It’s annual reporting season at CSUPERB. I know some of you are rolling your eyes – each year I write about how much fun it is to read final reports and survey responses. It never gets old!
Now that we’re getting organized for the 30th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium, I posted an album of photos from the 29th annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium (very late this year) at the CSUPERB Facebook page. But – to me – the anonymous comments from students and faculty symposium participants really explain why this annual convening is important. Each year we find out that the symposium provides much-needed career advice for students and much-appreciated faculty networking and learning opportunities.
I especially like the “anticipated vs. memorable” session analysis in the post-symposium survey (see chart below). Nothing much about the program surprises faculty participants; the majority (65%) have attended the symposium before. But the students don’t know what to expect from the Career Networking (CNS) and Graduate School Information (GSIS) Sessions; each year they comment that these symposium sessions were surprisingly impactful and memorable.
We design both sessions as round-table rotations. That is – each student sits in on 4-5 roundtable conversations with industry professionals (in the CNS) or faculty advisors and recruiters (in the GSIS). We typically have ~25-30 tables to choose from in these sessions. Not everyone gets to sit at their tables of choice, but we’ve learned that a tremendous amount of learning happens regardless. Over the years, we’ve noticed that fewer and fewer student participants decide to skip these sessions. As a result, we’re seating ~400 students in the CNS (photo below for perspective!) and ~250 in the GSIS – compared to only 80-100 students in years past. It takes a small army of mentors to make these sessions successful (you can read the list of 2017 GSIS participants in the detailed program) – but each year the post-symposium survey responses remind us it’s completely worth the effort needed to recruit participants!
There is no way I can include all the quotes below in the upcoming annual report, in a CSUPERB monthly newsletter, or in a short “blurb” at the CSUPERB website. So – I’m sharing them here at the blog where there is no limit on words or attention spans.
I invite you to read on. And consider sharing this blog post with students and faculty considering attending the 30th event!
ANONYMOUS QUOTES FROM POST-SYMPOSIUM SURVEY (collected after 29th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium, January 5-7, 2017)
FACULTY RESPONSES: “Tell us what you’ll remember about this year’s symposium”
This was my first CSUPERB and I loved it. A very unique organization and a great role model for inter-campus collaboration beneficial to all. A great resource for faculty and students and so much more.
I learned how to develop elevator talks, and enjoyed the diverse/multidisciplinary poster topics.
How much the students learned in the I-Corps sessions, the faculty teaching sessions, and collaborative sessions.
Collaborative insights and relationships among faculty and students. The poster sessions were great, I had not realized how many students would be presenting.
How much good science is being conducted within the CSU system and being taken beyond the system.
The need for better interactions between Academic & Student Affairs. The amount of pivoting that the I-Corps teams needed to do in developing a viable business idea.
*How inspiring the students were presenting their I-Corps projects. *How much it helped my students to present a poster.
The emphasis on career development at all levels (from undergraduate to faculty).
Hearing so many great stories of how ideas were developed into either significant research findings or great marketable products. (Plenary sessions, Don Eden Talks, Faculty short talks, Astrobio [Nikki Parenteau, NASA]
Interacting with students at meals and posters. I am a new faculty; I went to CalStateLA, so catching up with some old professors and colleagues and meeting new ones. Sharing a conversation with the co-founder of the MiniPCR company over lunch about technology and education.
Met and interacted with lots of new colleagues and learn lots of new things about CSUPERB. Also, learned a lot about I-Corps program.
My research students grew up so fast after attending the symposium. The entire research profile of the CSU system.
My first year as a member of the FCG!
FACULTY RESPONSES: We design the symposium program with the idea it should “…expose the attendees to ways of thinking and techniques that are different from the ones they already know.” (Bruce Alberts) What did you learn about or hear about for the first time at the 29th symposium?
Different pathways taken by people who create successful biotech start ups.
Design principles of collaboration.
Learned about various techniques that I may implement that were presented in poster format by students.
How many CSU faculty used CSUPERB funds as a spring board for NSF or NIH funding.
Examples of some of the I-Corps projects…I didn’t fully understand this program until seeing these talks.
AstroBiology, definitely. I was fascinated to see a lot of chemistry in the talks as well.
Outside of the box ways to develop biotechnology and biotechnology education programs in the CSU.
