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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Generations brought together at conference

Sydney Richardson

Molecular and cellular biology student Travis Struck demonstrates how to extract DNA from cheek cells at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre on Saturday. The Undergraduate Biology Research Program holds a yearly conference to showcase student research.

The Undergraduate Biology Research Program held its 26th Annual Conference on Saturday bringing students, faculty, alumni and the Tucson community together.

“This campus has a wealth of very incredible and talented students,” said Carol Bender, the director of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program. “We are able to use the research resources here and the incredible faculty mentors that we have to nurture that talent. I don’t know of any other place in the country that does it quite as well as our faculty mentors do. It takes a lot of effort to train a new scientist, and our faculty have been willing to put in the time because they not only see it as an investment but they enjoy doing it.”

The conference consisted of a keynote speaker, hands-on activities, an interpretive dance performance and a poster sharing session showcasing the hard work of more than 120 students.

The poster presentation session consisted of not only UA students but also a few NAU students, as well as one presenter from the local San Miguel High School.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Parmi Suchdev, a UA alumnus who graduated in 1998. Suchdev was a Flinn Scholar who was involved with the UBRP. He is now a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nutrition Branch, teaches medical students and residents at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as a pediatric hospitalist and is an associate professor of pediatrics and global health at Emory University.

He commented that the conference has been fantastic and has come a long way.

“I think the key thing is to get students interested in a science early on, and to really supplement their classroom training,” Suchdev said. “There’s only so much you can learn in class. When you can actually apply what you learn, it’s great experience. I know when I was a student, it was so great to see people further along in their career and realizing these career paths are possible. That’s been my favorite part talking to students, and hearing where they want to go and really just encouraging them to take their passion to the next level.”

Lauren Edwards, a neuroscience and cognitive science junior, presented a poster and said it’s inspiring to see someone like Suchdev who can reassure students that they can make it.

“It’s like paying it forward,” Edwards said. “They were in our shoes, and now they’re far in their careers. We want that confirmation that it’s possible.”

Edwards said one of the best parts about the conference is being able to network and meet new people, including peers and faculty.

Bender said she was thrilled with the conference and student involvement throughout the year, particularly seeing how students took advantage of the opportunity to communicate their scientific findings.

“Much of science is publicly funded, and if we can’t share with the public what we’re doing, then why should they continue to support us?” Bender said. “So, being able to communicate your findings to a general audience is a really important skill to cultivate, and it’s an important part of being a scientist. It’s one of their responsibilities.”

John Enemark, the UBRP External Advisory Group chairperson, said that the conference is intended to allow student to receive feedback, address questions and explain their experiments.

“It’s been a really good conference,” Enemark said. “Students are really excited and great at explaining their work. … They are getting experience at telling people at all levels about their work.”

Suchdev said that it has been “nice to see parents, kids and siblings” in attendance.

“I’m just very grateful that the UA has the amazing faculty and wonderful students that we have,” Bender said, “because we are able to bring those two together in a powerful program like this.”


Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.

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