Celebrating a Thesis Laboratory Declaration.

On Monday, September 15, 2014, 33 second-year Ph.D. students and 11 third-year M.D.-Ph.D. students were the center of attention in Robbins Auditorium during Einstein's fourth annual Declaration Celebration.

The event marks a special milestone for graduate students, who "declare" the laboratory they will join to complete their thesis research. En route to this occasion, students spend their first year rotating through three laboratories, with the objective of choosing the lab that will become their home as they pursue their doctoral degree. In determining their thesis lab selection, students consider potential projects and the fit of the lab environment, knowing that the decision will shape their scientific career.

Reflecting on the ceremony, Penelope Ruiz, a fourth-year graduate student, noted, "It's a difficult decision. The gravity of it weighs heavily on students as they realize this is the start of a career."

While captivating research and the milieu of the lab are important factors, the primary investigator (PI) also influenced the decision for many students. 

"I felt my PI would push me to become the best scientist I could become," noted Alyssa Casill, a second-year Ph.D. student who will conduct her thesis work in the lab of Dr. Matthew Gamble, in molecular pharmacology.

To kick off the ceremony, Dr. Victoria Freedman welcomed the students and described the alumni association's gift to the fledgling scientists—a backpack containing a t-shirt (to wear in lab), a book (on how to be great scientists), a coffee mug  (for the caffeine that fuels late-night experiments) and a laser pointer (for their many future presentations).

Dr. Allen M. Spiegel then offered introductory comments. Quoting Winston Churchill, he said, "Success is defined as going from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm."  He shared anecdotes from his own scientific career, noting the eureka moments that made the failures worthwhile, and wished the students "relatively few failures and lots of ‘ah-ha!' moments."

The evening's keynote speaker Dr. Teresa Bowman, assistant professor of developmental & molecular biology, encouraged the students to think of their graduate school laboratory and project like their first romance. She said, "… it will leave an impact on your whole life."

She stressed that soft skills learned in the lab were just as important as research, noting, "Learning how to discuss ideas, receive and administer feedback and work in a team are critical to succeeding."

Senior graduate students from the various departments welcoming new students then took turns introducing their respective department and calling off the names of the second-year students joining them.

To close the ceremony, Dr. Kamran Khodakhah guided the new students through the Oath of Scientists. Dr. Khodakhah, professor and acting chair of neuroscience, encouraged all scientists in attendance to renew the vows, and many members of the audience stood to join the student honorees in pledging to "use knowledge to assist others, thereby advancing the progress of biomedical science, to benefit all humanity."

The event marks a special milestone for graduate students, who
The event marks a special milestone for graduate students, who "declare" the laboratory they will join to complete their thesis research
(From left) Dean Allen M. Spiegel, M.D. and Einstein board member Nathan Kahn with Drs. Victoria Freedman, Teresa Bowman, Kamran Khodakhah and Edward Burns
(From left) Dean Allen M. Spiegel, M.D. and Einstein board member Nathan Kahn with Drs. Victoria Freedman, Teresa Bowman, Kamran Khodakhah and Edward Burns
Graduate students who declared their labs pose with a bust of Albert Einstein
Graduate students who declared their labs pose with a bust of Albert Einstein
 

Around Campus Archive

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