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Crowds of students and faculty celebrate research at the 2023 Research Symposium

October 2, 2023

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, in collaboration with the Graduate Student Association, held the 2023 Student Research Symposium on September 8 to recognize ongoing research at Mayo Clinic.

For several years, graduate student Mika Cadiz has been studying an important and unexplored aspect of Alzheimer's disease. In the lab of John Fryer, Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Cadiz is investigating whether immunotherapies prescribed for Alzheimer's disease may have long-term effects on the body. "It's a project that may have clinical implications for patients," he says.

Along with more than 200 others at this year's Student Research Symposium on Sept. 8, Cadiz described his work and findings in a poster presentation for students and faculty. The 34th annual event, organized by the Graduate Student Association in collaboration with Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, celebrated student research taking place in Mayo's labs.

Graduate students from all three campuses gathered at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester to share posters depicting the evolving work of their thesis research and to support classmates giving scientific talks.

The guest speaker, Evie Vereecke, Ph.D., of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium, delivered the 2023 Distinguished Findling Lecture about her research journey studying the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system.

The event also provided students an opportunity to practice the essential skill of communicating about scientific research. "Science is so diversified now," says Dr. Fryer. "When we go to national and international scientific meetings, the attendees have varied expertise. To catch someone up quickly — here's what I'm doing and why I'm doing it — within a minute, and engage them, is critical."

What's more, scientists need to explain their research to the public. "Research can't happen without grant dollars and without people who cast votes and people who donate money. It's important to have the skills to keep non-scientists interested in research," Dr. Fryer says.

Mayo Clinic graduate students present research posters at the 2023 Research Symposium

Explaining science with graphs, images, and metaphors

Throughout the day, students talked science. In animated conversations, they pointed out features of graphs and images as they presented their posters. Eight students, specially selected from among their peers within each graduate track, gave oral presentations about their thesis projects, and deftly fielded questions from the audience.

Several students participated in a competition known as the Three Minute Thesis, in which they vied with each other to describe their research in the most captivating, lay language within three minutes. Conducted at universities worldwide, the competition prompts students to find creative metaphors to explain scientific concepts.

One competitor described identifying a cancer through its fingerprint; another phrased finding an optimal gene-delivery vector as choosing a minivan instead of a motorcycle or a truck.

The panel of judges included a Rochester-area business owner and non-scientist staff members of the graduate school, and the winners received funding to advance to the regional competition at the 2024 Midwest Association of Graduate Schools.

Mayo Clinic graduate students present research posters at the 2023 Research Symposium

Gaining ideas from supportive peers

Student William Herbert found the conversations and presentations instructive. His graduate research in the lab of Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., aims to develop personalized treatment for endometrial cancer. "It's interesting to hear someone use an analogy to make a point, and even though their research may not be directly related to what I do, I can use that approach when I present my own work," he says.

And the environment at the symposium is supportive, says Tayla Brooks, who conducts research in the lab of Lewis Roberts, M.B., Ch.B., Ph.D. Brooks is studying the microenvironment that supports the development of liver and bile duct cancers. She presented research that's still at an early, exploratory stage and found she gained new strategies through conversations with other students. "It's a good place to get feedback," she says.

Karen Dsouza, who served as last year's co-president of the Graduate Student Association, notes that the symposium plays an important role in introducing first-year students to the breadth of research taking place at Mayo as they begin to envision their Ph.D. projects. But most importantly, the gathering builds friendships that fuel long hours of research. "It's the camaraderie that keeps us going throughout the year," she says.

Best poster presentation awards

Three minute thesis awards

Dan Moyer

Dan Moyer

Second place

People's Choice award

Rochester campus

Show more

Teacher and mentor awards

About Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

The mission of Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is to develop the next generation of leaders in biomedical science and education. First established in 1915, Mayo’s graduate degrees were initially awarded in partnership with the University of Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences became an independent, degree-granting institution in 1983. Currently, more than 100 students are working toward master's degrees and over 200 are working toward doctoral degrees.

Predoctoral student researchers in Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences gather for a group photo during the 2023 Research Symposium.
Predoctoral student researchers in Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences gather for a group photo during the 2023 Research Symposium.