Skip to content

Workshops Lead to Unexpected Opportunities for Doctoral Student

Last fall Brenna Forester (Ph.D. in Environment, Nicholas School of the Environment) participated in two workshops hosted by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) in Knoxville to inform her dissertation research in the emerging field of landscape genomics.

She was among 19 Duke students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2016-17 for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Dean Urban. She shared some reflections on her experience:

With funding from GSTEG I first attended a workshop on quantitative genetics at NIMBioS, where I learned skills that have allowed me to be a more effective collaborator, and have better prepared me for the postdoctoral position I have just started at Colorado State University.

I then attended a second NIMBioS workshop on Next Generation Genetic Monitoring. This was an excellent opportunity for me to work closely with many of the leaders in the fields of conservation genetics and molecular ecology. The group I worked with is about to submit a manuscript to a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Applications. The manuscript provides practical advice and a guide to help conservation managers work effectively with genomics experts on genomic assessment and monitoring programs for species of conservation concern. I am a co-first author on that paper.

Finally, I traveled to a third workshop, ConsGen-2 [on conservation genomics], in Montana. This was a pivotal workshop for me. I received one-on-one assistance from experts in my field on my dissertation data, feedback that was instrumental in improving my dissertation. I met a recent Ph.D. graduate, whose Ph.D. advisor is now my current postdoctoral advisor (Chris Funk). It is unlikely I would have known about the position in his lab without having met his former student at ConsGen-2. Finally, I have just been asked to return this fall to be an instructor at the 2017 ConsGen!

Overall, the funds from GSTEG were put to very good use in terms of expanding the scope of my graduate training while helping me build a network of research collaborators.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.