Building Lab Skills

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Baseball has spring training and football has its rookie camps and summer workouts. For young researchers at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, there is the Techniques Symposium.

The annual two-day scientific training event is always filled with seminars and hands-on workshops on laboratory techniques, software and analysis, as well as scientific communication – skills that are just as important to a scientist as arm strength and foot speed are to an athlete.

“Our goal is to educate student attendees in a really efficient way, to introduce them to all of these different techniques,” says Kathleen Bates, who co-chaired this year’s symposium (June 1-2) with fellow fourth-year grad student, Joshua Hooks.

Bates and Hooks are co-leaders for the Research Committee in BBUGS (Bioengineering and Bioscience Unified Graduate Students), the group that organizes the Techniques Symposium each year.

“We try to design the symposium as a way to provide a good start for student researchers,” Bates says. “And it’s a good place for them to connect with the experts.”

Those experts include faculty and lab staff from the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as technical whizzes from the corporate world (people who have a wealth of experience using the equipment they represent), all of which conduct an array of training sessions across two busy days.

This year’s event included representatives from the following sponsor companies: Airgas, BD Biosciences, Beckman-Coulter, Bruker, Essen Bioscience, Li-Cor, and Renishaw.

The training sessions were held in core facilities and other labs located in the Petit Biotechnology Building and the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB) and covered a wide range of techniques and disciplines, including flow cytometry, histotechnology, biomechanics, microscopy, biopolymer characterization, and an MRI demonstration.

Meanwhile, the Suddath Room (Petit Biotechnology building) and the CHOA Seminar Room (EBB) was the place to be for seminars on topics that included (among other things) an introduction to data analysis and visualization as well as image processing and machine learning with MATLAB, live cell imaging, optical microscopy, using Abobe Illustrator for infographics or academic presentations, and a session entitled, “It Takes a Genome – and a little Passion,” conducted by Petit Institute researcher Greg Gibson.

All in all, two days filled end-to-end with useful skills training and knowledge sharing. Most of the attendees were grad students and postdocs, but a number of undergrads also participated. 

“I think this is a particularly effective for early stage grad students and undergrads, simply because they benefit the most from this kind of shotgun approach,” says Hooks. “Really, it’s for any student, because they’re learning skills that they’ll actually be using as they go forward.”



Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience





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