Public Affairs

CSU Biotechnology Symposium to Showcase
Student-Faculty Research

Expert panels on human DNA analysis, healthcare solutions, commercialization to highlight key 2-day
academic-industry network gathering

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(December 16, 2010) – Genes, proteins, cancers and crops are among the realms explored in 236 research projects from 22 California State University campuses to be presented at the 23rd annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium Jan. 7 and 8, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Orange County.

With roughly 500 CSU students and faculty joining nearly 100 industry professionals, community college representatives and elected officials, the symposium is the major annual event dedicated to developing emerging and future biotechnology researchers in California.

Panels and workshops
The symposium will also feature expert panels of scientists, engineers and journalists addressing healthcare solutions for the developing world, public understanding of human DNA analysis and the process of turning life-science innovations into products.

Three segments will showcase the research innovations of CSU professors: Rahul Singh of San Francisco State on the interface between computing and life sciences; Hope Johnson of CSU Fullerton on metals in the environment and cellular physiology; and David Keller of CSU Chico on insulin production in pancreatic cells.

Later, students will participate in career and graduate-school networking sessions while faculty attend workshops on developing online curricula and writing proposals. (See more about the symposium schedule.)

The symposium is sponsored by the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), which coordinates and supports biotechnology efforts throughout the CSU and serves as the CSU’s primary liaison to industry and academic partners in the realm. For example, Singh, Johnson and Keller each received initial research funding from CSUPERB and subsequently major federal funding to continue their research.

Results of Applied Research
Conducted by students under faculty leadership, the 236 research project will be presented in poster sessions Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Their topics include biofilms, biofuels and bioplastics; neural, cardiac and embryonic stem cells; dementia, diabetes, dialysis and DNA repair; protein alignment and plasma-membrane pumps; and a linked pair of molecular loops that scientists  call an “RNA kissing complex.” (See more about the research topics.)

According to CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Ephraim P. Smith, “Each year, the CSU Biotechnology Symposium showcases the research of hundreds of students working toward high-demand science, technology, engineering and math degrees."

“Biotechnology and other knowledge-based industries represent the future of California's economic growth,” Smith said. “CSUPERB's symposium helps to advance well-educated individuals who are critical to this workforce."

CSUPERB and science in the CSU
According to CSUPERB Executive Director Susan Baxter, “Most of the students attending the symposium have worked with CSU faculty on biotechnology-related research projects. By interfacing with industry speakers and expert panelists, faculty-student teams stay connected to the grand challenges, such as meeting healthcare needs in the developing world, recent breakthroughs and life-science product development.  They can see how discoveries they’ve made in the laboratory might lead to a new vaccines for childhood diseases or how applied projects might lead to improvements in bioenergy production."

“For many of the students, the symposium marks their first research presentation to the broader scientific community,” Baxter said. “That’s a major milestone – somewhere between their first science fair and a job as a scientist or engineer or a future PhD.”

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), from 1997 to 2006, roughly 6,000 individuals with a bachelor's degree from a CSU campus went on to receive a research-based doctoral degree. (With the exception of recently announced nursing doctorates, the CSU itself does not award doctoral degrees in science.)

Currently, CSU campuses administer 11 NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates programs (totaling roughly $3 million) in disciplines that include evolution, robotics and molecular biology.

“The best way to engage, recruit and retain students in the life sciences is to provide access to, and opportunities in, real-world biotechnology research settings,” said Baxter.

Honoring Research Excellence, Student Service
At the symposium, CSUPERB’s annual awards will be presented to honor excellence in research by undergraduates and graduate  students. Two major awards will also be presented to faculty – one for efforts to develop biotechnology educational programs in the CSU and one for outstanding research accomplishments. (See more about the CSUPERB awards.)

Students, researchers, professionals and others interested in the symposium biotechnology may register for the symposium at www.calstate.edu/csuperb/symposium/2011.

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About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 433,000 students year round and 44,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. A recent economic report found that the CSU supports more than 150,000 jobs statewide, annually. The engine driving job creation is more than $17 billion in economic activity that directly results from CSU-related spending that generates $5.43 for every dollar the state invests. The mission of the CSU is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California.

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