Annual Department of Genetics retreat enables collaboration and rewards excellence

The annual Department of Genetics scientific retreat brought together nearly 200 faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and technical staff from the genetics community at UNC.

Annual Department of Genetics retreat enables collaboration and rewards excellence click to enlarge John Runge (GMB graduate student) presents his poster to colleagues.

Since 2005, the Department of Genetics has hosted an annual scientific retreat to foster the development of a “genetics community” on the UNC campus.  During the weekend of Aug. 26-28, almost 200 scientists, including faculty, postdocs, graduate students and technical staff from Genetics, the curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology (GMB) and the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Training Program (BCB) joined together in Asheville, N.C. for this year’s conference.

Six speaker sessions featured presentations from students, postdocs, and faculty on topics including viral diseases, chromatin structure and function, organophosphate bioscavengers, animal locomotion, heart development, epigenetics, wound healing, and genetics of addiction.  Students and postdocs were asked to critique the oral presentations and every talk was followed by a Q&A period where students were specifically encouraged to ask questions. Two poster sessions featuring almost 100 posters encouraged lively discussion and new cross-discipline collaborations were established. Faculty acted as judges for the poster presentations.

Awards were presented for the best student and postdoc podium presentations and for outstanding poster presentations.  This year’s conference also included the establishment of the Terry Magnuson Award to recognize distinguished senior graduate students in the GMB and BCB programs. Dr. Magnuson was the founding chair of the Department of Genetics and the founding director of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. In 2010, he assumed the role of vice dean of Research in the School of Medicine and in July 2016 became the vice chancellor for Research at UNC.  Inaugural winners included GMB students Diana Chong, Stephen McDaniel and Joy Meserve, and BCB students Jeanette Baran Gale and Andrew Morgan.

Reflecting on the success of this year’s conference, Dr. Fernando Pardo Manuel de Villena, interim chair of the Department of Genetics said “The retreat is a longstanding tradition in the Department of Genetics and I believe that the changes that we implemented this year to foster inclusiveness were worthwhile. The attendance and the participation of our trainees in scientific discussions was outstanding.”

Special thanks to Drs. Jeff Sekelsky (Biology) and Tim Elston (Pharmacology) for their continued leadership of the curricula.  Cara Marlow, business officer, and John Cornett, student services manager (Genetics), were instrumental in organizing and managing the logistics of the conference.

Filed under: