Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) Annual Retreat

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At the end of April, the Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) held its Annual Retreat in Ventura. 

The new beach location proved to be popular with the 92 students and 20 faculty who attended, in addition to the invited speakers.  

Each year the Molecular Biology Institute retreat provides students, postdocs and faculty with the opportunity to step away from their day-to-day routines and engage with colleagues in a relaxed environment. The 2-3 day agenda is planned and organized by a committee of graduate students who also choose the keynote speaker and invite representatives from academia and industry to take part in a Career Panel. 

The program opened on Saturday morning with Keynote Speaker Dr. Eva Nogales, a HHMI Investigator in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Nogales presented her lab’s latest studies using cryo-EM and imaging analysis to elucidate the role of macromolecular structures in cell division and gene expression. Presentations by UCLA students and Faculty provided the backbone of the agenda, with a lively poster presentation bridging the morning and afternoon sessions. 

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Keynote speaker Nogales gave the Keynote Lecture titled “Understanding Molecular Complexity Through

Cryo-Em Visualization”. 

This year’s Career Panel was a rich source of advice for students looking towards life after the graduate school. Dr. Sylvia Vetrone (Whittier College) and Dr. Vann Priest (Rio Hondo College) shared their experiences in research and teaching at local colleges. Dr. Andrew Ah Young (Genentech), a recent graduate of the MBIDP program (Egea lab), described the industry postdoc experience. Alumnus Dr. Michael Maynard (Honeywell), who received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from UCLA and is the father of UCLA organic professor Dr. Heather Maynard, flew in from the east coast to share his insight into establishing a long and impactful career in industry. 

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(Left) Career Panel speakers Michael Maynard (Honeywell), Andrew Ah Young (Genentech), Sylvia Vetrone (Whittier College) and Van Priest (Rio Hondo College). (Right) Session Chair Professor Fuyu Tamanoi.

The retreat also provided the opportunity to publicly recognize graduate students who excel in the areas of research, teaching and communication. Dr. Audree Fowler was in attendance to present the Fowler Awards in Protein Science to this year’s three awardees; Anna Sahakyan (Plath lab), Brendan Amer (Clubb lab), and Jeff Vinokur (Bowie lab).


Fowler awardees with Audree Fowler (left to right) graduate students Anna Sahakyan (Plath lab), Brendan Amer (Clubb lab), Audree Fowler, and Jeff Vinokur (Bowie lab).

A poster session was held during the event in Ventura, California.
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Poster prizes were awarded to graduate students Shan Sabri (Plath lab), Joyann Barber (CBI Trainee, Garg Lab) and Courtney Young (Spencer lab).
As some attendees headed home on Sunday, the MB-IDP students headed to the beach to compete in the “House Cup”. The Cell and Developmental Biology Home Area eventually triumphed, assisted by their early victory in the Retreat T-shirt Design competition. 
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(Left) The House Cup event at the beach. (Right) The T-shirt design contest winner 1st year MBIDP student Tsotne Chitiashvili, wearing his design. Click here to view larger version of the winning T-shirt photo.
Article and photos provided by Helen Houldsworth/MBI.