Toiling away in a highly specialized branch of scientific research, a graduate student may feel isolated at times, however well the work is going. But across the University, there is a larger community of scholars, many working on similar problems. To enhance communication, some 200 Yale graduate students in the biological and biomedical sciences gathered in early February to exchange ideas across department lines.

The fourth annual Graduate Student Research Symposium brought together students from the 12 core bioscience departments at Yale to discuss their work. “We are all in related fields,” said Helen A. Seow, a doctoral candidate in pharmacology and one of the symposium organizers, “but once you get into a department you are very separate. There are people who do things very similar to what I do, but they’re across campus.”

During the conference, 11 students presented talks on their research in progress. In addition, representatives of pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms were present at a career forum and on panels discussing topics such as Where Do You Go After Yale? and What Else Can You Do With Your Ph.D.? Other speakers included Susan Hockfield, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and professor of neurobiology at the medical school, and Eric S. Lander, D.Phil., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research. A panel on careers in science communications included Douglas Starr, co-director of the science journalism program at Boston University, and Peter Brown, Ph.D., editor of The Sciences magazine, published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Since the first conference in 1996, graduate students have found many new vehicles for communication, including the Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, which this year met its goal of linking all the relevant Yale departments. The greater sense of community has been noticeable, said Elizabeth Doherty, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and chair of this year’s gathering. “Students find there has been a lot more integration around campus,” she said.