Beach Retreat 2015

Beach Retreat 2015
Brandon proving he still has impeccable form after years of practice at UT tailgates.
Brandon proving he still has impeccable form after years of practice at UT tailgates.
A beautiful morning view of the Atlantic from the Holiday Inn Resort.
A beautiful morning view of the Atlantic from the Holiday Inn Resort.

What a great departmental retreat we had in Wrightsville Beach earlier this summer (May 28th – 29th)! We were blessed with fantastic weather, good food, and of course the luxurious accommodations of the Holiday Inn Resort right on the beach. A big thanks goes out to Yiyang Gong, a new professor in the department, for not only giving a talk at the retreat but also documenting the trip with his spiffy camera!

By Thursday afternoon, we had a good number of graduate students and professors out and the beach to enjoy the sun and sand. With more than enough subs and suds to go around, people chose to either suntan, catch up with friends from other labs, or pass the time with cornhole, soccer, and ladderball. A highlight from the first day were the Rapid Fire presentations, open to any and all graduate students. Each student was allowed one slide and one minute to explain his or her research in a convincing or humorous way (or sometimes both). We heard poetry, book parodies, spoken word, and even a rap! Later in the afternoon, we heard from Chris Jackman of the Bursac lab gave the following talk: Growth and maturation of uncation engineered cardiac tissues as contractile grafts to remuscularize the heart. Afterwards, Brent Hoffman gave an informal talk about some lessons learned from his stint as a post-doc and his advice for succeeding in academia. An amazing dinner was then prepared by the hospitality services at the resort along with wine and beer by the pool. As a side note, the BME department covers all student expenses for the annual retreat, and the graduate students naturally take advantage. Finally, Olaf Von Ramm took us all on a nostalgic and anecdote-filled overview of the department from its earliest days into the present.

Poster session!
Several posters featured the exciting biotechnology potential of CRISPR.

The next day was more business and less beach. We heard talks from Joe Bellucci of the Chilkoti Group (Sortase-catalyzed isopeptide ligation for site-specific bioconjugates) and Vrad Levering (Design and Development of an Anti-foulding Urinary Catehter Utilizing Active Surface Deformation). Afterwards, the gourmet buffet lunch was accompanied by a dozen or so posters from various labs in the department. Last but not least, we heard from James Polans and Issac Hilton about their ongoing research with optical coherence technology and molecular biology respectively.

And that was a wrap. By popular demand, the retreat should be in the same location and around the same time next year. Feel free to comment below if you have suggestions for activities or speakers for 2016!