There is a fun meme circulating the Twittersphere these days thanks to the NatureJobs blog. Scientists are tweeting in answer to the blog’s prompt #IAmAScientistBecause. The answers are all over the map; my current favorite is from @mimimibe who tweets, “it sometimes made me feel like a cartoon character.” The #IAmAnEngineerBecause and #IAmAnEntrepreneurBecause hashtags haven’t really taken off yet – but maybe they will!
Program administrators don’t have their own hashtag yet,* but there is nothing like annual reporting season to remind us why we do what we do. At first glance annual reporting might seem like a big data gathering and excel chart-making exercise with an audit cloud over it. But once the data are organized and normalized, the stories, exceptional accomplishments and program impacts begin to rise above the noise.
We collect these stories to explain what CSUPERB is all about in our annual report. Stories about CSU faculty, students and alumni personalize and make real the numbers represented in those excel charts. This year’s version is linked here for your reading pleasure.
We never have room to share all the great stories we hear from CSUPERB-supported faculty and students. This year I purposefully asked investigators, instructors and researchers for permission to share their stories or quotes here on the blog.
My correspondence with Shannon Wood caught her mid-job search. Ms. Wood worked with Dr. Sean Murray at CSU Northridge and completed a master’s degree this spring. Ms. Wood won a Spring 2014 CSUPERB travel grant to travel to Germany for an EMBO workshop titled “Stalked alpha-Proteobacteria and Relatives: From Genes to Structure.” She wrote in her final report, “…I was able to meet many of the researchers whose papers I cited in my thesis. It’s amazing how ‘real’ even the most established researchers are. I met Lucy Shapiro, one of my biggest idols; she revolutionized developmental biology research using Caulobacter crescentus…I was able to sit across from her at meals and listen to her endless stories…Needless to say, this meeting was more than I could have ever dreamed it would be.” Ms. Wood is an exceptionally successful researcher; she was an Eden Award Finalist at the 26th CSU Biotechnology Symposium and won the Young Investigator Award at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting in May 2013. In her final report to CSUPERB she said she thoroughly enjoys research and wants to “stick with it.” I found out this week Shannon landed a job at the USC Norris Cancer Center in August, where she’s working on the PsychENCODE project in Peggy Farnham‘s lab. My guess is she’ll be an exceptional mentor – and maybe even an idol some day – for up-and-coming students and trainees as she establishes her own research career.
Here are some other noteworthy updates and comments from CSUPERB-supported students and faculty to help bring voices to the annual report data:
“This CSUPERB grant was instrumental…The funding came at a critical time and I am very grateful for the support…If possible please share my appreciation with the grant reviewers.” – Andrew Voss (CSUPERB New Investigator PI, Cal Poly Pomona, now Wright State University), who made a pivotal discovery related to Huntington’s disease.
“This program is invaluable! It is particularly important…(as) national grants are becoming more and more difficult to come by. Also, belonging to a small biology department (like the one at CSUEB) with faculty pursuing diverse research interests, faculty like me can feel isolated at times. It is difficult to stay up to date in my field when I am working in isolation and do not have access to all the latest publications. Going to these meetings helps ameliorate these issues to some degree.” – Maria Gallegos (CSUPERB Spring 2013 Travel grant, CSU East Bay), who presented lessons learned teaching a discovery-based course at the 19th International Caenorhabditis elegans Meeting.
“This has been an incredibly valuable program for us. It has allowed us to develop critical preliminary data for grant submissions, as well as funding student research, which has helped them get into top biomedical PhD programs in the country…It has also allowed me to continue my research and earn tenure and promotion to associate professor.” – Miri Van Hoven (CSUPERB Research Development PI, San Jose State University), who was also featured in The Chronicle as a mentor to graduate students interested in transitioning to faculty positions.
“This is a great program for New Investigators who are looking to apply for extramural funding and need key data to demonstrate that (1) their objectives and specific aims can be validated and (2) they are capable of performing these experiments in their laboratory setting…With the data gathered with the CSUPERB grant, I can now show that I have the training and resources at CSULA to execute the experimental design I propose.” – Katrina Yamazaki (CSUPERB New Investigator PI, CSU Los Angeles) who started up her lab with the help of five remarkable undergraduate and master’s students who are continuing on in biotechnology-related career paths.
“The CSUPERB grant program is a keystone in the CSU system’s support of student training in biotechnology and molecular biology. The program not only provides research funding support for faculty to pursue innovative, and potentially transformative, avenues in biotechnology research, but it also provides the financial support needed to train students in the technologies of tomorrow.” – Sean Lema (CSUPERB New Investigator PI, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) who obviously understands CSUPERB’s “dual strategy” of funding!
Dr. Lema’s quote is a fitting book-end to the 2013-2014 academic year at CSUPERB. At the August Faculty Consensus Group meeting, we kicked off our strategic planning process. We write a new strategic plan every three years. This fall CSUPERB leadership will be pouring over annual reports, PI final reports, and feedback from our communities of interest, learning, and practice to figure out how best to serve the CSU’s biotechnology instructors, researchers and entrepreneurs. Check back in this spring to read not only about “why we do what we do,” but also how we’ll do things 2015-2018. My guess is that we’ll continue to invest in promising young researchers, engaging, effective curriculum and inspirational mentors across the California State University.
*maybe because we still self-identify as scientists, engineers or entrepreneurs!