Scientists from multiple disciplines converge for Life Sciences Week

The annual event featured a record number of research projects.

Students and faculty from 11 MU schools, colleges and groups descended on the Life Sciences Center for a weeklong event of project presentations and speakers.

"MU doesn't have many events like this," said Danny Stark, a doctoral student studying molecular biology.

The 29th annual Missouri Life Sciences week, which features experts from around the country and the University of Nottingham in England, began as one of MU's early efforts to build a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration. It brings scientists from many disciplines together to share their work, said Ginny Booker, manager of marketing and communications for the Life Sciences Center.

The centerpiece of the week, a research poster competition with 340 participants, presented research projects in several different fields of science, from animal science to psychology. Every researcher must stand by their poster and present their work, and can enter a competition judged by other scientists. The awards will be presented 3 p.m. Friday in the center.

"(The poster session) is especially important for scientists to be able to communicate their work without a lot of discipline-specific jargon," Booker said in an email. "The poster session provides a great training experience that will benefit students later on as they have opportunities to make presentations at professional conferences or in future jobs."

Stark has presented research at the Life Sciences Week for the past three years, but this year was the first time he revealed his findings from his two years researching muscle regeneration.

"You get a lot out of (Life Sciences Week)," Stark said. "Professionally, it's wonderful and priceless as far as the training goes."

To present research, students and faculty usually have to travel to conferences. Life Sciences Week involves less pressure than a conference, Stark said.

He opted for the poster competition because it guarantees he can practice his presentation for the two judges who have to review his work. Many other judges also viewed Stark’s work, which tells him he did a good job, he said.

The poster session also provides the opportunity for students and faculty from different fields to connect.

Stark really likes to discuss scientific developments with other grad students, he said. At last year's Life Sciences Week, he ran into an issue in the laboratory with subcloning, a technique in molecular biology that removes a particular gene from bacterial DNA. Talking to other students about his research helped him to find a solution.

Animal Science Professor Duane Keisler, one of the poster judges, enjoys seeing all the posters and learning new things, he said. Keisler has judged the research competition for more than least three years.

"Compared to when I was in grad school, (the research projects) are outstanding," Keisler said. "It's impressive. No other word to describe how pleased I am with the data presented and the professionalism."

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