A group of HWS students and faculty representing the Colleges’ Biology and Chemistry Departments recently participated in the 2015 Annual American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Conference, one of the leading academic conventions of its kind.
In attendance were Caitlyn Mitchell ’15 and Carly Rolph ’15, as well as Associate Professor of Biology Patricia Mowery, Professor of Chemistry Erin Pelkey and Professor of Biology Sigrid Carle ’84. Showcasing her research in cellular and developmental biology, Mitchell was one of just 16 presenters awarded honorable mention from a field of high-achieving students who participated in the conference’s undergraduate poster sessions.
“The student presenters were from all over the U.S. and from large universities to four-year colleges,” says Carle, Mitchell’s Honors adviser. “For the competition, students explained their posters to faculty judges. Patricia Mowery and I were both judges (not for our students), and both of us were very impressed with the quality of student work presented.”
The conference, which is facilitated by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), convened attendees representing undergraduate students, graduate students and established research scientists and scholars. Hosted at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, this year’s ASBMB gathering featured 14 themes of research presentations.
Mitchell and Rolph entered the undergraduate poster competition, which invited students to showcase their research in a poster presentation format: the main mechanism for exhibiting research results in the sciences. Capped at 225 competitors, the poster sessions were judged based a student’s ability to utilize the scientific method and present their findings in a visually-appealing way.
A double major in chemistry and environmental studies, Rolph says the conference gave her the chance to learn more about how scientists present to larger, broader audiences.
“I observed a lot of high level medical research projects ranging from cancer to obesity studies. The conference exposes students to what research is like after our undergraduate career,” says Rolph, who completed an Honors project in the fall and hopes to work in a laboratory setting after graduation. “There is such a wide range of biology related topics that almost any research student could benefit from this.”
For Mitchell, participating in the ASBMB conference was the perfect opportunity to gain insights from leading scholars and view the latest research.
“I presented my poster at the competition to a number of judges, who all gave me feedback on my research and presenting skills, which definitely helped me a lot,” says Mitchell, a biology major with a minor in health professions. “It was great to get feedback on my research from new people who had new ideas and different perspectives.”
Mitchell, who will complete her Honors project this spring, was also recently accepted to a Ph.D. program in developmental biology at Duke University, where she will begin her studies in fall 2015.
“Caitlyn is very articulate and possess all the qualities that make her a wonderful researcher: insight, perseverance and trouble-shooting skills,” says Carle.
At the ASBMB gathering, presentations by research scientists included topics in cancer treatment, molecular mechanisms, and enzymology, among many others. Leading scientists in each field from universities such as Johns Hopkins University, Brandeis University and University of Colorado led panel discussions to share the results of long research projects.
ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members. Founded in 1906, ASBMB is based in Rockville, Md. The society’s purpose is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce. In addition, the ASBMB also publishes the scientific and educational journals: the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics; and the Journal of Lipid Research.