What Students Thought: 25th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium

We’ve paid all the bills and closed the financials on the 25th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium, so it’s time to summarize the event in a symposium report.

To keep the report short we cut out some of the best content (look for the official report later in the month).

Today I worked to distill students’ anonymous suggestions and comments to a sentence or two* for the report. The students’ post-symposium survey responses are typically the best reflection of how the event went (the faculty comments tend to be nicer!).

This year the students who responded to the survey wrote lovely things in response to the question, “What will you remember about the symposium?”   I’ve shared their answers in chart** (click on image to see larger version) or text format below.***  Now you too can sit back to remember and reflect on what it was like to attend your first professional meeting as a scientist or engineer.  Enjoy.

Keyword analysis of student's open text answers to the question, "What will you remember about the symposium?" from 2013 Post-symposium survey.

A Selection of Anonymous CSU Student Survey Responses to the Question, What Will You Remember About the Symposium?

“There were some really wonderful and inspirational talks on Friday morning. I also will remember the graduate [Eden] students’ talks. I will also remember the I2P contest – it was really neat to see what people were coming up with.”

“This year’s event was my first and unfortunately will be my last as I graduate. I regret about not being able to take part in such an exceptional event earlier on in my college career as CSUPERB was more than I expected. I was able to discuss with other CSU students about their college journey at their campuses and what research they did. Not only that, but the information from each session that I did attend was more than I ever expected. Thank you for a wonderful experience!”

“It’s such a great experience- I’m so lucky I got invited to go! I wish more students could know about this opportunity earlier on in their career- at least at my school… Maybe you guys could send out newsletters (in email form so it will be cheap) informing students at colleges that this event happens annually and what we could acquire by coming here…”

“The graduate school workshop was personally the most helpful session of the entire weekend.”

“I will remember the amazing connections and friendships I made with other CSU students (including those from my own school who I’ve never met before). I will remember the great opening session with the amazing talks about what… alumni are doing and what they hope their research will contribute in the future.”

“I will remember the information I heard relating to graduate school and future jobs. I really like that this is part of the symposium because it’s what most of us are currently thinking about. I will also remember the advice I received about my research.”

“The Biofuels Taskforce Meeting was a fascinating opportunity for me to understand how my research applies to industry. I had a wonderful time.’

“3. Stem Cell Dance 2. Presenting my research/Learning about other people’s research 1. Being in a big room full of people as nerdy as me!”

“I really enjoyed being able to get to know other students who were also doing research on my campus. I never realized quite how many of us there were!”

“The stress from being involved in the I2P competition.”

“Career session, Don Eden Graduate Student presentation, Stem-cell dancing, I2P Finalist Presentations…”

“I found the Eden Finalist talks very interesting. The talks on Friday morning were rather long and thus, were less engaging. The food was also very bland with the exception of the banquet dinner, which was good.”

“How encouraging everyone was.”

“I heard that professionals from the field and business oriented sessions were included. It would be great to have more of the networking sessions. The table heads were extremely cooperative and were a wealth of information.”

“The networking sessions were not my favorite, I prefer the speaker sessions. However, I spoke with many students who gleaned a lot of info from these sessions, so I see their importance.”

“I will remember the atmosphere and what it’s like to be surrounded by student researchers with differing cultural backgrounds and education but with the same enthusiasm for science.”

“I noticed that students from the same campus tended to “stick” together. While that is certainly a great idea and demonstrates unity, I also noticed that there were very lonely students. I personally made an effort to include a number of those students in our group, but perhaps a more structured approach [that might] be effective would be to “mix” students from all of the campuses. A workshop of some sort, or any type of activity that would place students in environment to learn about other students, campuses, and research, would be a fantastic idea!”

“I will remember my experiences at the poster session, and what I can do to improve as a scientist in my research and as a presenter. I will also remember the talks given by the I2P finalists. Those talks truly inspired me, and, in my opinion, they were the most exciting talks given at the symposium.”

“It was a great experience for my first conference. I loved explaining my research to CSU faculty and students who had some understanding of what I was doing. I really enjoyed the graduate school information session because I learned a lot of useful information!”

“Have more career networking sessions…”

“If possible, can there be more at least 10 minute breather breaks between events? Me and some of the other people I attended the conference got really overwhelmed by all the information, and a couple more small breaks could help us digest the information better, I think.”

“I thought it was an excellent symposium– great topics, good timing between sessions, great mix of topics during the student sessions. The only thing I would say is to encourage speakers to keep to their time limit during the opening session speakers. Some speakers went over their time limit, so we didn’t have time for the scheduled break to relax a bit before listening to more talks.”

“More industry related advice and possibly recruitment. This is a hard job market and it would be nice to be able to get to know more industry related people.”

“I very much enjoyed hearing about the different journeys and current research from the Celebrating CSU Biotechnology Alumni session.”

“During the Career Networking Session, I was really glad that students were able to sit at 3 topic tables because there were quite a few ‘topics’ that sounded interesting. I really enjoyed discussing about Gilead and their opportunities, and so I highly recommend inviting Clifford Samuel from Gilead for next year’s event.”

“I felt like the industry talks were the most interesting. It gives one the feeling that [our] education is applicable in the real world.”



* 98% of students responding to the survey would recommend the CSU Biotechnology Symposium to other students in the future. 30% of students (106) who attended the symposium answered the survey.

**The chart presents a keyword analysis of students’ responses to the question, “What will you remember about the symposium?”  The wider the wedge the more times it was mentioned as memorable.

***To get visuals, see the 2013 Symposium Photo Gallery

    This entry was posted in Life Science Careers, Symposium, Uncategorized and tagged , , by Susan Baxter. Bookmark the permalink.

    About Susan Baxter

    I'm the executive director of CSUPERB and the editor of this blog. Over my career, I've worked with teams to formulate new herbicide products, to figure out how transcription factors work in combination, to discover protein targets for new diabetes treatments, and to develop software for human population genetics studies. I started a biotechnology career because a couple of companies in Richmond, Virginia, offered me summer internships. Since then I’ve worked in major corporations, small start-ups, research institutions and academia. Now I'm working with CSUPERB, funding promising CSU students and faculty, and supporting biotechnology education and research across the 23 CSU campuses. It is a personal mission of mine to smash the myth of "the right academic pedigree." Biotechnology changes so rapidly that it is extremely limiting to ask students to chart an exact career path, focus on a particular technique, or build a defined technical skill-set. My career advice? Stay agile by keeping your mind open, exploring your own interests, and working alongside excellent colleagues on hard problems.

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