, as NSF names it). When we learn together, we can make real and meaningful impacts on student success, in innovation ecosystems, and on scientific and technical frontiers.  This is deliberate, intentional systematic work that plays out over time. It doesn’t flit from one shiny object to the next; it shouldn’t die on the vine if one player exits the stage.

So – while I’m vacationing – keep pushing the envelope, CSUPERB!


*Photo credit: http://www.businessinsider.com/pictures-that-will-make-you-want-to-visit-iceland-2015-1?op=1

    Mentoring Student Researchers

    CSU students at the 2015 CSU Biotechnology Symposium (Santa Clara Marriott).

    CSU student researchers at the 2015 CSU Biotechnology Symposium (Santa Clara Marriott).

    Tomorrow is the Summer 2015 Faculty Consensus Group meeting at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach, so I’ve been getting some slides together this afternoon to report out on a variety of topics.

    One theme that CSUPERB decided to focus upon these next three years is “mentoring.” During our strategic planning process last year, we heard about the ongoing need to mentor and offer professional development opportunities to assistant professors, grant proposal writers at all levels, instructors interested in active learning pedagogies, nascent entrepreneurs, research students and classroom learners.  CSUPERB faculty saw the need to support and set up for success all these stakeholder groups.

    To get started on this 3-year plan, tomorrow’s FCG meeting includes a ‘mini-symposium’ on Research Student Mentoring (“Developing Effective Faculty Mentors & Building Longer-lasting Student-Faculty Relationships”). CSUPERB is keenly aware of the need to mentor our diverse student researchers; like all CSU students, they are diverse in many ways (socioeconomic, ethnicity,* geographic, first in family to attend college, what they want to do with their degree, etc.). We especially understand the work we do (at scale!) in the CSU can have great impact on the number of underrepresented students we graduate into biotech jobs, medical schools and graduate programs.  Indeed, we have compelling data showing that over 80% of the student researchers supported on CSUPERB grants do go on to life science-related careers.

    Tomorrow Dr. Aisha Taylor (JONES Inclusive Leadership) will kick off the discussion with some background on critical race theory and cultural competency skill development.  Then we’ll hear from the three programs starting up their NIH BUILD programs at CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge and San Francisco State University.  Each BUILD program has a unique perspective on what it takes to effectively mentor student researchers.  We plan to expand this mini-symposium into another workshop for faculty in the “Effective STEM Education” series we offer at the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium – so stay tuned for that opportunity!

    We always ask our annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium participants what they plan to do after graduation or degree completion.  Here is what they reported this year (click to make figure larger):

    plansAs many of us know, graduates with biotechnology research experience have a leg up in the job market or graduate school admissions process. There are many career paths to pursue for students with team-based, hands-on research project experience!

    We’ve also been hearing back from our Howell and Presidents’ Commission Scholar alumni this summer.  We can compare our current students’ career plans to the “last known status” of our Howell Scholars (2008-2014; n = 79) to see what really happens after graduation (figure below, click to see larger version; remember this data spans the Great Recession!). The outcomes are surprisingly similar to our current students’ dreams!lastknownstatus_Howell2015

    Alumni have opinions about what made a difference to them, now that they can look back with some real-world perspective.  The Presidents’ Commission Scholars are particularly interesting to us – this is the program that funds students for a summer research experience after their freshman or sophomore year. Eligibility is restricted to those students who are not part of a research learning community already (MARC, RISE, HHMI, etc.) or have had research experience before. We encourage faculty to sponsor “at risk” students and look beyond GPA and the other usual indicators of academic success.

    Using some of the alumniGallup-Purdue indicators of what matters in an undergraduate education, we asked the Howell and Presidents’ Commission Scholar alumni about their relationship to their research mentor (figure at left, click to make larger). The green bars show agreement; the red is disagreement. We still see that alumni were not always exposed to a variety of career path options, even though student researchers – even as undergraduates – already have a diverse set of opinions on where they are headed. Scholars are candid about admitting they were hesitant to confess dreams of medical school or biotech jobs to their research mentors.

    FCG and CSUPERB faculty know that mentors need to listen to students’ goals and dreams. But we also need to listen to and respect the choices of students who plan to pursue careers in non-academic research settings – the very field about which our faculty mentors are most informed!