I finally understand what type of effort is put into an I-Corps project.
I was excited by the MiniPCR talk – it was very cool. It reminded me that there are a number of groups these days looking to make science more affordable, more accessible, and more portable.
How chemistry faculty like Dr. Joe Pesek [2017 CSUPERB Faculty Research Awardee] devoted decades to applied research involving students and industry
The Friday morning talks were very informative b/c I had not thought about the potential of so many innovations.
At the poster sessions, I always learn about new ways of approaching questions based on what others are doing. Talking with colleagues I learned of some online resources I was unaware were available.
For me, Diego Rey‘s presentation brought home the idea that in biotechnology you shouldn’t look for a problem for your idea, but look for ideas to fix a problem like no other source had. I had heard that before, but there was something very special about the way Dr. Rey presented it that made me appreciate it more fully.
The importance of collaborating with Student Affairs on student success initiatives.
Acinetobacter is the most commonly found bacteria found on space craft before departure.
NIH data science grants at CSU campuses related to biotechnology.
There were lots of bioengineering ideas and posters that incorporated ideas and biology.
Learned about the I-Corps program for the first time. Was suggested I look into an NSF CAREER grant by the MiniPCR co-founder (I have been targeting NIH AREA and SCORE mechanisms).
I learned a lot more about microbiology and the techniques that microbiologists use than I usually hear at the meetings I go to.
Even though it is not fully new to me, the faculty research award talk gave me a very clear picture on how to collaborate with a company.
The extent of NASA’s support of astrobiology and the permafrost model. The Humboldt STEM freshman initiative. Also, of course, the Friday morning symposium on moving research ideas off campus. That’s a group of people who think very differently from the way I do!
That research could be incorporated into lower division biology courses. Very ambitious and impressive!
STUDENT RESPONSES: “Tell us what you’ll remember about this year’s symposium”
The opportunity to give a lightning talk, it was a very fun experience. I also enjoyed the poster session and the people that stopped by to talk to me were of many different fields.
The career networking tables were far and away the most useful and practical part of the entire symposium.
I liked the Astrobiology session and this is the first time a symposium has offered a career networking session.
I gave a talk for Eden [system-wide Graduate Research Student Award]. That’s one of the best experiences I have ever had. Thanks a lot!
What I’ll remember most likely will be the poster presenting during the morning session. I recall having about 15-20 people come to our poster, including about 4+ PIs, to ask about the poster and provide insight. I was absolutely surprised so many people would come and I was delighted to speak with people with similar academic interests as me!
The topic tables during lunchtime. It was very interesting hearing about other professors research and sometimes even connecting it to my own research.
I’ll remember how fun it was learning from other professionals in the same field as me and discovering new paths available after graduating college.
The inclusive feeling of being a part of a small symposium gathering.
Career networking is extremely helpful, I get to learn a lot of information from different career paths which helps a lot in deciding my own career direction for the future.
I also remembered the Wow Me Elevator speech as well. This was probably my favorite portion.
The thorough, specific advice that I was given from graduate students about graduate school. And the great food!
I really enjoyed the graduate school topic tables. I have attended other workshops for graduate school, but this was by far the most useful one I’ve attended.
The process of starting a biotech company.
This symposium was highly informative and inspirational. I made some good friends with students from other campuses and got to know about a lot of different research projects at other schools. It was a great experience to be with a group of like-minded students.
Having the opportunity with meeting industry representatives from career networking session and getting advice/tips from them.
I will remember the conversations I had at the Career Networking Session.
I will remember the poster sessions because I learned a lot from others and obtained feedback about my own project/poster.
It was my first time presenting my research, and so I am very glad to have been in such a welcoming, open environment with plenty of other students and professors all attending to learn and explore a bit.
The symposium was unlike I have ever experienced and was truly grateful for the experience.
This was my first poster session so I was a little nervous. I will definitely remember my first poster session.
I remember meeting new people and hearing about new ideas. This was inspiring.
I’ll remember the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers from faculty to members in the industry. I’ll remember the knowledge and advice I gained from the sessions about Career Networking and Graduate School. I’ll also remember the experience developed from presenting my research to others in the field of biotech.
