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Grad Student Organization

BCMB Graduate Student Organization

Graduate students Justin Westerfield, Jacob Sanders, and Rosela Golloshi with Martin Chalfie, a recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The BCMB Graduate Student Organization (GSO) supports graduate students by organizing social, outreach, and professional events. Founded in 2016, the first GSO members were enterprising graduate students who had been involved in organizing holiday parties, the fall retreat, and interview weekend. Since then, GSO has undertaken other ventures to help make BCMB an even better place for graduate students.

One of the goals is to provide graduate students with unique opportunities to learn useful skills and hear interesting speakers. In 2017, GSO organized a CRISPR workshop and invited professionals from the field to provide hands-on training and tips for successful CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. They also hosted a “Creating Art for STEM” workshop, where participants learned to apply design principles when creating figures for publications and presentations. The event also featured a keynote speech by the managing Illustrator/Designer for Cell, Yvonne Blanco. In October 2017, BCMB GSO hosted Martin Chalfie, a recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein (GFP).

Another goal of the BCMB GSO is to facilitate communication between the faculty and graduate students. To further this aim, GSO hosts a town hall meeting every spring, which is a discussion forum between the department head and the graduate students. Students used this meeting to successfully advocate for the return of BCMB 615, which is a source of 600-level class credits.

Incoming graduate students often struggle to find a place to live, to know what classes they should be taking, and how to choose lab rotations, among other things. BCMB GSO now hopes to help new students acclimate to the program and to Knoxville by mediating a mentor/mentee program. Students fill out a survey that is used to match current students with incoming students, who will then have a dedicated friendly face and source of wisdom for navigating grad school.

Members are interested not only in supporting BCMB graduate students, but also in community outreach. To this end, they participated in Brain Day at Cedar Bluff Elementary School in March 2018. Several grad students volunteered to teach fourth and fifth graders about brain science – and they even brought a real human brain for them to touch! Now, they are working to set up a pen-pal program with elementary school students from several schools, through which grad students will answer the kids’ questions about science and what it is like to be a scientist.

All BCMB grad students are welcome to participate in GSO meetings. Stop by to share your thoughts and to be a part of bringing fantastic events to BCMB! Follow on Twitter @bcmbgso and on Instagram @UTKBCMBGSO! and visit our website at