Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) Annual Retreat

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On St Patrick’s Day this year, the Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) returned to Ventura for its Annual Retreat.

The retreat was very well attended, with 96 students and 23 faculty present. 

Alumna Dr. Audree Fowler (B.S. ’56, Ph.D. ’63 Biochemistry) presented the highly-competitive 2018 Audree Fowler Fellowships in Protein Science to Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students Michael Hughes (Eisenberg lab), Yuxi Liu (Yeates lab), and Kanishk Jain (S Clarke lab), and Biological Chemistry graduate student William Barshop (Wohlschlegel lab). Each new Fowler fellow gave a talk to showcase his/her outstanding research. 

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Fowler awardees with Audree Fowler (left to right) Michael Hughes (Eisenberg lab), Yuxi Liu (Yeates lab), Audre Fowler, Kanishk Jain (S Clarke lab), William Barshop (Wohlschlegel lab).

The event opened with a keynote talk, “Big Data and Health” by Professor Michael Snyder from Stanford. Snyder’s talk was enlivened by his demonstration of personal data collected from multiple smart watches and other monitors he regularly carries with him. He was hosted and introduced by Guillaume Urtecho (Kosuri lab), one of the members of the graduate student-run Retreat Planning Committee.  

Each session of the program featured student talks and concluded with talk by a UCLA faculty member. This year’s faculty speakers were Professors Margot Quinlan (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Don Kohn (Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics), Siavash Kurdistani, and Kathrin Plath (Biological Chemistry). 

MBI faculty members (from left) Professor Samantha Butler (Neurobiology), Margot Quinlan (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Bennett Novitch (Neurobiology), and Andrew Goldstein (Urology and Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology), with keynote speaker Professor Michael Snyder (Stanford).

Prizes for excellent poster presentations were awarded to four students – Erick Velasquez (Torres lab), Margeaux Miller (Sletten lab), Eric Jones (Kosuri lab), and Jiaji Yu (Yang Lab). Two students, Samantha Edwards (Johnson lab) and David Gray (Kohn lab) were also recognized for excellence in teaching and a dissertation year award was presented to Anna Sahakyan (Plath lab).  

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Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate student poster session award winners at the retreat were (left) Eric Torres (Sri Kosuri lab) posing with Professor Feng Guo (UCLA Biological Chemistry), and (right) at dinner, (2nd from left) Margeaux Miller (Ellen Sletten lab) and (2nd from right) Erick Velasquez (Jorge Torres lab).

The Career Panel, organized and moderated by Jessica Ochoa (Yeates lab) remains one of the highlights of the retreat. This year’s guest speakers represented Kite Pharma, Sandia National Labs, ADRx Inc and SAGE publishing. They shared their own career paths, current successes and challenges and advice for graduate students considering their own career options. UCLA Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology alum Dr. David Leibly (Ph.D. ’16, Todd Yeates lab), now a scientist at ADRx, Inc., in Thousand Oaks, CA, was one of the panelists. 

The career panel at the retreat included UCLA Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology alum Dr. David Leibly (Ph.D. ’16, Todd Yeates lab), now a scientist at ADRx, Inc., in Thousand Oaks, CA (2nd from right).

The House Cup games on the beach brought the retreat to a close, with the Immunity, Microbes and Molecular Pathogenesis (IMMP) and Gene Regulation Epigenomics and Transcriptomics (GREAT) Home Areas sharing the final victory.   

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The retreat events included a poster session and games at the beach.

Article and photos provided by Helen Houldsworth/MBI.