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Life Sciences Symposium soars

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Feb. 18, 2013

This may be remembered as the year that FSU’s Life Sciences Symposium hit its stride. In just its third year, the event – hosted once again by the College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences – attracted nearly 200 participants, saw repeat attendance from key vendors and distinguished researchers, and attracted more graduate students and postdoctoral fellows hungry for professional development.

“We have been changing the format somewhat over the past three years to find one that provides good attendance and participation,” said Biomedical Sciences Professor Michael Blaber, chair of the organizing committee. “In the past we have tried two full days, Friday and Saturday. However, this time we tried one and a half days – Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. We also included a prize for the best poster. These small changes proved to be pretty successful in generating good attendance that lasted till the end of the symposium.”

This year’s theme was “Modeling Human Disease,” with guest speakers from as far away as South Korea. The symposium, designed to promote Florida State’s broad spectrum of biomedical science research, brought together experts from not just Biomedical Sciences but also Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics, Neuroscience and Psychology. It kicked off Feb. 14 with a special Grand Rounds featuring Maxence Nachury, assistant professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford School of Medicine, who spoke about his research on cilia.

“For the third year in a row we attracted notable outside researchers from places like Stanford University, Princeton and Berkeley,” Blaber said. “It has been a vote of confidence that such researchers are willing to take the time to attend this symposium.”

Organizers were equally delighted that, for the third year in a row, participants included researchers from across the Florida State campus.

“They recognize the symposium as a recurring event – something we have striven to achieve,” Blaber said. “The College of Medicine is becoming viewed as a site for broader scientific exchange among STEM departments on campus.”

Not to mention the neighboring Florida A&M University campus: “For the third year in a row we have had participation or attendance by faculty and students of FAMU. We hope to continue and expand upon this outreach to promote collaborative interactions.”

A number of would-be grad students also found themselves at the right place at the right time. That didn’t happen by accident.

“This year the date of the symposium coincided with graduate student recruitment for the Department of Biomedical Sciences,” Blaber said. “The prospective students attended some of the presentations of the symposium and were very impressed at the exchange of scientific ideas and that Biomedical Sciences had organized such a meeting. Thus, the symposium may help with recruitment of top graduate students.”

The $250 prize for best poster from a grad student or postdoc went to Biomedical Sciences grad student Molly Foote for “14-3-3 Functional Knockout Mice Exhibit Neuroanatomical Abnormalities Associated with Schizophrenia.”

Among the College of Medicine faculty members who made symposium presentations were:

  • Blaber (“Animal Models in the Development of ‘2nd-Generation’ Fibroblast Growth Factor-1 Mutants for Accelerated Healing”).
  • Sanjay Kumar (“Temporal Lobe Epileptogenesis – an Entorhinal Cortical Perspective”).
  • Cathy Levenson (“Stressed and Depressed? Modeling Human Mood Disorders in the Search for New Treatments”).
  • Yanchang Wang (“Yeast as a Model for Huntington’s and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases”).
  • Yi Zhou (“14-3-3 Proteins in Neurological Diseases”).

Also participating were Princeton University’s Elizabeth Gould (“Stress and Adult Neurogenesis”) and Seoul National University’s Dongeun Huh (“A Human Breathing Lung-on-a-Chip for Nanotoxicology and Drug Screening Applications”).

Biomedical Sciences Associate Professor Tim Megraw organized the professional development workshop for postdocs and grad students. A presentation titled “Put Your Ph.D. to Work: Planning for a Successful Career in Science” was led by Associate Dean Phil Clifford, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Professor of Anesthesiology and Physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin.