The SEARCH Symposium is a joint effort between the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and the Molecular Biosciences (MB) Graduate Student Organizations.

               ecology and evolutionary biology graduate student organization logo                      molecular biosciences graduate student organization


Organizing Committee


Alexandra Erwin - PhD Candidate in EEB

My research interests are broadly in genetics, with my Ph.D. work focusing on how genome conflict influences epigenetic factors in the germline. I have enjoyed generating and analyzing next generation sequencing data throughout my graduate career. Taking time to discuss science and research with the community has also been an important and rewarding component of my graduate school experience.

My career goal is to run a research lab while still finding ways to participate in education - whether through teaching courses at a university or interacting with classrooms in the community. While organizing this symposium, I discovered how passionate I am about providing tools for both the personal and professional development of early career scientists. I want to incorporate these kinds of efforts in my future career. I hope our pilot symposium not only provides useful career information for our students and fosters unique networking opportunities but also encourages more career resources for graduate students here at KU and elsewhere.
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Tori Paolillo - PhD Candidate in MB

I study the role of γ-tubulin in the regulation of the cell cycle in the model organism Aspergillus nidulans. I thoroughly enjoy conducting research, particularly cell biology and genetics, and hope to continue to do basic or applied research in the future. I also enjoy working with undergraduates and other students on research projects and helping them develop the tools needed to carry out their research project. At this time, I do not wish to pursue a career in academia and hope to use my research and leadership skills in industry.
Organizing the SEARCH Symposium has been a thoroughly rewarding experience so far and has allowed me to improve my skills in communication and leadership. I believe this symposium will be an extremely beneficial career resource for KU graduate students and I hope it will enlighten students of the numerous career possibilities in science after obtaining their graduate degree.

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Haifa Alhadyian - MA student in MB

My work focuses on investigating the mechanisms underlying the importance of occluding junction proteins in regulating an animal’s development using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. 

Besides conducting research in the lab, I am eager to share my passion about science with the public through developing and participating in outreach programs and activities. My ultimate goal is to become a professor and establish my own lab that aims to investigate basic animal development by utilizing interdisciplinary approaches. 

I believe that science has no boundaries, so my vision of organizing this symposium is to help young scientists be exposed and aware of the diverse career paths outside of academia. I am personally so excited to meet successful scientists/pioneers who took a unique and interesting path to explore science. Finally, I hope the available resources in this website benefit not only KU graduate students, but also graduate students around the country and the world.  

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Sally Chang – PhD candidate in EEB

My research focuses on studying the evolution of cnidarians (the group that includes jellyfish, corals, sea anemones and Hydra), using data from their entire genomes. In particular, I focus on the distribution and evolution of unique traits in a few unusual, freshwater species. I am also a teaching assistant for Evolutionary Biology, which I really enjoy as well.

Right after graduate school, I plan on looking for post-docs and ultimately I hope to become a professor of biology, so I can continue to do both teaching and research. 

This symposium provides a valuable glimpse into possibilities beyond the academic tenure track, and will hopefully inspire attendees to consider careers they never would have thought of before.
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Kaila L. Colyott - PhD candidate in EEB

I study Drosophila courtship behavior and am interested in sexual selection, signal receiver coevolutuion, and speciation. I enjoy the research process, teaching, and educational outreach. I am passionate about communicating science to the public and have focused much of my time on developing partnerships in the community to facilitate interactions between graduate students and the non-science community.

Ideally, I would like a career that allows me to teach science at the college level but also has an educational outreach component. I would also love to continue developing my grant writing and data analysis skills.

The SEARCH Symposium will include so many great opportunities and resources for graduate students to explore science careers outside of academia and I am excited to experience and share these opportunities with all of our attendees.
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Mahekta Gujar - PhD candidate in MB

I work on understanding the guidance molecules controlling growth cone dynamics and axon guidance in nervous system development using the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.

Teaching has always been appealing to me and I definitely would like to go on to teach high school or undergraduate students.

I think the SEARCH symposium is an excellent way to give graduate students a chance to explore alternative science career options as well as facilitate networking opportunities.
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Desiree Harpel, MA - Technician in EEB

As a graduate student, my research focused on novel proteins in Lepidoptera through the use of bioinformatic techniques. A large part of my time here at KU was also spent on educational outreach, as I enjoying teaching others of all ages about science. I’ve spent time teaching K-12 and undergraduates, giving me a broad range of teaching experiences.

I know I want my career path to focus on the integration of education and science, whether that be working as an educational outreach coordinator for a nature center or play a role in re-designing STEM curriculums for K-12.

The SEARCH Symposium will be a unique place to hear about alternative careers in science and talk with those that have taken that path on how they got to where they are. I see this as not only a networking opportunity, but a chance to learn how to build a plan to get to the career I want.
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Kara Hinshaw - PhD candidate in MB

My research investigates the role of a bacterial communication system called quorum sensing during interspecies competition.  I really enjoy doing genetic and protein work in bacteria and yeast.

My career aspirations are to work for a biotechnology company doing genetic engineering in microbes. I'm excited to be helping plan this student-run symposium and hope that students will leave the symposium with renewed energy and ideas for their future careers.
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Boryana S. Koseva - PhD candidate in EEB

My work focuses primarily on genome assembly of non-model organisms and analysis of sequencing data. I enjoy programming and working with large amounts of data. During my graduate career, I have also been a teaching assistant, and teaching has proved to be particularly satisfying.

Ideally, I would like to be a professor at a teaching university where I can use my skills as a bioinformatician to engage undergraduate students in research activities. Equally appealing is the idea of working in industry where I can further develop my programming and analytical skills

I think that the SEARCH Symposium is a unique opportunity for myself and fellow graduate students to talk to people who have succeeded in our career paths of interest, but also to explore career options that we have not considered yet.
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Andrew Mongue – PhD aspirant in EEB

I study sexual selection and reproductive biology in using butterflies and moths as models. I am currently a teaching assistant and the co-president of our department's graduate student outreach committee.

I would like to continue in a career that encourages outreach and public science education and maintains a strong research focus.

The SEARCH symposium will be an excellent resource for students with scientific training become aware of the range of options available for careers and I am happy to be a part of organizing this opportunity.



The SEARCH Symposium was partially funded by donations made to KU Student Endowment Board’s crowd-funding campaign, LaunchKU. If you would like to support our graduate student organizations and the 2020 SEARCH Symposium, please consider making a donation. Even the smallest donations make a difference. 


Thank you for supporting graduate students' efforts to promote science education and outreach, professional development events, and travel to professional meetings.

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