The Organizers

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


Jenn Klaus - PhD Candidate in MB

My research seeks to understand how quorum sensing, a bacterial cell-to-cell communication system, promotes survival of the often-fatal human lung pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei. I appreciate that I’ve been able to learn a wide variety of molecular biology techniques, improve my communication and problem-solving skills, and mentor undergraduate student researchers (in addition to being a graduate teaching assistant) in my time so far at KU.

While I’ve always been attracted to a more teaching-heavy career in higher education, there are many other opportunities for PhDs with which we graduate students have relatively little knowledge. My goal for the second SEARCH symposium is to continue these efforts to provide graduate students with fruitful opportunities to be proactive about our various future career options through learning from and networking with other professionals in non-academic science-related careers.

Aaron Rudeen – PhD Candidate in MB

My research is centered around the tumor-suppressor Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), a protein implicated in the initiation and progression of colon cancers. My projects work to define the molecular mechanisms and biochemical properties of APC within the cell.

Making connections and talking with other scientists about my work has been a very enjoyable part of graduate school I am greatly looking forward to SEARCH as a chance to meet and get to know scientists from around the country. Organizing this year's SEARCH symposium has been a great learning opportunity, and I am excited to see students, technicians, and graduates come together and share their experiences.

Taybor Parker - PhD Candidate in MB

My research focuses on intestinal homeostasis, and signaling mechanisms the stem cells of the  intestine use to replenish the intestinal crypt. I am interested in a process called asymmetric cell division and how Wnt signaling might control this process in the intestinal stem cells.

While I greatly enjoy and value academic research, I currently do not wish to pursue a career in academia. Being an attendee at the previous SEARCH symposium opened my eyes to many career paths that I had not yet considered or even known existed. Being able to help organize this year’s SEARCH symposium has been exciting and challenging but has also rewarded me with a chance to refine my communication skills. I am positive that our symposium will provide students a chance to learn about alternative careers in the sciences, and also provide ample opportunities to network with professionals in the field.

Victoria Vande Griend – PhD Candidate in MB

I study the effects of a post-translational modification called SUMOylation on mitotic progression and regulation. In our lab we utilize the Xenopus Egg Extract system as well as human cancer cells to study mitosis. I enjoy doing research because for a period of time you become the only person in the world to know something and then get to spread that knowledge to the entire scientific community. I also enjoy interacting with the community by doing science outreach, as well as with undergraduate students both in the lab, and when I teach. Currently, I do not plan on pursuing a career in academia but hope to use my research and leadership skills in industry. I would love to find a job performing research that involves human disease and pathogenesis.

Being on the organization team for SEARCH has been an incredible experience. I feel that this has given me the opportunity to improve my organization and leadership skills as well as expand my networking abilities. I am proud to have helped organize this symposium and cannot wait to see how many attendees come and learn about non-tenure track careers from a broad range of perspectives.


Emily Arsenault – PhD Aspirant in EEB

I am interested in understanding the structure and function of freshwater food webs and how those may change as a result of disturbances such as climate change and species invasion. My current research investigates the effects of hydrogeomorphology on fish food webs in temperate steppe rivers of the United States and Mongolia. We hope that this work will help us understand how to better manage and conserve our freshwater systems into the future.

Working as part of the SEARCH symposium organizing team has been a great experience. I am excited to be a part of this effort to raise awareness and provide resources for graduate students who are interested to learn about careers outside of the traditional academic sphere. I am open to any career that would allow me to communicate science, whether that is through education, writing, or outreach.

Meagan Kurland - PhD Candidate in MB

In my work, I use the amazing model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to study the development of the nervous system. Specifically, I study the signals that direct motor neurons to their proper target.

I have always enjoyed science education outreach. I have been involved in high school outreach with Kansas DNA day as well as general public outreach during an internship at the zoo. I hope to continue in science education, policy, and outreach once I graduate.

Matt Ochs - PhD Candidate in MB

My research is focused on the migration of neurons during nervous system development. We use the nematode C. elegans as a model due to the simplicity of the neuron migrations as well as the powerful genetic toolkit. My project is on studying how the RNA-binding molecule ETR-1 is involved in guided cell migration. We hope to identify RNA targets of ETR-1 to further understand the mechanism by which neurons migrate.

While I do enjoy doing research in an academic setting I do not plan on pursuing a career in academia. Attending SEARCH previously was a great experience to introduce me to career paths outside of academia. I am excited for this year’s SEARCH symposium to introduce students to different career paths as well as provide an opportunity to connect with potential employers.


Anna Klompen - PhD Aspirant in EEB

My research focuses on the Phyla Cnidaria, which includes jellyfish, sea anemones, corals, box jellyfish, and Hydra. Specifically, I am interested in the diversification and evolution of cnidarian venoms, since jellyfish and their relatives are the oldest and one of the most diverse venomous animal groups. I enjoy participating in a variety of science outreach events, and currently hold an outreach co-chair position for the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Student Organization. I have enjoyed spending my first two semesters showing off various marine science specimens to Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri and convincing others that jellyfish are pretty cool animals.

After completing my PhD, I want to be a career researcher at a natural history museum or marine field station so I can continue conducting and sharing the science that I love. I believe events such as SEARCH KU enriches the graduate school experience by showcasing a variety of careers students may not have previously considered. STEM fields expand to a wide range of professions, and it is valuable both to expose the variety of fields and disciplines that previous STEM graduates work in as well as the diversity of career paths taken to reach these positions.

Sarah Mullinax - PhD Aspirant in MB

My research investigates the evolution of the Drosophila (fruit fly) immune system. More specifically, on how changes in antimicrobial peptides over time can affect the immune response of the organism.

My career aspirations are to be involved in a startup biotechnology company from an early point in the development. The SEARCH symposium will provide the unique opportunity to learn about careers paths and areas that I may not have considered before.


Priyanka Goyal - PhD Aspirant in MB

My research focuses on developing a Histamine Biosensor for the human brain. I am studying the enzyme Histamine dehydrogenase from Rhizobium species which has been found to specifically act on Histamine. I enjoy working with proteins and understand their structure and function. I am currently a teaching assistant and I thoroughly enjoy teaching.

My career aspirations are to promote science in whatever way I can through my research or through developing and participating in outreach programs and activities. I believe SEARCH symposium is an excellent way to bring young scientists from various fields in one place so that they can explore different alternative career paths outside of academia and have networking opportunities. I am happy to be part of this student-run symposium and excited to meet successful scientists/pioneers who took interesting path to explore science.


Haifa Alhadyian - PhD Candidate in MB

My research focuses on investigating the unexplored role of occluding junction proteins in tissue formation and remodeling during an animal's development.

During my graduate career, I have been involved in promoting career exploration opportunities for early career scientists as I was one of the organizers of SEARCH 2016. I am also a strong advocate for science communication as I am a member of Communication and Outreach committee at Genetics Society of America.

Due to the significant impact SEARCH 2016 has had on helping graduate students and postdocs explore career options, I am helping with SEARCH symposium this year. I hope that not only advanced-degree trainees but also undergraduates in STEM benefit from the resources provided and speakers' personal experience in jobs outside of academia to follow their future career on what they love and are passionate about.



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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