UMD Undergraduate Research Journal

Bioscience Research Day 2011: investigating infectious diseases

by Andre DeSouza

Students and faculty listen to the keynote lecture at Bioscience Research Day, November 10th, 2011. Image courtesy of Gene Ferrick.

Many undergraduate students sitting at the back of Colony Ballroom during Bioscience Research Day's Keynote speech were unaware of the great opportunity they had just missed earlier that day. By noon on November 10th the main event at Bioscience Research Day was well underway underneath the chandeliers of the Grand Ballroom in the Stamp Student Union. Well over a hundred people who had shown up for this event were walking from poster to poster listening to enthusiastic professors, graduate students, and undergraduates explaining their respective projects and their significance. However, this was just one of the many events planned for the day which showcased a wide range of research. Gene Ferrick, who was in charge of the event, said that his goals for the event were to display research being performed at the university and provide individuals with an opportunity to network. There was a myriad of opportunities to do so throughout the day for professors, graduate students, and undergraduates alike.

The day began with the networking panel consisting of representatives from industry and the federal laboratories, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, who discussed the opportunities available for students outside the realm of academia. Run in a question and answer format, the panel answered various questions from the audience about how it is like to work in their respective industry or government position. They emphasized the various internships that are available to both undergraduates and graduate students that may even have the possibility to turn into jobs. In addition, they described the plethora of science related jobs available in industry and the government and the advantages of these government jobs. They deeply encouraged undergraduates who may be wary to consider working in government and industry positions. After the question and answer portion was over, students were given the opportunity to talk to each person on the panel individually. They received tips about undergraduate internships and career advancements in industry or the federal government. It was an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to network.

Dr. David Relman presented his keynote address, "Explorations of Self: Space, time, and stability in the human microbiome." Image courtesy of Gene Ferrick.

The poster session followed the networking panel and showcased research from different areas of biology as diverse as genetics, neuroscience, immunology, and bioengineering. The projects showcased a variety of research being done at the University. The event provided many different appeals to its visitors. There appeared to be many people who attended the event simply out of interest to learn more about new and fascinating research. Others were professors who were discussing their projects with each other and generating ideas. Although the majority of the presenters were professors and graduate students, undergraduates presented their fair share of posters as well. For example, one poster made by an undergraduate highlighted research on the relationship between current conservation efforts in North Carolina and how these efforts utilize ecosystem services. Another undergraduate poster described work on protein interactions in Thermococcus kodakaraensis. These are just a few of the posters undergraduates contributed to this event. The biggest appeal of the poster session for undergraduates was the opportunity to learn about research going on in different labs on campus. Attending this event and talking to the various individuals can provide undergraduates with the opportunity to network and find possible labs to work in.

As the poster session wound down, people began to migrate to the Colonial Ballroom to listen to the various speakers describe in full detail research which they had been working on. The symposia was based on research on infectious diseases and the crowd listened as the lecturers discussed causes of infectious disease and different methods for combating infectious diseases. A day which had been dedicated to research and innovation ended with an interesting lecture by David Relman on the implications of the human microbiome to human health and disease. This lecture marked the end of a day which was an excellent opportunity for students to learn about new research and about how to get involved in research happening right here at the University of Maryland.