Research Achievements of BioLAB Participants Highlighted at Visiting Graduate Student Symposium

May 14, 2024 by

Biolab program group photo.Each summer for the past 20 years, the UVA School of Medicine Graduate Programs Office has welcomed a cohort of bright, highly-motivated students from various institutions across Poland to participate in our Visiting Research Graduate Training Program (VRGTP), also known as the BioLAB Program. The students, most of whom are enrolled in MS programs in Poland, spend a year conducting an independent research project under the mentorship of a faculty member. Since its inception, the program has hosted 270 students who have contributed to the research of 110 faculty mostly in the School of Medicine, but also in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Importantly, 70 of the VRGTP students have been recruited into our Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, making this a very strong pipeline into our PhD programs.

On Friday May 10, the members of the 2023-34 cohort held their Annual Symposium. This day-long event was organized by the students themselves, spearheaded by the Class President Aleksandra Maciejczuk and Vice President Aria Kamal who served as emcees for the day. Each of the 21 participants gave a 12-13 minute presentation about the work that they accomplished over the last 10 months. They also answered questions from the audience comprised of their colleagues as well as faculty and staff from across the SOM and UVA Grounds. Those in attendance were treated to fantastic presentations that reflected the hard work and commitment that the students brought to their research pursuits.

The Symposium talks were judged by a panel of former BioLAB Program students who are current members of our Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. At the awards banquet on Saturday evening, awards were presented to Kinga Nimz (3rd place, Sheffield Lab), Aysia Khan (2nd place, Redemann Lab) and Emilia Korczmar (1st place, Gioeli Lab). Each of the awards came with a Jefferson Cup in addition to a cash prize (3rd place) or support to travel and present at the Symposia organized by sister programs at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (2nd place) or the University of Chicago (3rd place). A special “Director’s Award” (selected prior to the Symposium) was also presented to Ms. Korczmar for her extraordinary perseverance in overcoming challenges faced during her time in the program.

Zygmunt Derewenda, PhD, receiving gift.

Zygmunt Derewenda, PhD, receiving gift.

The BioLAB Program exists due to the hard work and dedication of Zygmunt Derewenda, PhD. Dr. Derewenda established and maintains the cooperative relationships with the Polish institutions that support the students who are leaving behind their research there to pursue this opportunity. He negotiated the partnership with the other three institutions that participate in the program, including the two listed above as well as the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. While these administrative efforts have been key to the successful recruitment of talented students into the program, Dr. Derewenda’s most impactful contributions have been to the lives of the students who have passed through our halls. His commitment to ensuring that the students feel supported and cared for is essential to the success of the program. In recognition of this, the students presented Dr. Derewenda with a framed photo and flowers at the awards banquet (see photo). As Dr. Derewenda prepares for retirement, he leaves behind a tremendous legacy and very large shoes for his successors to fill.

Filed Under: Education, Research