Franklin students share scientific research at symposium
By Jessica Luton
Scientific research, and plenty of it, was on display this week at an interdisciplinary conference on UGA’s Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. The 5th Annual Scientific Research Day, as it is known, is put together each year by the Graduate Students and Postdocs in Science (GSPS), a campus organization that came together a few years ago to help graduate students and post-doctoral researchers in science gain professional development.
The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences was well represented by students from the departments of chemistry, geology, genetics, microbiology and marine sciences, to name a few, but there were many students representing departments all over campus.
The symposium featured poster sessions and oral presentations by students, as well as a captivating keynote address by Harvard Medical School neurobiologist David Clapham, entitled “Spermatozoa, Cilia and the Struggle of Existence.”
An annual interdisciplinary graduate research conference in the sciences is what you might expect to find on a campus like ours. Yet still I was thoroughly impressed by the enthusiasm on disply – for conducting research, making new discoveries and solving real world problems. Participation in a conference of this sort really helps students blur the boundaries between disciplines, learn from each other and think about things in new and different ways.
One presentation given by Ashley Askew, a postdoctoral student at the Warnell School of Forrestry with a Ph.D. from Franklin’s department of statistics, was exemplary of the value of interdisciplinary conferences and knowledge exchange.
Her project focused on a regional comparison of recreational activities through the year 2060, with climate change as a quantifiable factor in her projections, but her methodology, which she explained in great detail, could be used with any sort of research that assesses demand and forecasts trends, she said.
Clapham’s keynote address at the end of the symposium expanded on the benefits of an interdisciplinary learning and dresearch environment. Trained as an electrical engineer at Georgia Tech, he obtained an M.D. and Ph.D. from Emory University and has continued his marriage of interdisciplinary study throughout his career.
He completed his residency in internal medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and his post-doctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute in Goettingen, Germany. After several years on the faculty at the Mayo Clinic, he moved to the Children’s Hospital in Boston, where he directs cardiovascular research, and is a professor of
Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.
Clapham’s research focuses on the role of calcium as a messenger within the cell and between cells, and identifying and characterizing ion channels in the body. His previous research has focused on calcium and ion channel, in regards to developing drugs to alleviate cardiac arrhythmias, but his talk at the symposium focused on fertility, the role of calcium and a gene known as CATSPER that plays an integral part in human reproduction and could lead to a new way to offer birth control without the use of hormones. The research is fascinating and you can read more about his lab here and here.
I came away from the event with one overarching point: sharing knowledge and being unafraid to enter into new realms of learning only increases your ability to be a better researcher, no matter what your discipline.
In the exchange of knowledge, attendees have the opportunity to learn from one another, advance research and offer fresh takes on topics in new and novel ways. And that’s certainly something to be applauded. Kudos to GSPS for a great symposium. Be sure to check out the abstracts of this year’s participants at the GSPS website and view the winners of this year’s symposium over at the Red and Black.