    In answer, CSUPERB organizes the Career Networking Session (CNS) at the symposium every year.  Alumni and professionals working across the life science industry come together to talk with students about preclinical research, regulatory affairs, discovery research and other “research-relevant” career paths outside academia.  The CNS is one “touch” a year, admittedly, but with NIH and CIRM-funding campuses are mimicking the format and organizing similar sessions on campus to increase access to this important information.

    Meanwhile, every year the CSU’s biotechnology faculty mentor thousands of students in their research labs.  To gain perspective on the impact of that experience, I’ll leave the last words to our Presidents’ Commission graduates.




    * Here is the breakdown for student participants at the 2015 CSU Biotechnology Symposium, by ethnicity; nearly all present research posters at the event.  You can compare these data to the CSU’s Fall 2014 enrollment, by ethnicity, found here: http://www.calstate.edu/pa/2015Facts/documents/facts2015.pdf


      Non-academic career paths are not hiding











      Two very different articles and an unsettling conversation came across my radar this month.

      The first is an article in the July 2015 issue of Nature Biotechnology, “Emerging network of resources for exploring paths beyond academia,” written by postdoc Fanuel Muindi and doctoral candidate Joseph B. Keller, both from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They explain, “…some trainees may simply lack the information necessary to make an informed decision about their post-training careers.” The second article is “A hidden start,” by Trisha Gura at the Science Careers website. Both articles offer guidance on finding information about non-academic jobs. As if it’s a underbrush-choked trailhead.

      The unsettling conversation involved a staffer who was unaware of the makeup of the biotechnology workforce and the job prospects for doctoral level scientists. The perception that NIH, NSF and HHMI funders care only about PhD attainment is still rampant throughout training program staff rank and file. It’s no secret I think each and every biomedical training grant PI should know (by heart) the data from the 2011 paper in which Cynthia Fuhrmann and coauthors write, “Since 2001, fewer than 20% of PhDs in the biological sciences have been moving into tenure-track academic positions within 5–6 yr of receiving a PhD. In fact, the most recent data (2006) show only 14% of these PhDs in tenure-track positions.”  (Where do the other 86% end up? Are they considered failures…really!? What are you doing to prepare or mentor the 86% for life-long learning?*)

      CSUPERB faculty and leadership know that 80% of the jobs in the biotechnology sector (the life science industry) are filled by professionals with degrees at the masters degree or below.**  I am continually surprised (and – yes – shocked! shocked, I tell you!) to find out administrators, program officers, professors, postdocs and graduate students – who are part of this biomed/biotech ecosystem themselves – are unaware of this workforce reality. Perhaps paths to non-academic biomedical careers remain hidden because mentors, program officers and administrators themselves cannot see the trailheads through the trees on campus.

      These workforce facts underpin CSUPERB’s ongoing efforts to offer Career Networking Sessions (CNS) and Graduate School Information Sessions for the 375+ CSU undergraduate and masters-level researchers attending the CSU Biotechnology Symposium each year. We’ve organized these two sessions the last seven years. As much as we’re tempted to tinker with the formats, they remain unchanged because alumni, mentors, and students all agree it works best for them.*** We are determined to build a mentoring network for our students. We don’t want to point them into the woods without a flashlight.

      So in answer to Muindi and Keller – yes – the CSU has been doing our level best to “engage undergraduates about the various doors a PhD degree can open.”  But there is another communication point that can be made at that same time in a student’s career. They should also know there are many rewarding, great-paying life science career options that do not require a PhD degree.

      Despite the very good intentions underpinning the article, Muindi and Keller fall back on well-trodden and tired “non-academic” options and emerging resources in their article. They un-ironically mention science policy fellowships, graduate data science programs, academic job boards like Vitae, and science conferences of interest to academic researchers. Perhaps science policy is an oft-cited, non-academic career example because academic researchers understand what program officers at NIH and NSF do.

      I would have liked to see Muindi and Keller place more emphasis on the variety of career paths and employers in non-academic settings and point to established network opportunities and websites offered by professional societies like RAPS, ASQ, DIA or PMI. In my opinion no article on non-academic careers is complete without a nod to preclinical research, regulatory affairs, clinical or product development. See “Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development,” by Toby Freedman, for the wide range of options available to academically-trained researchers. Researchers aiming to understand the world outside academia should find conferences attended by life science industry professionals, like BIO, DIA or the Personalized Medicine World Conference.

