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Honoring the Past Year of Johns Hopkins Trainee Accomplishments

student winners

Being a Ph.D. student is like tandem skydiving for the first time: You are asked to enter the freefall into the scientific world below, with your principal investigator (PI) guiding your career path. You have no control over the journey, and you don’t even really know the endpoint because your PI is the only one who can and will pull the parachute that lets you know the ride is almost over and you’re about to graduate.

""During that freefall, it is imperative to relish the experience and celebrate landmarks.

Thankfully, the amazing Graduate Student Association (GSA) and phenomenal Biomedical Scholars Association (BSA) both host awards nights dedicated to highlighting achievements within the Johns Hopkins student body. These events foster a positive environment by giving students a chance to reflect on what they have accomplished thus far and recognize achievements outside of the traditional academic benchmarks. Taking the pressure away from graduation and emphasizing mindfulness during the Ph.D. process can instill motivation to get through that next experiment or read those articles, while reminding students that they are part of a community at Johns Hopkins.

2018 Graduate Student Association Awards at the American Visionary Arts Museum

The GSA awards are given to individuals based on peer nominations and are intended to recognize the student involvement in the GSA, impact on student life, and overall enthusiasm. These awards emphasize the efforts of our peers outside the laboratory and are an opportunity to highlight those students who work hard to plan and organize events like taco parties, the March for Science, and Love for Animals of Baltimore—an event to help the Maryland SPCA and BARCS animal shelters.

Thank you to the following individuals for all your hard work during the past year. The graduate student body is looking forward to upcoming events during the 2018-2019 academic year.


Award Winner Ph.D. Program
GSA Program Representative of the Year


Elizabeth Partan Human Genetics
GSA Student Group Leader of the Year


Richard Sima Neuroscience
GSA Community Service of the Year



Erica Avery Cellular and Molecular Physiology
GSA Executive Board’s Citizen of the Year Ashley Stewart Cellular and Molecular Physiology


In addition, the GSA hosts a poster session, and the first/second-year category is given the Junghea Park Memorial Award. Junghea Park was a Center for Molecular Medicine student during the academic year 2008-2009, who passed away unexpectedly in December 2008. “Ms. Ms. Park was a gifted young scientist who dedicated herself to the study of disease-oriented research,” said Katie Marshall, vice president of public relations for the GSA. “She had a strong passion for science and aspired to positively affect humanity by making a difference through her research. It is in this spirit that the CMM sponsors the first/second-year category in the GSA poster session,”

Graduate Student Association Poster Award winner Rachel Weinberg, second-year Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Training Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM). Right, Weinberg’s principal investigator, Mike Caterina, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of The Neurosurgery Pain Research Institute.

This year, first place went to my fellow CMM classmate, Rachel Weinberg, and second place was awarded to Aneila Hogan, a student in the Functional Anatomy and Evolution Program. For the senior graduate student posters, first place was awarded to Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology student Tim Wang, and second place was a tie between Amer Al-khouja from the pharmacology Ph.D. program, and neuroscience student David Ottenheimer.

Rachel stated that “the GSA awards night definitely made me reflect on the last year,” while the award instilled “validation for all the work I had done [in the laboratory] and gave me motivation to keep going.”

As a fellow second-year Ph.D. student, I agree that after qualifying exams, classes, and choosing a laboratory, the next step seems so far away. Even “lab can get frustrating with protocols not working, and it can feel like you’re pushing against a wall,” Rachel declared. “Celebrating these small accomplishments is like a pat on the back from your peers and gives you a sense that you’re on the right track.” The GSA provided a great opportunity for Rachel to share a night with her colleagues and “to have a collective toast to all we accomplished in the last year.”

Congratulations to all who participated, and keep up the good work in your labs!

10th Annual Milestone Celebration by the Biomedical Scholars Association

The BSA promotes inclusion and diversity within the School of Nursing, the School of Medicine, and the School of Public Health. Their Milestone Celebration did an outstanding job of including all trainees at various stages in their academic careers (high school to postdoctoral and medical fellowship appointments) and observing all the achievements that mark contributions to our community, culturally and scientifically.

For first-year graduate students, the awards spotlighted the completion of coursework, and for second year grad students, they focused on the completion of the qualifying exam, as well as on the completion of the first thesis committee meeting. All graduate students were given an award for submitting a paper for publication, publishing a paper, submitting a grant, receiving a grant or fellowship, being accepted to graduate school, defending a thesis, receiving an internship offer, leadership and presentations.

Postdoctoral fellows and medical fellows were awarded for submitting a paper for publication, publishing a paper, submitting a grant, receiving a grant, accepting a faculty position, leadership and presentations. Each of these trainees was recognized to mark these great feats in their careers and encouraged toward the next steps.

The collaborative event was a chance for those students at the beginning of their careers to see other academics taking steps that they may someday follow. Besides being informational and inspirational, the event was perhaps most importantly a chance for everyone to take a moment and realize their achievements from this past year, as well as the impressive work of all their colleagues and fellow Johns Hopkins trainees.

Both the BSA and GSA have successfully created a tradition of awards events that I encourage all graduate students to attend and enjoy every year. There are many milestones throughout your career, and everyone should take the time to recognize the significance of these accomplishments because all are worth a toast!

Cheers to another academic year! Well done, everyone!

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