IPiB welcomes incoming class for 2020-21 year

The Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) is pleased to welcome its newest class of incoming students. The 2020 cohort is comprised of 14 students from across the country. Students hail from such undergraduate institutions as Smith College, Texas A&M, and Boston College, and bring with them diverse experience to adapt to the changes that come with 2020.

“It is always great to see and welcome a new IPiB incoming class,” said IPiB Program Director, Ivan Rayment. “This year the introduction to our program is more than a little bit different with masks, physical distancing, and online teaching. Even with masks, I sense a great excitement among our new students as they start their lab rotations in search for a PhD advisor. This year they have a lot of new faculty to choose from, which bodes well for their future research endeavors.”

Normally, students would begin the program with a week of orientation, and meet in person to hear faculty research talks, network, and participate in a weekend cookout hosted by fellow IPiB students, an annual tradition. Instead, this year students met virtually for their welcome with Biochemistry and Biomolecular Chemistry Chairs Brian Fox and Tricia Kiley, and IPiB faculty pre-recorded research talks so students could view their sessions remotely.

Kate Ryan, Graduate Student Services Coordinator, worked with incoming students throughout the summer, preparing them for their arrival in late August. Despite the changes, “this year’s class has been really engaged,” said Ryan. “The students have been amazing, all excitement, so cooperative even with the changes, and we appreciate their openness to staying informed.”

Lab rotations also look different this year. Many rotations will still be primarily in person, though students and staff working onsite will be carefully scheduled to adhere to spacing requirements. Masks and face shields will be provided. Most lab meetings will be held virtually, and lab protocols will be taught online.

There is a contingency plan as well; an alternate timeline of abbreviated rotations has been prepared in case a quarantine is needed later in the year.

Photo of Gina Wade. Wade is wearing a mask.
IPiB graduate student Gina Wade.

“In 5 or 6 years when I attend their thesis defenses,” said Ryan, “we’ll all remember they were the class in 2020 that came in when the world was upside down and braved a storm to get their degrees. I give them so much credit, they’re really a great bunch of people.”

COVID restrictions may have changed the look of the program this year, but they haven’t dampened its heart: IPiB students have been busy putting together a full schedule of upcoming safely-distanced initiatives, including outreach projects, seminars, and the annual IPiB Retreat, which will be held virtually on September 25.

“Every new graduate student is nervous to enter a new environment,” said incoming IPiB student Gina Wade, “and the thought of transitioning in a manner unique to our IPiB group was especially nerve-wracking. However, the warm welcome coordinated from faculty, staff, and current students has assured me that this will be a great home. Now, nerves have given way to a determination to become the best scientist I can be.”