      When approving CSU I-Corps travel requests, I look at conference programs to see that 50% (or more) of the speakers are from biotech or pharma companies to make sure teams will be able to network with and gain perspective from non-academic researchers, regulatory professionals, and commercialization experts. One CSU I-Corps faculty participant explains, “…it introduces you to the business world and forces you to actually meet with industry people. It really changes your perception of things, and [reveals] how different academia [is from] industry.” Without question CSU I-Corps reduces the gap between academic research and industry practice.

      Happily Gura’s article pulls back the curtain on rewarding research jobs at start-up biotechnology companies. The premise – that these jobs are hidden – is what I take issue with here. Boston, San Francisco and San Diego are blessed with vibrant communities of biotechnology employees and companies – early-stage start-ups to big pharma companies.  Gura focuses on the boundary-spanning functions of incubators and entrepreneurship centers as a way to discover new and growing companies.  While these organizations host fantastic events, you can also stumble into a critical mass of start-up founders, employees and boundary-spanners at regional biotechnology industry organization meetings, breakfasts, networking events and workshops.

      Here in California organizations like SARTA, San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange, BIOCOM, OCRACalifornia Life Science Association and many others, host events weekly and post calendars for all to see.  All you have to do is Google “biotech event (your city/state).” (You’ll also see that many very early-stage start-ups advertise jobs on Craigslist!) Go ahead try it – it’s just that easy to unmask non-academic biotech and biomedical activities all around you…if you’re willing to get off-campus.  Admittedly this exercise works best if you live near a biotech/biomed industry hub.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) most biotech industry hubs are also regions dealing with a glut of biomedical postdocs.

      Educators and mentors should open doors for their students, not herd them into a chute toward professorships.  There is no question we need more female faculty members in engineering and computer science, more Latino/a faculty across the board, and an academic workforce that reflects our demographics. Any and all efforts to level access to academic careers is good, essential and very important work from where I sit. However, both underrepresented and well-represented researchers also deserve information about and access to careers – at all degree levels – in companies, national labs, government agencies and non-profit institutions as well.  Research mentors and policies should view non-academic employment as a desirable, normal (86%!), expected and worthwhile outcome.

      Get out the energy bars, machetes and compasses!




      *I’m thinking a lot about research mentoring this month. CSUPERB is organizing a session on the topic for our August 3 Faculty Consensus Group meeting at the CSU Chancellor’s Office.  Key personnel from the three NIH-funded CSU BUILD projects will present their approaches to research mentoring (CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge and San Francisco State University).  In addition I’m hearing back from our Howell-CSUPERB Research Scholar alums as part of our annual reporting – they are doing great things nationwide! Look for a blog post about them in the future!

      **It is important to understand that the life science industry is defined as including companies, businesses, research institutes, universities and national laboratories – the entire “ecosystem,” as we say. The best report I’ve seen about the life science industry workforce is the 2014 Talent Integration report issued by a group of California biotechnology industry associations and the California Community Colleges last year.

      ***When a CSU student chooses to attend the symposium two years in a row, they report it’s usually to attend one or both of these two sessions.  These students report they were overly-focused on presenting a research poster the first time they attended the symposium. They admit that they skipped out (...or spaced out) on these crucial programs the first time they attend.  The CNS format, in particular, is challenging for students. At the students’ request back in 2009, we do not organize a panel of talking heads or alumni telling career stories.   Instead students must engage in several rounds of roundtable discussions with alumni and professionals working in the industry.  I think Muindi & Keller would agree this session format models the behavior they recommend to readers, that is, that trainees “must be active participants in their future and use all available resources to learn about available career paths.”

      Articles cited:

      Muindi, F. & Keller, J.B. Emerging network of resources for exploring paths beyond academia. Nature Biotechnology 33, 775–778 (2015). doi:10.1038/nbt.3282
      Published online 08 July 2015.

      Gura, T. (2015) A hidden start. Science Careers.  Published online 01 July 2015. http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2015_07_01/caredit.a1500167

      C. N. Fuhrmann, C.N., Halme, D.G.,  O’Sullivan, P.S. & Lindstaedt, B. Improving Graduate Education to Support a Branching Career Pipeline: Recommendations Based on a Survey of Doctoral Students in the Basic Biomedical Sciences. CBE Life Sciences 10, 239-249 (2011). doi: 10.1187/cbe.11-02-0013

      Photo credit: hawaiianforest.com

        Applause & Pain for AmeriCorps


        I’d like to share photos from yesterday’s moving close-of-service luncheon for the first class of CSU STEM VISTAs – an AmeriCorps program.  It was a lovely event at Rancho Los Alamitos next to the CSU Long Beach campus.   Our own Shannon Palka was selected by her peers to do the “closing thanks” for the group.  Afterwards Shannon and I agreed that we haven’t really come to grips her public service stint at CSUPERB is ending!

