This page outlines the various outreach opportunities I have helped plan, design, and/or execute during my time as a student at Auburn University. Outreach, to me, is one of the most important parts of our education, they give us a chance to extend the things that we are learning to others, which completes the circle of our learning experience. It is my belief that the knowledge and skills we obtain are of little value if they are not then utilized to engage and educate others!
NanoDays was organized by my wonderful girlfriend, MariAnne Sullivan. Although she most assuredly did the heavy lifting, I excitedly volunteered to help with the organization of the event. We had a great time shopping for materials for the event, making printed name badges for all the kids, and coordinating the crew of over 40 volunteers. The Graduate Women In Science provided a great deal of financial support, as well as a great number of volunteers to run stations and register participants. The event was a huge success, engaging 88 kids in hands-on approaches to science. It also served as a perfect metaphor for a concept I have always believed: science and engineering, though typically separated on the books, are an essential combination.
Research Week 2014
The Research Week in the Spring of 2014 was my second time serving as a member of the organizing team for the event, and my third time registering and attending the event. As I mentioned before, these events cannot run without some form of unpredictable event, and this year's was more than could ever have been imagined. The official closing of the University due to a threat found in one of the buildings caused the Research Week Committee to have to cancel an entire day of presentations. Brandon Fincher, the Research Week Committee, and I worked fiendishly to determine a fair alternative solution for the nearly 50% of graduate presenters who were forced to cancel their presentation. We also worked hard to prepare a scoring procedure that would be the most fair: an automated spreadsheet which would use "vlookup" and a catalog system of judge names to determine the average scores assigned by each judge and an adjusted over/under for the presenter. This was my first exposure to these advanced techniques in Microsoft Excel, which I still use to this day in analyzing and parsing my data for analysis.
Graduate Research Symposium 2014
Auburn University hosts its yearly Graduate Research Symposium as a qualifying event for the annual Research Week. The goal of the Graduate Research Symposium is to give all graduate students a chance to practice presentation skills and abstract writing. I served as the Secretary of the Graduate Student Council for the 2013/2014 Academic Year, mostly because of my love for this event. Therefore, it was my task to coordinate the Graduate Research Symposium through collecting abstracts, planning sessions, and recruiting/assigning judges. In order to organize the large number of abstracts, I began to use my bioinformatics experience with Linux-based systems to write basic programs to parse the names and information of presenters into spreadsheets and documents. I also utilized a great deal of these spreadsheets for Mail Merges, created online correction forms which parsed to the cloud, and created a system for rapidly checking and adjusting conflicts of interest. Administrative Vice President Brandon Fincher and I worked as a team to plan for every possible outcome, but it would indeed be impossible to predict them all. However, I believe the preparation we did was more than sufficient to quickly and effectively solve these problems. This event gave me so many things to love. First, I really enjoyed the chance to meet, face-to-face, so many of the graduate students, read their abstracts, and attend their sessions. Second, I was excited at the opportunity to speak to so many of the faculty and principle investigators at the University, many of whom I would not have the chance to encounter otherwise. The event is a culmination of all things I believe are essential parts of research: analytical deliberation with peers, and a collaborative effort which transcends the boundaries of department or college.
3-Minute Thesis Competition: Summer 2013
Auburn University began its first 3-Minute Thesis program in the Summer of 2013. The 3-Minute Thesis competition was designed to model that of the University of Queensland, with a goal of eventually creating contestants for the National competition. Chris Anthony, the specialist for Communications and Marketing for the Graduate School, coordinated the effort to bring this event to Auburn. I served on a team which consisted of several of the events committee members, members of the newly elected GSC Executive Board, including myself as the newly elected Secretary, Graduate School Deans Dr. George Flowers and Dr. George Crandell. This small team was very open to opinions and advice from all members, and gave us all a real chance to collaborate actively to piece together this new event at Auburn University as a true "think tank." My experience in this would teach me the skills of leading teams, coordinating research events, and determining effective communication that would serve me throughout my term as the Secretary and beyond.
Events Committee: Fall 2012 - Spring 2013
In the 2012/2013, I served on the Events Committee for the Auburn University Graduate Student Council. Our event planning included tailgates during home football games, which provided opportunities for international students to attend these events which they otherwise may not have a chance to. We also planned and executed graduate student appreciation weeks, which gave students a chance to unwind during weeks that were known "busy weeks" for our work. These opportunities included coffee breaks, the most exciting of which was a coffee day with Auburn's mascot, Aubie the Tiger. We also organized colloquiums, which were presentations designed to give graduate students an interesting and informative discussion on a topic, such as the history of race at Auburn University, the foundations of the Auburn/Alabama rivalry, or the means by which young, budding inventors or business owners could protect their ideas and start their business. Lastly, we worked to plan and execute the research events, including the Graduate Research Symposium and Graduate Scholars Forum at Research Week. The committee, for me, helped me understand the holistic role of the academic environment for graduate students, which is not just to educate students in their particular field, but to continue to create scholars of thought in all fields. It also provided an opportunity to meet and become friends with many colleagues who I would be in constant contact with during my graduate education!