The Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences will host its 14th annual Research Day on Saturday, featuring a keynote talk delivered by department alumnus Shawn Semones. The all-day event includes opportunities for graduate students to showcase their research in oral and poster sessions.

Held from 8:30 6:30 p.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, the event is largely focused on current and prospective graduate students within the Department of Biological Sciences, part of the College of Science at Virginia Tech. About 120 current faculty and students will attend, and 27 potential graduate students will be coming from around the country to explore the department’s academic opportunities.

Because of the department’s broad range of location and research focus, it uses Research Day to allow graduate students and faculty to showcase their research findings and to allow department members to stay abreast of their colleagues’ efforts, said department head, Professor Brenda Winkel.

“It’s about seeing what we do here on campus, and it’s a chance for graduate students to learn about opportunities outside of academia from our visiting keynote speaker,” she said. “In allowing for the communication of work done in different labs, Research Day allows the department to connect and will provide those interested in joining Virginia Tech’s graduate program to see the work in which they can become involved.”

Shawn Semones

Shawn Semones
Shawn Semones

Keynote speaker Semones, of Salem, Virginia, earned his doctoral degree in biology from Virginia Tech after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, also in biology, from Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, Virginia. He now works as director of applied research and development at biotech firm Novozymes’ Salem location. He also serves as current chair of the Department of Biological Sciences’ Alumni Advisory Board.

In his talk, Semones will discuss his journey from academics to industry, including why he made the switch, the obstacles he faced, and the results of his decision.

“My goal is not to convince students that a career in industry is the way to go, but to show them what this track could look like with a degree in biology and perhaps convince them that some of the skills and talents needed in industry are not too different from those needed in academia or life in general,” he said.

Following the keynote talk, there will be a series of student speakers who have been invited to discuss their research, said Winkel. Two breakout sessions will feature 21 presentations, with question and answer sessions to follow.

The day also will include poster displays and a booklet that includes previously submitted abstracts. Prizes for top posters and oral presentations will be awarded at the end of the day, made possible through the generosity of the department’s Alumni Advisory Board.

This year’s event is sponsored by Affymetrix Inc., Novozymes, Rockland Immunochemicals Inc., and VWR International LLC.

Written by Jessie Rogers, of Suffolk, Virginia, a student in the Department of English, part of the College Liberal Arts and Human Sciences