Graduate students sponsor symposium

(HOUSTON) – The Texas A&M Health Science Center (HSC) Institute of Biosciences and Technology annual Graduate Student Symposium was May 20 in Houston, featuring talks and poster presentations by students and a keynote by Dr. Duojia Pan, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

The symposium began with a breakfast attended by HSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology students and faculty, Dr. Pan, also a professor at Johns Hopkins University; David S. Carlson, Ph.D., interim director of the HSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology and HSC vice president for research and graduate studies; and Emily Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of systems biology and translational medicine in the HSC-College of Medicine. Thirteen platform speakers then presented their research projects, drawing exceptional reviews from the audience.

Dr. Pan served as a judge and was complimentary, likening the students’ presentations to those seen at the nation’s top graduate programs. Rui Xie, Qiong Xue and Xiao Li received awards for first-, second- and third-place talks, respectively. Ying Wang, Julia Chang and Jean Tien received first-, second- and third-place awards, respectively, in the student research poster presentations.

Dr. Pan, a world-renowned developmental biologist, presented a provocative talk on his discovery of the Hippo signaling pathway, an intracellular signaling cascade responsible for determining the appropriate size of internal organs and relevant for cancer development. He also left trainees in the audience with some inspirational advice for their own research, emphasizing “there are so many unknowns in biology that anyone can make the next big discovery – because in the world of the unknown, everyone has equal opportunity.” Dr. Pan was treated to dinner by the students who received additional sound career advice from him.

James Martin, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Center for Cancer and Stem Cell Biology and interim director of the Center for Molecular Development and Diseases in the HSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology, was honored with the Stanley R. Glasser Award for Excellence in Mentoring. The award recipient is determined by vote of the institute’s students and presented to the faculty member who best epitomizes the virtue of good mentorship.

The symposium was sponsored by the IBT Graduate Student Organization (GSO) with generous volunteer contributions from students and faculty. The organization represents students earning degrees in HSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology faculty research groups.

“The day was a general celebration among the IBT community,” said Tien, GSO president. “Science does not work without collaboration, and friendship won’t work unless you give. Thanks to all of IBT for this.”

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