        I am not sure it’s been captured anywhere at the CSU STEM VISTA program level yet – but I was asked to present our first year CSU I-Corps experience at the National Innovation Network (NIN) meeting in Reston, Virginia, last month. To remind infrequent readers, CSU I-Corps is a systemwide entrepreneurship education program for curious researchers and nascent academic entrepreneurs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  We are already finding it to be a highly engaging student program with surprisingly large dividends of learning and commercialization activities systemwide. I didn’t realize before attending NIN that I was one of only a handful of I-Corps Nodes/Sites asked to present our first year experience.

        There is no group more demanding and perfectionist than the CSUPERB program office. We tend to think all 23 campuses will show up for all our programs.  So we were a bit daunted that “only”  34 teams, 116 students and 24 faculty members from 9 universities have signed up for I-Corps in our first year. Apparently NSF thought that was pretty good for a $100,000/year investment.

        I received a surprising burst of applause, shouts and hoots from the audience when I said 44% of the year-one CSU I-Corps participants are female.  Afterwards people told me this is a significantly higher female participation rate than many of the other more engineering/computer science-heavy I-Corps programs.  The other reaction I got to my presentation was amazement that CSU campuses (and colleges) would work together to offer programs like this – it was a culture unfamiliar to some participants.  These are features I take for granted in my job.  But the NIN meeting served to remind me our efforts to build and nurture this systemwide, diverse (in many ways!) community are not insignificant; new programs like CSU I-Corps and investments in CSUPERB build upon our 30 year history and a deep base of good will.

        These early CSU I-Corps outcomes are also the result of Shannon’s student outreach. Despite our formidable CSUPERB community, we historically do our work through faculty and research office networks, as well as chair and deans’ councils. For I-Corps to go systemwide, we need connections to student groups.  Shannon’s effectiveness was also due to her ability to fit into the CSUPERB program office team and her willingness to just dive into (or work around) our unforgiving administrative calendar of rotating programs and events.  I wish she could have been in Reston to hear that applause.

        So yesterday I clapped long and loud for the CSU STEM VISTAs. This is an outstanding group of motivated, strategic thinkers – a really remarkable group of young leaders.  It was an honor to be a part of this.

        In the midst of this emotional week for the nation and our program office, I learned that Congress has proposed cutting AmeriCorps programs.  Even as we make progress on many complicated policy fronts across this nation – we still manage to trip up on little things that matter.  As Pell grants and biomedical research received additional funding, AmeriCorps will face deep cuts.  This kind of short-term, give-and-take, winners-and-losers process is a constant in national policy, budget negotiations and priority setting, but I find it so disappointing to watch tiny programs like AmeriCorps get swept under the losers rug.

        The day before I heard this bitter news, I had a meeting about a Kresge Foundation-funded project around student success.  The CSU faculty and administrators on the project all pointed to the pain point* around the need for temporary help (people = release time or human resources!) in ramping up programs and experimenting with new approaches around student success initiatives. We know that impactful and effective STEM programs require cross-divisional collaboration, relationship-building and even culture change before they become part of the fabric of how students learn.  The VISTA program addresses this very real (and painful) pain point for resource-challenged organizations like ours, as well as non-profit and community service programs nationwide.

        I’m hoping some of you might have read this far, are willing to invest in a longer-view of community service, and be moved** to contact your legislators to restore this little program with such a large impact on resource-limited programs, economically distressed communities, and promising young people nationwide.


        *Pain point is an I-Corps phrase that comes from Alex Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Design and other writings on understanding customer or market needs.

          Changing of the Guard: Strategic Planning Council 2015-16


          usualsuspectsAs the academic year draws to a close, CSU campus presidents nominate deans to serve on the CSUPERB Strategic Planning Council (SPC).  We had a large turnover of deans this year, resulting in five openings on the council, and a Chair and Deputy Chair election.

          The SPC just completed a strategic planning cycle so you might assume the turnover could be associated with that extra workload. But – no – deans are the usual suspects for leadership roles across the academy.  Indeed, we lost two of our SPC deans this year to new jobs: CSU Fresno Dean Boyer is now vice president of agriculture and dean of Montana State University’s College of Agriculture and Cal Poly Pomona Dean Lapidus took on the presidency at Fitchburg State University.

          I’m relieved and happy to report we had tremendous interest in SPC service. The new dean appointments to the 2015-16 Strategic Planning Council are:

          Anne Houtman (CSU Bakersfield, College of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering),
          Forouzan Golshani (CSU Long Beach, College of Engineering),
          Katherine Kantardjieff (CSU San Marcos, College of Science and Mathematics),
          Lorenzo Smith (CSU Sacramento, College of Engineering & Computer Science), and
          Lynn Stauffer (Sonoma State University, School of Science & Technology).

          Despite the extra work associated with the new strategic plan last year, Deans Golshani and Kantardjieff put their names back in the hat for reappointment; they wanted to see the new plan played out! The 2015-16 cohort of deans will join Deans Stanley Maloy (San Diego State University, College of Sciences) and S.K. Ramesh (CSU Northridge, College of Engineering and Computer Sciences) on the council.   The continuing SPC faculty members are: Jill Adler-Moore (Cal Poly Pomona), Daryl Eggers (San Jose State University), Paula Fischhaber (CSU Northridge), Michael Goldman (San Francisco State University), Jennifer Whiles Lillig (Sonoma State University), Bori Mazzag (Humboldt State University), Kathie McReynolds (CSU Sacramento), Bianca Mothe (CSU San Marcos), Sandy Sharp (CSU Los Angeles) and Koni Stone (CSU Stanislaus). We can’t thank all these good folks enough for their service to CSUPERB.  Unlike Keyser Soze, they will leave their fingerprints all over the programs and work CSUPERB does these next three years.

          We also found out today that Mike Goldman and Kathie McReynolds were re-elected as SPC Chair and Deputy Chair, respectively.  Mike and Kathie make tremendous commitments to CSUPERB with their re-elections. In addition to their regular jobs as teacher-scholars on campus, they’ll be calling into our weekly operational committee calls for another three years.  Wait until they hear we’re thinking of turning those meetings into Zoom videoconferences going forward…!

          Personally I look forward to working with this newly configured SPC team – their expertise combined will undoubtedly strengthen biotechnology education and research across the CSU. I also thank the CSU campus presidents involved for their willingness to share these extraordinary academic leaders with CSUPERB. I am quite thankful for this diverse, high-achieving and opinionated group of people – they make my job infinitely more interesting and do-able!


          Image Credit: MonsterGallery (https://www.etsy.com/listing/75844880/the-usual-suspects-16×12-movie-poster)

            Spring Grantmaking

            Last week we announced the CSUPERB spring grant awards.*  We spend the largest percentage of our annual budget on spring grants – last week we sent $567,088 to CSU students and faculty all over California.  That total includes both our “major grant” (seed grant) programs and the faculty and student travel grant programs.

            Last week I had Seth Godin’s mantra in my head, so it’s rewarding to see where the money is going. We’re sending CSU engineers, kinesiologists, and biologists worldwide to scientific and engineering conferences in San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Stockholm and Beijing.

            We’re funding collaborative faculty-student research projects in medicinal chemistry, computational modeling, synthetic biology and more.  Numerous PIs are planning on collecting next generation sequencing data sets, reflecting a sea-change in the way biological systems are characterized in CSU research laboratories these days. We’re funding joint ventures, including one between Dr. Jaqueline Padilla-Gamino, a new assistant professor at CSU Dominguez Hills, and the Catalina Sea Ranch. Together they are going to study temperature-tolerant strains of mussels that shellfish farmers can depend upon going forward. The joint venture also draws upon the expertise of faculty at CSU East Bay and CSU Long Beach. CSU Dominguez Hills student researchers will learn both biotechnology and aquaculture hands-on practices and skills along the way.  Drs. Katie Wilkinson, Susan Lambrecht and Cleber Ouverney won a Curriculum Development grant to work with departmental colleagues to overhaul San Jose State University’s (SJSU) introductory biology curriculum to better align with the Vision & Change Report. Roughly 900 SJSU students per year will be impacted by the new course and laboratory sequence.

            Many thanks to the fifty or so CSU faculty we recruited to review proposals this spring. This spring’s five review panels were the most diverse we’ve ever seated. They patiently worked through the new CSYou online review system with us. The expected disciplinary culture differences played out in front of us (engineers like terse, cogent descriptions; biologists like much more detailed and elegant prose). But we are also seeing generational shifts in biotechnologies. New Investigators bring with them postdoctoral experience in using genome-wide, system-wide research and data management methods.

