Oh yes we are! We are ready to meet challenges and unknown circumstances. This is what a training as a PhD prepares you for – troubleshooting, contingency planning, accounting for unknown variables, and most importantly, persevering in the face of challenges. As everyone else, we were not ready for the disruption brought about by a global pandemic, but we were prepared to shift what we were doing to meet the new circumstances. Within a week, during the spring break, we turned our in-person classes to online courses and strived to provide quality and meaningful instruction to our students while managing chaos in our research laboratories. We had to shut down research for a while, but have been getting back with new rules, like the rest of the country. Our graduate students were impacted by the research slow down more than most as they depend on access to research facilities to make progress. We have been creative and compassionate in ensuring all got as much as we could from the disruption. We were ready.
Our research was also ready to inform the public of the challenges of COVID-19. We hosted a symposium on the cellular and molecular biology underlying what we knew at the time about COVID-19 in March 2020, just before the university shut down. Professors Guo and McCord, faculty in BCMB, and Micholas Smith, research assistant professor in BCMB, delivered compelling messages regarding the molecular biology and genomics contexts of the virus and what realistic hopes we should have toward vaccines and therapies. Jeremy Smith, a governor’s chair in BCMB, has been at the forefront of the effort to discover vaccine targets to fight COVID-19.
This year, we welcome Jianbin Wang as an assistant professor in BCMB, working on programmed DNA elimination and are proud to celebrate the promotion and tenure of Maitreyi Das to the rank of associate professor. We have also celebrated the accomplishments of our top undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff by honoring them with our annual awards. We were not able to meet in person, but we have strived to recognize their contribution to advancing the department’s mission. We also were fortunate to be able to recruit Amit Joshi as an assistant professor in cell biology who will start in January 2021.
This year, I look forward to exploring curricular innovations to meet the demands and interests of students. We need to innovate constantly and be ready to address our students’ needs. I will lead a casual and informational “meet and greet” meeting with undergraduate students majoring in BCMB to understand what their needs and concerns are throughout the fall semester. I hope this will create a sense of community and belonging in BCMB and I believe, will be critical in guiding future curricular revisions. In this effort, I am thankful to be assisted by our external advisory board members who are always willing and ready to lend a helping hand. I hope that those reading these lines would feel motivated to join these ranks. While I feel I am prepared and ready, I can use the help of our community in achieving these ambitious goals.