The USC Student Gerontology Association earned a Tommy Award, the student organization and leadership prize bestowed by the USC Campus Activities department, for its first-ever Research Forum, an event designed to showcase student research and encourage dialogue between prospective research assistants and current undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.
The intramural meeting won in the Collaborative Program category in recognition of its success in bringing together researchers from a variety of labs and academic programs within the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
“The Research Forum was created from my desire to share research opportunities with other students,” said SGA President and USC Leonard Davis School junior Sarah Wong. “Having impactful research mentors in my life, in particular Drs. Kelvin Davies, Patrick Sun and Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto, motivated me to create a student-focused event drawing on the experiences of the doctoral and postdoctoral scholars of the Davis School and also allowing for dialogue between the different labs to take place.”
The February event opened with a poster competition with student presenters representing the various social science and biology labs at the Davis School, and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows acting as judges and delivering direct feedback to the student presenters, a valuable feature that Wong notes is not available in most academic research conferences.
“We intended this event to not only engage prospective research assistants at a peer-level with the student presenters, but to also prime our student researchers for larger-scale events and future conferences,” she said.
Poster prizes were awarded to students Richard Johnson (Caleb Finch Lab), Mayme Cline (Kelvin Davies Lab), Patricia San Pedro (Healthy Aging Lab), and Emmeline Kim & Kathleen Tor (David Lee Lab).
Kelvin Davies, vice dean of the Davis School and dean of faculty, opened the second part of the event with a keynote speech that emphasized the importance of student research, the repertoire of skills a researcher builds for the future, and his recommendations on the process of seeking a lab.
Lastly, the forum featured two back-to-back panels in which current research assistants, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows shared key experiences during their research careers, their recommendations for prospective research assistants, and the value of the interdisciplinary nature of gerontology.
The following Davis School staff and faculty helped make the event possible: Senior Associate Dean Maria Henke, Michael Zuletta, Jim Alejandre, Beth Newcomb, Maricela Rodriguez, Natasha Reyes, Linda Broder, Sara Robinson, and faculty members Caroline Cicero and Aaron Hagedorn.