Our graduate student organization (GSO) is a unique strength within TPS due to the heavy involvement of students in every aspect of our community. Students work together through the GSO to plan events such as our monthly discussion group, retreats, and industry tours. Our students play an active role in the vitality of the TPS program, and it is largely because so many of us step up to contribute and serve. We all want (and work for) our program to be the best it can be in all areas: research, student life, and professional development.
Being a part of the GSO is also a valuable learning experience for students hoping to remain in academia as professors or research associates. Contributing students gain exposure and insight into the infrastructure of a successful collaborative research community.
The TPS-DG is a monthly meeting of our community for presentations, professional development, and workshops. Past group meetings have showcased student and faculty research, provided short courses on science writing or grant application, and have included interactive instruction on topics such as communicating science. Each semester’s lineup is created and planned completely by our graduate students, with a focus on bettering ourselves through extracurricular education and training.
The graduate student retreat is an annual gathering of all TPS graduate students for planning, team building, and celebration. Held at the Mountain Lake Lodge, the retreat is an all-day event focusing on graduate student life. We hold elections for our GSO officers, brainstorm for upcoming events, update our lab skill directory, and participate in ice breakers, science games, and outdoor events such as scavenger hunts and rope courses.
The TPS grant competition is a funding opportunity open to all graduate students to request money for collaborative student led projects, community equipment, and travel for conferences or to learn skills that can be taught to others in TPS. Students who are not applying for a grant are encouraged to volunteer as reviewers to gain valuable exposure to how grant panels may work to select which proposals are funded.
Life after grad school is coming for us all (at some point). To gain exposure to the world outside of academia, our GSO plans industry visits to research companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta. These tours are often organized as one or two day trips, and students have the opportunity to tour research facilities, attend presentations by senior scientists, and network with potential employers.
The TPS community has its own server in addition to the computing resources available to the broader Virginia Tech body. The server’s moniker, MAGYK, combines the initials of the five TPS students who were awarded the requisite funding through the TPS grant competition. MAGYK hosts 25TB storage, 256 GB memory, and 16 cores, as well as a variety of bioinformatics tools which make it ideal for smaller data processing and alignment tasks. The presence of an in-house server allows students to run quick or urgent jobs without the queues associated with other computational resources at Virginia Tech.