            The Vision & Change report predicts many of these cross-disciplinary, fast-changing aspects of biological science.  It’s not easy; a couple of our first-time reviewers had a difficult time letting go of their disciplinary expertise and learning to take a “generalist view” of the diverse seed grant proposals CSUPERB considers. However, based on the reviews and proposals I read this spring, the CSU faculty are keeping up and even leading on many new education and research frontiers. There is no greater job than investing in the CSU’s students and faculty – I can’t wait to see what they do!


            *For those of you waiting for CSU I-Corps decisions – be patient, we’re wrapping up interviews and administrative i-dotting and t-crossing this week.

              2016 CSU Biotech Symposium: January 7-9, Hyatt Regency Orange County

              “Put people on stage that your community can relate to, who are authentic, and who are already trusted by the people who will be paying [registration fees] to attend your event.”  – Brian Fanzo


              Brian Fanzo’s article reminded me of the Strategic Planning Council’s meeting on April 12th.  During the meeting we reviewed the post-symposium survey data that suggests the January 2015 annual symposium was a huge success.  With 97 (69%) of the faculty and 141 (36%) of the student participants reporting, nearly all of them would recommend the event to their peers.*

              Somehow we’ve figured out how to make this event a reflection of who we are as a community. We also involve a formidable roster of people “from the trenches” who tell compelling and authentic stories of what it’s like to work in the life science industry as researchers, product developers and entrepreneurs. Looking back at the symposium speakers these last eight years, I find a who’s who of California (and the nation’s) biotech leaders and their exciting technologies and companies. I also see New Investigators becoming well-funded PIs, department chairs and academic leaders.  The symposium is a “delivery device” for our strategic plans, but it’s also a powerful community building event & leadership academy!

              Opening Session Speakers at the 27th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium (left to right):   David W. Martin, M.D. (CEO, AvidBiotics), Rachel E. Haurwitz, Ph.D. (President and CEO, Caribou Biosciences, Inc.),  Karen Burg, Ph.D (Vice President for Research & Professor of Chemical Engineering, Kansas State University & AAAS–Lemelson Invention Ambassador), President Leslie Wong (San Francisco State University) & Susan Baxter (CSUPERB) An Adventure in Genome Engineering: From the Lab Bench to the Startup World –  A Tortuous Path of Entrepreneurship -

              Opening Session Speakers at the 27th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium (left to right): David W. Martin, M.D. (CEO, AvidBiotics), Rachel E. Haurwitz, Ph.D. (President and CEO, Caribou Biosciences, Inc.), Karen Burg, Ph.D (Vice President for Research & Professor of Chemical Engineering, Kansas State University & AAAS–Lemelson Invention Ambassador), President Leslie Wong (San Francisco State University) & Susan Baxter (CSUPERB).

              At the April SPC meeting we wrestled with the program budget for academic year 2015-2016.  The SPC faced yet again rising costs associated with the annual symposium.  It’s a huge event, attracting 646 participants this past January. The SPC knew it was going to cost ~$36,000 more to run a similar event in 2016.   Yet again we debated cutting out Thursday workshops, limiting room nights or raising registration rates.

              But Dean Rich Lapidus (Cal Poly Pomona) stopped us.  Pointing to the remarkable impact of the well-received event, he advocated we defend the “secret sauce” that makes the annual CSU symposium special.  As the lone true business person in the room (he’s Dean of the CPP College of Business Administration), we listen to him on marketing and budget matters.  Rich explained that by cutting a professional development workshop here or reducing networking opportunities there, we would undermine the event and effectively turn away our community.

              So the SPC decided we’ll produce another three-day event January 7-9, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Orange County.  Mark your calendars and look for earlier-than-usual poster submission deadlines!

              Meanwhile, we wish Dean Lapidus and his family all the best.  He’s leaving the CSU to become the 11th President at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. At the April meeting SPC members made many, many, many comments to him about the beautiful spring weather we were having in California. Despite the teasing, the SPC will miss Rich’s good counsel, his patience with our technical jargon and his business perspective very much. In true CSUPERB community-building spirit, he helped us learn how to use technology commercialization and CSU I-Corps as a bridge between science, engineering and business schools.  We hope another patient and pragmatic CSU business dean will step up to continue the momentum!**


              *96% (students) and 100% (faculty)

              **Nomination packages for new SPC Dean appointments are due in the CSUPERB Program office (pbranger@mail.sdsu.edu; 619-594-2822) Monday, May 11, 2015.