I really enjoyed the Friday morning talks and liked that it took the research that people have done for many years in school and used their knowledge and skills build up companies outside of campuses. It made me feel that even though you are a little fish in a big ocean, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
[During] the career networking I meet two very different medicinal chemists who taught me a lot about grad school.
I really appreciated speaking with faculty and business professionals getting advice and insight on future paths.
I will remember the realization of the grand scope of CSU research. It was an awesome opportunity to network with other ambitious CSU students.
I’ll remember the presentations given by the Eden research finalists and the advice given during the networking session. And, of course, I’ll remember the opportunity to present my own research.
I’ll remember all the workshops regarding what to do (biotech or PhD) after I get my degree.
I met someone who is working at my dream job in the field I want to get into to.
I will remember the career networking session. I learned more about careers I didn’t know a lot about, such as patent law and FDA career positions.
The symposium overall was decent. I learned quite a bit about potential careers in the networking session…The poster sessions were more enjoyable than I expected…
Rain (which is a good thing).
Getting to see the large variety of job opportunities and possibilities available in this field, and being able to appreciate other people’s intelligence and creativity.
This was my first time attending the symposium, and I will certainly never forget the talks that I had with students and faculty from other CSU campuses who are working on such diverse experiments. Being in the company of such minds made me realize that each and every one of us thinks differently and it is this unique thinking that will help us tackle the many problems that we face in this world.
When it comes to starting a business don’t get attached to an idea. Be ready to listen and pivot.
This was the first time I really felt like a part of the scientific community.
Career networking. I enjoyed that this symposium discussed career opportunities along with graduate school. The symposiums I’ve been to only mention graduate school and ignore industry options. Lighting talks were fun too. It broke me out of my shell.
At the Career Networking session I met with a bioinformatics professional [David Spellmeyer] who was able to give me his unique perspective on choosing a career in academia vs industry.
Unfortunately, the thing I’ll remember most is trying to get home in the storm after the symposium and almost not making it.
The poster session was very memorable because it became a sort of testing ground for my knowledge in my own research, as well as getting feedback from various professors and other students.
STUDENT RESPONSES: We design the symposium program with the idea it should “…expose the attendees to ways of thinking and techniques that are different from the ones they already know.” (Bruce Alberts) What did you learn about or hear about for the first time at the 29th symposium?
That it was prestigious and a very integral part of any student planning on doing research in their future career.
miniPCR, it is amazing!
There are many applications to the science projects I am currently working on in my lab, besides those I had already considered outside of the biotechnology field.
I recall one of the talks…being concerned with elucidating the role of a thymidine kinase in tumorigenesis. That was the first time I heard of these types of experiments and was delighted to speak with the speaker once she finished her presentation.
I learned about camel antibodies and bacteria living in permafrost.
The “wow elevator” workshop was very interesting because I had never really considered it important to have.
I learned about CSU I-Corps for the first time.
I learned that it’s important to sit with and meet new people at conferences.
I learned about the importance of networking with the story of how GeneWEAVE came to be.
A lot from grant writing workshop [GRFP Workshop]
I learned about Dr. Pesek’s work with HPLC and how he was able to overcome some of the shortcomings of the technique by modifying the surface. I thought it was an innovative way to take a commonly used procedure and make it even better.
The fact that even as a student you can still bring your idea off campus.
The extent of other people’s projects, it was a lot more research than I expected.
Learned how research impacted biotech industry in the Bay Area.
I learned about new techniques that could be helpful for my research. A student performed similar data analysis as I did and she suggested using the technique that she uses which looks at the size of the molecule in order to see if it will be able to bind to the active site.
I learned about the details of applying for grants and applying to grad school.
I learned great tools to navigate biotech or grad school that I wouldn’t have learned in the classroom.
I heard great things about the symposium and that was my experience as well.
I didn’t know anything about astrobiology at all before the symposium and found that session very interesting.
I saw studies of how the engineers were developing tools to help people return to their normal walking gait.
To many to count, Highlight: Alginate Microbeads
I experienced/thought about how computer/data/bioinformatics/machine learning can really inform biological wet lab research.
The general exposure to what was presented was overwhelming, hard to pinpoint one particular thing.
The involvement and commitment toward research involving women’s health [Howell-CSUPERB Scholars].
