I’ll confess: OHSU Research Week, to me, used to connote a free shirt, time to socialize with friends I don’t often see and lots of opportunities for free food. Throughout my attendance at Research Week events over the years, and as I’ve gotten more involved, however, I’ve come to realize how rewarding the event is (beyond the freebies) and how hard everyone involved works to make Research Week helpful and worthwhile.
Amy Williams, a fourth-year graduate student in the Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program, served as the Graduate Student Organization liaison on the Research Week Steering Committee. While her role as liaison required her to plan and organize all Research Week events, Amy was most heavily involved in the conception and overseeing of all of the Student Day events and selecting the student’s choice keynote lecturer, Nicholas Strausfeld, Ph.D. When asked why she chose to take on all of these responsibilities in addition to the normal workload of a Ph.D. student, Amy said, “I wanted to be involved in Research Week because I think it is a wonderful tradition of celebrating all research occurring at OHSU, and I wanted to be a part of that tradition.” She added, “Research Week is a truly unique opportunity at OHSU to discover research that is entirely outside of your area of expertise but occurring at your same institution. There are also great Student Day events meant to help students with research, communication, mentorship, career development, writing and even research promotion in the modern world.”
To balance out how much I’ve taken advantage of Research Week events to provide me with free meals, I volunteered as part of the Student Day subcommittee this year. I was struck by how many people worked exhaustively behind the scenes to make Research Week happen. Members of the planning committee included faculty, administrators and students from various offices and schools around campus. Additional volunteers worked in the weeks beforehand to get everything ready for Research Week participants (I will never take conference nametags for granted again), while still more volunteers helped to check in presenters, moderate sessions and judge presentations.
And the fruits of their labor? A smoothly run event that featured 139 poster presentations, 86 oral presentations, a Three Minute Thesis Competition and numerous lectures, panels and a mixer to help OHSU researchers learn more about skills helpful for both in and out of the lab.
Monday, May 1, featured a session about how researchers can promote their research that inspired at least one student to create a Twitter account. Plus, there were oral presentations and an opening reception followed by a poster session. In his opening remarks, Dan Dorsa, Ph.D., senior vice president for research, emphasized how important Research Week is for bringing together researchers of different disciplines to share and celebrate their research. And, true to the intent, attendees mingled, discussed posters and enjoyed some time outside of their labs and clinics.
Tuesday, May 2, was Student Day, consisting of the student’s choice keynote speaker Dr. Strausfeld sharing his research about the evolution of brains as assessed by studying the fossil record. Afterwards, students excitedly discussed the implications of his findings on their own research over pizza. In the afternoon, a panel discussion about mentor/mentee relationships offered students the opportunity to learn more about how to successfully develop and navigate relationships with mentors. Later, a panel about non-academic careers allowed students to learn about transitioning into the non-academic realm and pose questions to former graduate students who now work in the fields of intellectual property, science communication, policy and entrepreneurship.
The final day of Research Week, Wednesday, May 3, brought the Three Minute Thesis Competition. Eleven participants competed to present their research in an engaging but concise manner using a single slide as a visual aid. The audience was treated to presentations running the gamut from using bioinformatics to identify novel genes associated with cancer to using microbubbles to treat heart disease, with Jackie Wirz, Ph.D., assistant dean for graduate student affairs, OHSU School of Medicine, providing some improvisational comedy between talks. Six judges selected Katie Lebold, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the biomedical engineering graduate program, as the winner with her presentation about the effects of maternal asthma on nerve development in offspring. She will move on to represent OHSU at the statewide competition (which OHSU students have won in the past).
Research Week concluded with the announcement of award winners, a highly competitive raffle drawing and a round of applause for all of the participants and volunteers who made the event possible. Students trickled out of the OHSU Auditorium armed with new information about career development, ideas about mentorship, a better understanding of ongoing research at OHSU, and, if they were lucky enough to sign up before the sessions filled up, professional headshots. The organizers breathed big sighs of relief at having pulled off another successful event that brought OHSU researchers together. Shortly after the awards ceremony, I ran into one of the organizers (who shall remain anonymous) in the hall and congratulated her on a job well done. “I need a beer!” she told me. I’d say she earned it, as did everyone involved.
See more Research Week highlights.