We’re publishing the 26th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium Report today. We issue the report only after we’ve closed the financials, meaning everyone has turned in their travel reimbursement claims and we’ve settled them. We carefully audit our participant and author lists and finalize registration numbers, removing duplicates and the inevitable no-shows. We send the symposium report to the generous speakers, sponsors and supporters of the annual event to make sure they know how impactful their contributions were to the students and faculty who attend the event.
I insist on keeping the report short and colorful. I’ve reported already on what students learned at the symposium and the research partnerships represented. I’m going to use today’s blog post to shed light on a few of the things that didn’t make it into the report or previous blog posts!
This year we tried “day-pass” and “full-cost” registrations for the first time. We only accepted 75% of the poster abstracts submitted for budget and space reasons. So we had hundreds of disappointed symposium applicants again this year. Poster acceptance means that student authors pay $50 registration fee for access to all sessions, all meals, lodging and are eligible for travel reimbursements up to $150. The real cost of all this totals up to $525 per student. You are starting to get an idea of how tightly our symposium expenses are linked to the number of participants attending!
The CSUPERB FCG strongly believes the symposium should be accessible to all; each summer we debate how to make it so by stretching our dollars further. We know many FCG members line up campus-based, “cost-sharing” solutions to reimburse or avoid out-of-pocket student registration costs. 61% of students responding to the post-symposium survey reported they were reimbursed by their department or their mentor paid the $50 registration fee.
This year we offered three-day passes for $85, covering access to all sessions and breakfasts, but no lunch, dinner, hotel room or travel reimbursement. Full-cost student registration was $375 and allowed access to all meals and included lodging, but no travel reimbursement.
In the end, 19 students and faculty took us up on the day-pass option; 17 students paid for full-cost registrations. From what we understand, the majority of students who used these registration options were seniors or master’s students nearing the completion of their degrees; they wanted access to the career and graduate student information sessions. In some cases they were authors on posters being presented; in most cases grant or campus funds covered their costs. We knew the main session rooms would hold over 650 participants, but we were at fire-marshall capacity at meals and in poster sessions at the Santa Clara Marriott.
We’ll keep working to keep the symposium accessible, but the improving economy is putting increasing price pressure on us. At the Spring SPC meeting and August FCG meeting, we’ll wrestle with our options for 2015. We will return to the Santa Clara Marriott next year; we could not find a venue in southern California to accommodate us next January.
Pre- and Post-Surveying: Student Aspirations
This year we surveyed students before and after the symposium on a few questions. We were curious about their career aspirations and their research experience.
CSUPERB tracks career aspirations and “latest” status of the students we support on grants and scholarships, but we started surveying the symposium participants in 2012 about career aspirations. Recall – both undergraduates and master’s students attend the symposium; 90% of them present research posters. This year 70% of them reported working 10-30 hours per week on research projects; 38% said they worked in a research group 2-3 academic terms.
In 2012 34% of students responding (n=243) said they planned to become researchers; 14% said they planned on attending medical/dental/veterinary school. We’ve tightened up our surveying since then (results in chart below, click on figure to enlarge it), so we have a more precise break-down on students’ aspirations. The question we asked was, “Immediately after I graduate or complete my CSU degree I think I want to (chose the best answer).” Roughly a third of the students responding still plan to enter doctoral research programs immediately after completion of their degrees.
Roughly 14-30% plan to go to medical/dental/veterinary school. This is our most “variable” category. We know from previous surveys that pre-med students are wary to let research mentors know they want to become physicians and clinicians, not researchers. (We know many of those physicians and clinicians also become researchers – but that’s a conversation for another day!). The surveys show about 14% plan to work a few years before returning to graduate school (the sequence I took as well!). Here in the program office and within CSUPERB governance groups, we use this data to plan out the symposium programming. I’m sharing it with mentors system-wide to “lend language” they can use to explore their students’ true aspirations.
We thank our sponsors many times during the symposium and in our publications. The sponsorship dollars we raised this year didn’t quite keep us from going over budget (again). But we were only $9,197 over budget this year. It could have been worse without the help from sponsors and donors.
The real thanks go to the CSUPERB program office staff and volunteers (James, Pam, Tyson, Thomas, Julie and Dayna) and the FCG volunteers that make this event happen. A worn-out subset of FCG volunteers is pictured below at the end of the symposium and ~10 hours before the all-day FCG meeting that Sunday! Starting in the early fall, FCG members serve as poster abstract reviewers, award selection committee members, session organizers, workshop designers, committee chairs and session moderators to get ready for the January event. Paula Fischhaber (CSU Northridge & SPC member) piloted a new organizational construct for us this year – she oversaw ALL of the symposium award committees. We estimate she ran the longest distances during the symposium this year keeping committees and student finalists on point! Kathie McReynolds (CSU Sacramento, SPC member & FCG Deputy Chair) organized the Thursday workshop programming this year – she’s getting pretty darn good at it. According to the post-session and symposium surveys, it was a high-quality line-up. Equally impactful – based on survey responses – was the bioengineering network reception that Daryl Eggers (San Jose State University & SPC member) organized at the symposium for the first time. As a result, bioengineering faculty and students attended the symposium in greater numbers than we’ve ever seen before. Stanley Maloy (SPC member and Dean of Sciences at San Diego State University) also deserves a shout-out; he stepped in at the last-minute to replace a flu-flattened speaker and did a terrific job. It’s a privilege working with this community – it’s amazing what we make happen for faculty and students each year!