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Annual reception welcomes incoming Ph.D. students

Aug. 28, 2014

IU School of Medicine recently welcomed 28 incoming Ph.D. students to the IU School of Medicine with a reception in the VanNuys Medical Science Building atrium.

IBMG reception

More than 150 faculty, staff and students came out for the IBMG welcome reception. | PHOTO BY LAUREN SCHEID

More than 150 faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and current students attended the Aug. 22 welcome reception, which completed three days of orientation activities for members of this year's incoming class in the Indiana Biomedical Gateway Program, who began their work in labs across campus on Monday. The IBMG Program is a unique "open enrollment" program that provides Ph.D. students with the opportunity to spend their first year in a series of lab rotations prior to the selection of a research speculation.

"We are thrilled to welcome the incoming doctoral students said Tara Hobson-Prater, director of the IBMG program, who equates the reception to the White Coat Ceremony for incoming M.D. students. "There are 28 this year out of the hundreds who applied. As they begin their path to research and discovery in the IUSM, it is important to introduce the students to the faculty, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and existing students in the IUSM."

During the three-day orientation period, Hobson-Prater added students complete the appropriate laboratory safety training and paperwork prior to the start of the semester, and receive an overview of the components of the doctoral experience.

Randy Brutkiewicz

Randy R. Brutkiewicz, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies, addresses incoming Ph.D. students during the reception. | PHOTO BY LAUREN SCHEID

"We are very excited this year to have a diverse incoming cohort, including many international students. Other programs like ours are not," she said. "Additionally, these incoming students bring a wide range of past experiences including positions as lab technicians, advanced degrees and industry experience."

IBMG student Amanda Metternich, who took a year off after her undergraduate education, said the orientation program has been helpful while she transitions back into the world of research and studying.

"We did a lot of logistical events in the beginning," she said. "It was good to just spend time with people who are in the cohort so you kind of get to know each other. Right now we’re trying to figure out who we want to rotate with so you’re responsible for reaching out to potential private investigators and learning about their research."

Emily Mason, also an incoming student, added that networking, getting to know the IBMG program, and the primary investigators with whom they will be working, are important to success as a Ph.D. candidate.

“My goal for the school year is to hit the ground running, figure out which lab I want to be in and get my research going," she said.

David Wilkes

David S. Wilkes, M.D., executive associate dean for research affairs, addresses the students. | PHOTO BY LAUREN SCHEID

Yu-Hsiang Chen, a second-year Ph.D., chose to turn out for this year's reception because of how well last year's event helped him settled into the program in 2013.

"I think it’s very important," he said. "You can get used to the environment; you can get to know the people around here, and not just the faculty; and you also get some information from senior students about the coursework."

The welcome reception also featured the presentation of the Erica Daniel Kepner Award for Scientific Achievement, which honors the memory of the late Erica Daniel Kepner, a member of the first IBMG class who lost her battle with cancer on Aug. 31, 2011. Kepner, who authored her first paper the week she died and received a posthumous Ph.D., was remembered for her dedication, working in the lab in between chemotherapy treatments. Debbie Thurmond, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and of biochemistry and molecular biology, served as mentor to Dr. Kepner.

The recipient of the 2014 Kepner Award, which included $250, was Yi-Chun Chen, a Ph.D. student in physiology. Punitee Garyali, a biochemistry student, and Nathan VanDusen, a genetics student, both received honorable mentions, which each included $100.

The awards were presented by Simon Atkins, Ph.D., IUPUI Chancellor's Professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the School of Science at IUPUI.

To contribute in support of the Kepner Award, visit the IBMG program's website and click on the "Erica M. Daniel Kepner Memorial Award" link under "Connect" at the bottom of the page.

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