CIDD Graduate Students: What do we do?

Many of us including graduate students, post docs, and faculty, gathered together on Monday to discuss who we are as CIDD, what we expect of ourselves, and what the faculty expect of us. Additionally, we discussed and proposed multiple venues in which students and post docs would have the opportunity to discuss their ideas, research/data, job opportunities, and life in general. So for those of you who are curious about grad life at CIDD or are hopelessly wishing for more scientific opportunities to land at your feet…pay attention.

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Obtaining Foundation Funding 101

Are you a graduate student/ post-doc/ recent graduate seeking funding alternatives beyond Federal and State agencies? Or perhaps you are an International student that finds themselves ineligible for many U.S funded grants. You might be in the Humanities/ Performing Arts and find that most funding applies to the Social Sciences, or a student looking to fund a community project or conduct international research. Whatever your background/ needs are, there is likely a Foundation for you. I recently attended a grant writing workshop hosted by the Penn State Graduate School entitled “ Foundation Funding: Identification and Approach Strategies”- led by Lee Carpenter, and learned the basics of how to go about preparing and applying for Foundation financial awards.

So- you have your big idea, where do you start? Below is a summary of that presentation.

Phase 1: Self-reflection  Continue reading

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Students chat with new CIDD Director, Dr. Elizabeth McGraw

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On Wednesday November 7th, 2018, Center for Infectious Disease -affiliated graduate students met with newly appointed Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) Director, Dr. Elizabeth McGraw (Professor and Huck Scholar in Entomology). The goal of the meeting was to get to know Dr. McGraw, to learn about her vision for the future of CIDD and for her to hear our suggestions for event programming this year, as well as to address any deficiencies in the community.

The meeting started off with student and faculty introductions, followed by Dr. McGraw stating her visions for CIDD, namely:  Continue reading

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Join us Nov 16th for CIDDgiving potluck

RSVP here. Poster credit: Fhallon Chiara Ware-Gilmore.

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Grad students present at Thursday CIDD seminar


Grad students, Nicole ‘Nikki’ Hackenbrack (Hafenstein Lab) and Timothy J. ‘TJ’ Russell (Llinas lab) presented their thesis research work at the weekly CIDD seminar on November 1st, 2018. TJ discussed his findings relating to the disruption of an Apicomplexan AP2 transcription factor, Pf14_0633. Nikki presented her work on solving the Cryo-EM structure of pepper cryptic virus 1.

Center for Infectious Disease seminars are held every Thursday in W-203 Millennium Science Building preceded by social coffee time in W-202 MSC. More on upcoming talks here. Most speakers are non-Penn State faculty, but once a semester we have a slot each for 2-3 graduate students and post-docs to present their work.

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Panel on How to get an academic post-doc

Four professors were kind enough to share their tips on the post doctoral researcher position search process on Oct 25th, 2018. Drs. Andrew Read, Evan Pugh Professor of Biology and Entomology and upcoming Director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Manuel Llinas, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Beth McGraw, Professor of Entomology and newly-appointed CIDD Director, and Jessica Conway, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, led the discussion.

Topics addressed included were where to look for a post-doc position (conferences, twitter, individual lab websites, Scientific society websites/ newsletters, attending seminars), the proactive vs reactive methods: should you wait for a position to be advertised or could you cold email someone (both work depending on the situation)? They chatted about different ways to approach Principal Investigator’s (PIs) to inquire about a position or to ask them to be a PI on your research proposal grant. They also explained process of accepting/turning down position, and emphasizing honesty in case you have several to choose from. Student’s concerns regarding switching fields/ topics from one’s PhD to a post-doc (It’s okay, as long as you can explain why you are doing so and how you and your proposed future lab will benefit) were addressed. Switching shows that you aren’t a one trick pony, are flexible and are willing to learn.  Continue reading

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CIDD grad students present at monthly Virology seminar

Students, Cory Henderson (Rasgon lab) and Mario Novelo Canto (McGraw lab) presented their work at Penn State’s monthly Virology meeting. Cory’s talk, entitled “Mayaro in the midgut – Mayaro virus infection and vector competence in Aedes and Anopheles mosquitoes” discussed his exciting new finding that Anopheles spp. are competent vectors for the Alpha virus, Mayaro, adding to the limited list of arboviruses that Anopheles can transmit. Mario’s talk, entitled “Infection dynamics of dengue virus in Aedes aegyptidetailed dengue infection kinetics throughout the extrinsic incubation period in an in-bred line of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

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CIDD GSA holds first Monthly Trainee Meeting

