Elevating Research: Trainee Symposium Offers Valuable Experience
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Elevating Research: 
Trainee Symposium Offers Valuable Experience


April 2, 2024
Gabrielle Davis poses with certificate for placing first in Research Symposium

Spend some time in the sleepy parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania and it can get pretty quiet.

For some, that’s a welcome environment. For others, a faster, busier pace of life is needed.

Gabrielle Davis, a research assistant in the lab of Heather Montie, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology, grew up along the sometimes bumpy, unpaved roads of Montrose, PA, and knew she wanted to go someplace bigger.

That meant a move west to earn her undergraduate degree in neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. From there, wanting to explore her options and get more experience, Davis applied to labs in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“I ended up getting in contact with Dr. Montie and found it was really interesting,” she said. “She's so smart and such a nice person, not to mention an incredible instructor, so everything kind of just aligned with what I wanted to do and what can further my career.”

Davis recently had an opportunity to expand her experience through The Wistar Institute’s Trainee Research Symposium. The program is an all-day event showcasing academic research and diversity in the Philadelphia area. Trainees submit an abstract for poster sessions, with some of those submissions selected by Wistar to be presented at the symposium. Trainees are then invited to present a poster on their lab's research.

PCOM and Wistar have recently collaborated on several academic initiatives, including degree programs, courses and other educational opportunities, as well as the creation of a PhD program in Cancer Biology.

The Wistar Symposium experience provides an opportunity for researchers to get more comfortable presenting their work to peers and other professionals. Prizes for this year’s event were given to the best poster presentations by postdoctoral fellows, post-baccalaureate, graduate, undergraduate, and open categories. Davis, submitting for the first time, competed in the post-baccalaureate category.

To her surprise, she won.

“I was not expecting this at all,” she said.  “I joined the lab in September, I’m the new hire, so that was really exciting.”

Davis is hoping to pursue a doctoral degree in a subject she’s yet to settle on, but while she considers next steps, she’s putting her undergraduate degree to use and gaining experience in Dr. Montie’s lab.

“Right now, I'm getting experience working with neuromuscular diseases and seeing if that's a field that I'd like to stay in or if I'd like to branch out to general biology or medical microbiology with infectious diseases and virology,” she said.

“[This experience] helped me learn more and be able to talk about what I'm doing and what we're hoping to do with all of our research, but also figure out what I want to do next.”

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