Each year CSUPERB organizes and hosts the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. The 28th annual event January 5-7, 2016, brought together 403 student researchers from 21 of the 23 CSU campuses.*
The post-symposium surveying is now complete. 96.4% of students responding (28.5% of those who attended) would recommend it to other students. 100% of faculty responding (40% of those who attended) would recommend the meeting to students or other faculty.
These endorsements are a real testimony to the Faculty Consensus Group (FCG) members (if you follow that link you might want to hit play and mute your computer!) who put significant thought, work and creativity into this year’s program. We also – of course – had a small army of invited speakers, industry mentors and evaluators who brought their perspectives, stories and verve to the meeting. It’s amazing to see all the moving parts come together each January. This was my 9th symposium. The fall ramp-up to the symposium is draining from a small office organizational viewpoint – but I can tell you the CSUPERB program office floats through the year on the energy and goodwill we harvest during the symposium!
CSUPERB and our sponsors subsidize the cost of symposium participation for CSU students. Each year as they register, we ask students for information about themselves so that we can track the make-up of the students we support. I’m a sucker for free web-based software so I graphed out student responses using Piktochart this year (see below – or surf to the dynamic version on the web: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/11020572-csuperb-supported-students). I can’t tell you how many times during the year I use this data for grant proposals and presentations outside the CSU – so I wanted to share this data with the CSUPERB community. We’ve been tracking this dataset for 3 years now; this year’s responses are not significantly different than previous years’ data.
It’s policy report season so I’ve recently read lots of thought-provoking and sometimes frustrating higher education, workforce development and research-related monographs. However, one worth discussing here is a new (prepublication) report out of the National Academies Press (NAP) titled, “Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem.” (Free PDF available at www.nap.edu/21894). It leans heavily on National Science Board (NSB) data found in the 2014 “Revisiting the STEM Workforce” report.
As readers of this blog know well – I’ve often railed against general calls for more STEM graduates. The NAP and NSB reports do a great job describing the “heterogeneity of the STEM workforce and lack of consensus on how to define it…” However the reports (rightly IMHO) offer data and citations that focus on “high level of attrition, especially of women and underrepresented groups, among students in STEM majors.” That’s why I’m so proud to share our data on the student researchers and entrepreneurs who presented at the 28th CSU Biotechnology Symposium.
The recommendations outlined in the NAP report map surprisingly well to the strategies adopted by CSUPERB these past 8 years or so. The annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium itself is a classic example of a “larger-scale, convening event” called for in the report! The NAP report lists promising practices, including:
- “More hands-on, project-based learning activities for students.
- Professional development for teachers in project-based learning instruction.
- More opportunities for students, teachers, and parents to interact with STEM professionals and learn about employers and career opportunities.
- Outreach to females and underrepresented minorities that includes opportunities to meet role models and mentors who look like the students.
- Mechanisms to facilitate connections between teachers and STEM professionals who wish to function as volunteer speakers and/or mentors.”
The annual symposium program incorporates these promising practices, including the opportunity to showcase the high level of “hands-on, project-based” research and entrepreneurial projects the CSU’s students produce. The 264 posters and 13 CSU I-Corps team presentations represent faculty-student research supported by NSF, NIH, HHMI and other national funding organizations. While none of the CSU campuses are classified as Research 1 universities, the hands-on, project-based learning opportunities mentored by CSU faculty systemwide are of outstanding quality and have tremendous impact on the career trajectories of our students.**
The educators, industry professionals, sponsors and policy leaders who come to the symposium “recognize the importance of strong college-university-industry collaboration in preparing the STEM workforce of the future.” CSUPERB works with “intermediary organizations,” like BIOCOM and California Life Sciences Institute, who understand the bi-directional partnerships needed to nurture a healthy biotechnology industry ecosystem. Doctoral program representatives and community college colleagues join us at the event to build bridges and pathways for our students and theirs. We thank Gilead Sciences, Inc., Agilent Technologies, BioDiscovery, CourseKey, Grifols Biologicals, Inc., Rare Science, Inc., Slater Hersey and Virun for their financial support – but also their employees who were a vital part of the 28th annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. The National Science Foundation provided funding for the CSU I-Corps program – a very popular, new part of the symposium program. These relationships and ongoing partnerships are the basis on which CSUPERB carries out its strategic goals; the annual symposium is the “convening event” that brings us together again face-to-face (even in nano-second drive-bys!).
The real reason we all keep coming back to the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium is to meet the students who come to the symposium each year. Having 9 symposia under my belt now, my LinkedIn network is beginning to swell with CSU alumni working in the biotechnology industry. This year many of them came back to the symposium as mentors and speakers. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see them again, hear their stories and watch them give back to the current students attending the symposium. Join us next year – it’s a great event!
**For student impacts, see here and here. Most CSU faculty in biotechnology-related departments earned their PhDs and spent postdocs at R1 universities in the US and they do world-class research! Browse this year’s poster abstracts for a flavor of the biotechnology research going on across the CSU.