College hosts first COS-JAM for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows

Author: Cliff Djajapranata and Deanna Csomo McCool

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The College of Science Joint Annual Meeting (COS-JAM) for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows took place for the first time Thursday, May 4. The event, which allows graduate students and postdocs to showcase their latest research, is based on the same COS-JAM event for undergraduate students, which took place the following day.

Professor Matt Ravosa organized the inaugural event because he believed it would benefit their training and career development. “The number of grad students and postdocs in the College of Science has increased, and it was my idea that we should provide an opportunity for them to showcase their exciting research,” Ravosa said. “Much like with the undergrad event, this joint forum also allows folks from disparate disciplines to become familiar with one another’s ongoing research, and potentially develop collaborative projects that build upon their individual strengths.” Ravosa is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and a concurrent professor in the Department of Anthropology, as well as the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Susan Coiner-Collier, a postdoctoral researcher, presented her research analyzing the relationship between different diets, jaw shapes, and sizes of living primates. “I used high-resolution CT scanning to image a number of primate jaws, and then used these scans to quantify different aspects of internal jaw form. I found that tougher diets are related to increased resistance to bending in the jaw,” Coiner-Collier said.

Coiner-Collier was happy that she could participate in COS-JAM because it allowed her to see what other people are working on. “Sharing research with peers allows for opportunities for networking and collaboration. Departments, and even individual labs within departments, are often pretty insular; events like COS-JAM give me an opportunity to see what other people are working on, and often spark ideas and conversations that lead to eventual collaboration,” Coiner-Collier said.

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COS-JAM for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers is an important event because it allows them to interact with peers from other departments they wouldn't normally see daily, according to Tyvette Hilliard, a postdoctoral fellow. “It also gives us a chance to form relationships within the college that could potentially lead to future collaborations as we embark on our independent career paths,” she said.

With the success of the inaugural event, Ravosa is certain this will be an annual event just like its undergraduate counterpart, and he has great hopes for what this event may become in future years. The ultimate goal of the event, to foster stronger and more diverse links between the College of Science and the College of Engineering, appeared to have been met, according to Ravosa. “In fact, considerable interest for this event outside the College of Science was evident by the participation of at least a half-dozen presenters this year from the College of Engineering.

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“Development of a more formal mechanism for showcasing research in the College of Science and College of Engineering also serves the larger goals of several research initiatives between the colleges,” he said.

The second annual COS-JAM for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows is tentatively scheduled for late in the fall semester of 2017.