I found it very interesting that the maker of the miniPCR is able to make PCR available anywhere in the world not only because of his design in the product but that the master mix can last about a month without needing to be in a -20 degree C freezer. I never knew that the enzyme is stable outside of the freezer and always work with it quickly to make sure it goes back into the freezer. So this information peaked my interest.
By learning about jobs in the biotech industry field, it was the first time I considered a career in industry rather than academia.
I did not know about how many different departments that biotech covers.
You construct your own successful career path.
At the Astrobiology Showcase I met someone from CSU Fullerton looking at the spontaneous generation of the building blocks of life. It was very different from what I study and very interesting.
That there’s opportunity everywhere.
I learned a lot about the PhD programs at different schools; this helped me make a decision to pursue a PhD rather than an MD, which I had originally aimed for.
There were uses of existing programs that would be able to monitor cranial pressure
The astrobiology showcase was completely new and interesting to me.
I learned about bacteria that can grow in clean rooms in space. I did not know that molecular biology had a place in space and the talks on astrobiology were all very interesting (except for the lightning talks – I did not care for those at all).
Quite a few things. Off the top of my head: the GRFP, astrobiology, different approaches to our research, and a bit about life after grad school (which could include more grad school).
I learned about I-Corps, how different schools are doing their research, and actually talking to people in the biotech world.
I enjoyed listening to the faculty presentation on CURE. I think it is an invaluable experience for student of all levels to be given the chance to engage in lab activities that afford them the opportunities to think critically, apply text-book knowledge to real world research, and solidify lab skills and confidence that will be critical in future coursework, research, and eventually employment.
The networking session exposed me to the fact that most graduates do not immediately end up where they expected, but everything works out eventually and careers are often better than what they originally expected.
I did not learn any novel techniques.
I heard about different vaccine formulations against HSV-2.
Through the I-Corps I was exposed to the bridge between business and research.
There were two memorable posters being one from CSU San Marcos on gold-catalyzed Friedel-Crafts acylation, the other being about synthesis of phosphinates that was also done with enantioselectivity.
I learned about different topics from fellow poster presenters at CSUPERB. I also brainstormed some ideas with fellow students to use for my research.
I learned about fetal alcohol syndrome, gene therapy, the process to establish a start-up company, and the possibility of life outside of earth and what kind of environment they have to survive.
That with your science degree you can work as a Patent Agent. Going to Law school was definitely a new idea for me.
One thing I learned from the 29th symposium is that the sharing of our experimental projects enlightens our minds and makes us widen our view of the problems in the world or even find new experimental techniques that might aid our own particular project.
I truly learned how to think like a scientist and question everything after the conference. It really opened my mind and gave me a lot of ideas.
I learned that building networks with other people will help me in the long run.
Some of the computational studies about phylogenetics and taxonomy were very interesting. When it comes to my own project; related groups weren’t too eager to share their methods and didn’t seem very interested in mine.
The early plenary program “When Research-based Ideas Leave Campus” allowed me to comprehend a better understanding for why I should push through graduate school.
I learned that cell aggregation may be due to the acidity of the cell’s environment.
I learned new techniques I can use in my own research project in regards to detecting post-translational modifications.
Most of what I heard from the symposium, I heard last year as well. I did not learn many new things.
I learned how to take a different approach with my project. I learned that I could measure how much energy the protein of interest was giving off to the substrate due to the conformational change using FRET. I am going to talk to my PI and there might be a collaboration for a new project. I am really excited to see where this goes.
My favorite thing learned was a poster on ant memory. I’m amazed that that is even knowable.
Industry. I learned about FDA and a company that works on the side effects of drugs. By the time I got to bioinformatics, I could not stop telling the advisor there how excited I am that there are so many opportunities for me after graduation. I will definitely be applying everywhere. Masters program, doctoral program, industry jobs and pharmacy school.
“Be curious” – Dr. Pesek
Not much, but I learned a lot about whole genome sequencing. Currently I know little about that and focus mostly on 16S rRNA.
I totally agree with the quote. In fact, this Symposium opened my eyes to other opportunities. I was thinking that academia was the only way to go. I feel excited about the possibility of working on my own and conducting my own research outside academia.
The idea that my research could be (and should be) applicable to something in the biotech industry instead of just being a research project. I think this is very important because most people think that the research that we do [produces a] “useless” piece of information that no one from the outside cares about. But the symposium showed that with a little creativity, we can make other people care about our research too.