To jump start the 2017-2018 school year, the Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) Program held the annual Graduate Student Research Symposium at the Hill Center on Friday, August 4th. This event was hosted by (GBS) in collaboration with Graduate Biomedical Student Outreach (GBSO) and UAB Graduate School.  The symposium aimed to facilitate the exchange of new and exciting research going on at UAB amongst students and faculty members. It served as an opportunity for upper-level students to showcase their research in the format of oral talks and poster presentations, and for the (now) second-year students to present their first posters as GBS students from their chosen laboratories. Faculty members presented posters as well, in an effort to recruit new students looking for their rotations. Another exciting new addition to this year’s symposium was the inclusion of student presentations outside of GBS, such as the Biomedical Engineering (BME) graduate program. The diversity of research topics offered a valuable opportunity for the incoming first-years to gain exposure to new fields they would not have otherwise explored.

After Dr. Eastman's address, the next event of the day was the student poster session, featuring poster presentations from upper-level students. Presenters were judged by faculty members for their understanding of their hypothesis, methods, results, and conclusions, as well as their presentation skills and design. For many of the newer students, it provided an excellent opportunity to see the progress made by upper classmen, as well as ask them about their experiences at UAB. After the first poster session, the first round of afternoon workshops began with an oral presentation from Zhaoqi Yan, a fourth-year immunology student in Dr. Benveniste's Lab.  His presentation was followed by Anukul Shenoy from the Microbiology theme, who explained how the formation of biofilms in the heart allowed Streptococcus pneumonia to evade host responses.  He showed that individuals who suffered from Streptococcus pneumonia infections were a high risk of developing heart complications due to the bacteria invading the heart and causing cellular death and holes to form in the cardiac tissue, causing holes to form. His presentation was followed by Allison Manuel from the Neuroscience theme, a third-year student in Dr. Linda Wadiche’s lab   

GBS students from the entering class of 2016 were required to give their very first poster presentations at the event. Students from all GBS themes presented their rotation work from the lab they had chosen to join. Faculty members and older students flocked to the poster session to see their progress.  One student was quoted saying "It was exciting presenting my work to older students. I got a lot of great feedback about my project and advice on how to move forward".  The faculty poster session was also held during this time. In previous years, this poster session was held during the first week of classes in order to introduce new first-years to faculty members that are looking for rotation students. Combining this poster session with the event worked out wonderfully – GBSO provided paper signs that read “My lab is taking rotation students” for presenters to attach to their posters so that the first-years could easily browse available labs.

The final workshops began shortly after the poster session with Lance Thielen, a fourth-year Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine Student in Dr. Anath Shalev's lab, presenting his research on the use of small molecule inhibitors to protect against beta cell destruction. His talk was followed by presentations from two students outside of GBS, Nicholas Pensa and Andrew Curry, both studying in the field of Biomedical Engineering. They presented research pertaining to different aspects of bone grafting. Ultimately, this integration of presentations from an array of disciplines allowed students to learn about new fields and ideas.   

The event drew to a close with an excellent dinner and announcement of the winners for the oral talks and poster presentations. Oral and poster presentation winners were awarded cash prizes ($100 for 1st place, $75 for 2nd, and $50 for 3rd) and rotation presentation winners were awarded certificates. Winners for each category are as follows: 

Oral Presentations: 
1st Place - Anukul Shenoy | 2nd Place - Tyler McCaw | 3rd Place - Shelly Nason
Poster Presentations: 1st Place - Benjamin Wildman |2nd Place - Joshua Justice |3rd Place - Ann Hanna
First Year Rotation Poster Presentations: 1st Place - Jessie Barra | 2nd Place - Reginald Brown | 3rd Place - Melissa Bentley

Overall the Research Symposium was an overwhelming success due to the hard work of the organizers and great participation from the students. The GBS Press Team would like to thank everyone who helped out with this event, including the Graduate Student Research Symposium sub-committee (Sarah Dulson, Melissa Bentley, Nathan Boyd, Asmi Chakraborty, Vivian Lin, and Mateus Mota), all of the GBSO theme representatives, Dr. Schneider and the GBS office (Felita Milton, Nan Travis, Jessica Stephenson, Alyssa Zasada, and Emily Anderson). We are looking forward to next year’s event!

(The article was written with technical and editorial supports from Graduate Thoughts, a writing/editing team by UAB graduate students. For more information, please email anhtran@uab.edu).