Twelve graduate students and a post-doc gathered on Wednesday September 26th for the first Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics Graduate Student Association (CIDD GSA) CIDD Trainee Monthly Meeting (and lunch!) of the semester. Organized by Molly Rathbun (Szpara lab, current CIDD GSA Vice President) and Catherine Herzog (Bjornstad lab current CIDD GSA President), these trainee meetings are in line with a possible future T32 training grant. Molly led the meeting, and drew on her years of experience being part of another T32 training grant program (CBIOS for computational biology) to develpe content and use meeting strategies that are effective and useful among graduate students. Molly writes in an email that the goal of these meetings is to  “… provide an opportunity for discussion on key topics in infectious disease, short presentations with feedback from peers, ethics discussions, and science communication activities. This will help foster networking and community amongst CIDD grads such that we will become more well-rounded scientists regardless of if your primary area of study is molecular, epidemiological, both, or more.”

The theme of this meeting was communicating science to people with different levels of expertise and knowledge. This was achieved through a role-play exercise.  The scene was set up as a downtown event where half the adults (the Scientists) were carving pumpkins and drawing a scientific object, and were encountered by a curious non-Scientist who then asked why they chose that particular carving and the conversation ensued from there. Attendees were paired with one another, one person being a Scientist with a topic of their choice based on their carved picture, and their partner being a lay man, such as a barista, chiropractor, sports writer, 3rd grade teacher etc. Participants were asked not to ask their own questions since their high scientific knowledge skillset would bias the activity, but rather asked to imagine what sorts of questions a person in their role might want to know. After a few minutes, the scientist vs layman roles, as well as partners were switched so that everyone got to be both, and the activity was repeated. Continue reading

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CIDD, Entomology, BMMB and Chemistry grad students mingle at Happy Hour


On Thursday September 27th, several grad students gathered at Cafe 210 West after work to catch up with colleagues and meet new folks. One of Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) grad student association‘s goals this year is to strengthen the sense of community among graduate students in all 15 departments that the Center represents, as well as to boost more research collaborations among colleagues.  The event, sponsored by the CIDD, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Entomology, Chemistry graduate student associations included free appetizers. Thank you to all who attended, our sponsors, the respective student organization leaders, to Grace Usher for spearheading the plans, and to Cafe 210 West for hosting this. We hope to have more networking/ social events this semester, stay tuned!

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CIDD GSA kicks off Fall 2018 semester with a Town Hall Meeting


On Mon Aug 27th, 2018, the Center for Infectious Disease (CIDD) Graduate Students Association (CGSA) hosted a town hall meeting as part of the weekly CIDD lunch discussion series, where students, post-docs, faculty or invited speakers convene to discuss current issues/ research in a relaxed environment. According to Catherine Herzog, the current CGSA President, the goal was to increase graduate student involvement at the CIDD, and to create a sense of community amongst CIDD- affiliated graduate students and postdocs. She cited that “because we [CGSA] are a unique, center-level organization that aims to provide programming and training that CIDD students cannot find in their own departments, grad and faculty engagement with the CGSA is essential to keep our programming moving forward.”  Continue reading

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Welcome to a New Year! CGSA & the CIDD Community

CIDD Community –

As the current CIDD Graduate Student Association (CGSA) President, I wanted to remind the current CIDD community that CGSA is an active part of CIDD. Our mission is to increase graduate student involvement in CIDD and create a sense of community within CIDD.  We do so by supporting CIDD graduate students and post-docs in professional development, outreach, job hunting, academic pursuits, and social engagement, while providing a lively collegial environment in which we can learn and collaborate. We are a unique, center- wide organization that aims to provide programming and training that CIDD students cannot find in their own departments and grad and faculty engagement with the CGSA is essential to keep our programming moving forward.

To support CGSA and keep us thriving, the CGSA Board wants to point out some actions the entire CIDD community can do to help us have the most impact:

1. Get connected: Have all grads subscribe to the CIDD grads listserv
. Go to the IT page to manage listserv subscriptions and search for to subscribe. We send out one email digest of events, trainings, and funding opportunities on campus every Wednesday.  Make sure the fellow graduates in your lab are all on this list.  If you’re a postdoc/research associate/tech/faculty, contact Monica Arismendi ( to get on the L-CIDD and/or postdocs listservs.

2. Come to the first CGSA meeting of the year. “CIDD Town Hall” during CIDD Lunch Monday, August 27, 12pm, W201 MSC. We’ll briefly introduce ourselves and our programming and then start a discussion about programming at CIDD.  Faculty, post-docs, and grads are all highly encouraged to come.

3. Follow our CGSA website, Twitter, and LinkedIn page. The websitehas a blog, calendar, job board, and other useful information for CIDD grad students and post-docs.  Subscribe to the website blog.  Retweet us!  Twitter: @CIDDGrads LinkedIn: Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD).

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