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Biology Graduate Student Organization


(accessible to current students only)

What is BGSO?

The Biology Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) is both a social and mentoring network of biology graduate students and an organization that promotes positive change in the Biology Department through graduate student leadership. There are two purposes of the organization: 1) to encourage community, support, and cohesiveness among students of the department, and 2) to organize activities that foster department unity and support for graduate student concerns.


How did it start?

BGSO evolved from an informal social organization developed by graduate students in 2003 when enrollment began to increase. As students met to socialize, they also talked about their concerns as graduate students. They realized that some issues couldn’t be solved within the group, but needed further discussion with the department as a whole, leading to our first Biology Department retreat. The group became an official student organization with a constitution in 2007 to define the responsibilities filled by graduate students within the department and to leave a template for future graduate students.


How do I join?

As a graduate student in the Department of Biology, you are automatically a member of the BGSO. All you have to do is show up and get involved. We know. Your first year can be pretty rough, but being involved in BGSO, even just a little bit, can actually make things easier. Think of us as your grad student support group.


Are there leadership opportunities?

YES! Each of the activities below is coordinated by one or more graduate students who’d probably love to have some help. There are also many other opportunities to be involved. For example, several students are on the seminar committee, others helped develop and maintain the website, still others help mentor graduate teaching assistants. Further, the Biology Department Senator represents the biology graduate students in the Graduate Student Senate.


What are these BGSO activities?

The main activities are described below. All of these are advertised via e-mail in advance, so check your inbox for announcements from our Department Assistant, Sue Kolenz, the Graduate Program Coordinator, Julia Brown, or one of your fellow grad students.

Social hour: Not only is this a time to unwind while enjoying some free snacks and beverages, but this is when we plan upcoming activities, discuss issues, and get updates about what’s happening in the graduate student senate. Further, it’s a great time to ask other graduate students all of your questions, including What are quals like? How do I survive teaching? You name it, we’ve been there. Ask us about it. These meetings are held the first and third Friday during the school year and as needed during the summer months. Typically they are held in Clapp 405, start at 4:30 P.M., and last until everyone is gone.

Throughout the year, we also host several social hours to which faculty and staff are invited. This is a great opportunity to rub elbows with professors in a relaxed atmosphere.

Graduate student seminars: This is a great venue for practicing your talk for the qualifier or that upcoming meeting in front of an audience of just other graduate students. We’ll cheer you on and provide constructive criticism. These are scheduled on an as needed basis. Further, this has also been used as a venue for outside speakers of general interest to the graduate students, including speakers from the career center as well as a panel on how grad students can reduce their carbon footprint.

Speaker lunches: These lunches provide an informal setting to talk with the departmental seminar series speaker. The speakers answer your questions and share insights into surviving grad school and establishing a successful academic career. These are held weekly in parallel with the seminar series, depending on speaker availability and funding.

Biology Department retreat: Held annually during or after the spring semester, the retreat serves as a day of community building and problem solving among graduate students, faculty, and staff involved in graduate education.

Page last modified: June 26, 2014