The Biology Department Graduate Student Association (BDGSA) is a collection of graduate students affiliated with the Biology Department at Penn State.  We hail from multiple graduate programs including Biology, Ecology, Genetics, IBIOS, Neuroscience, Physiology, and Plant Physiology.  The BDGSA invites speakers to give seminars, helps with new student recruitment, represents graduate students at departmental meetings, and organizes social events for current students.

We tend to meet once or twice a month on Fridays, but check to the right to confirm our next meeting.  If you happened to miss one, you can always read the minutes by clicking on the highlighted dates on the calendar, or just browse below this entry on the home page.  We hope to see you soon!

Minutes 1.25.13

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Your faithful secretary was not present for this meeting, (I was too busy getting stung by things in Puerto Rico), so apologies if the minutes aren't up to their usual level of detail.  We welcomed all new members, new officers took their positions, and everyone volunteered for Recruitment Weekend duties.  If you couldn't attend but still want to help out, just email our president, Jennifer (

Minutes 9.14.2012

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Here are the minutes from today's BDGSA meeting. I apologize for the long email but I thought it was better to just send one than bombard you with many. There are many items that we need you to act upon so please scroll all the way down. 

1)    The Biology Department Coffee Hour is scheduled for 10 am on Fridays. In the past we've had people sign up to give informal presentations on recent field trips or vacations, and they've always been great.  We're planning to do that again this year. There will also be a sign-up sheet for snacks at the next coffee hour on 9/21. 

2)    The Biology Department Graduate Student Association elected speaker, Dr. Steve Ellner, is coming October 9 to give a talk titled "Rapid evolution: from genes to communities and back again?" at 4pm. 

3)    We are going to buy t-shirts and mugs. Here's the fractal we were considering using as a new Biology shirt design: .  We like it because it looks like a tree, ram horns, or chambered nautili depending on how you squint your eyes.  Please send customization suggestions to me by Oct. 5. (

4)    We are interested in imploring the higher-ups to consider incorporating a break room in the renovation plans. If you would like to contribute to the letter, please email me ( a couple of sentences on why you think we (collectively as a department or as grad students in particular) would benefit from a non-reservable space that would house the snack cabinet, coffee machine, microwaves, and plenty of seating. 

5)    Outreach: The next Science U outreach opportunity is Oct 21. Additional Penn State Science outreach opportunities can be found at this website:  Please be careful to check that you comply with all the new HR rules for working with children before you attend any events. The science outreach office should be able to give you more details.

6)    Here is a cool career planning site from Science Careers:  

7)    Please send John ( the citation of any papers you have published (just take 2 seconds to copy from your CV) so we can update our publications list online. This will be a great way to show the productivity of our organization and to demonstrate our research diversity to potential recruits. 

8)   Please VOTE: it was proposed that we need an officer responsible for making us aware of outreach opportunities and planning/coordinating the events in which we participate as an organization. It was proposed that we merge this role with the social chair position. For this change in the constitution we need a 2/3 majority vote. Please vote yes or no in this survey as to whether you would like the social chair to become the Outreach/Social Chair:

9)    We fear the BDGSA is losing its voice in the department. We have 3 unfilled positions listed in our constitution. Therefore we will be accepting nominations for these positions (self-nominations are encouraged).  These positions require a person who is available to attend department committee meetings, express the collective voice of the graduate students at these meeting if necessary, and report back to the BDGSA. The offices and their descriptions are listed below. I have been assured that there are some faculty meetings that are open to graduate students although some concerning new hires may be confidential. It would be the responsibility of each rep to contact the committee to make sure they are included on emails giving the meeting times. Please send your nominations to me at

•    Graduate- Faculty Liaison:
Requirements: act as grad student representative at Biology faculty meetings. Asks questions suggested by officers and members of BDGSA and express concerns, suggestions, and progress of graduate students during these meetings. Report faculty meeting information back to the BDGSA

•     Course and Curriculum Representative:
Requirements: attend periodic meetings with faculty regarding biology curriculum and assist other officers with special tasks as directed by the moderator/president

•     Climate Committee Representative:
Requirements: Act as student representative for the biology department climate committee.

-Jennifer Boulay


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Welcome to all incoming Biology graduate students!  We hope you're excited to start the 2012-2013 academic year, and even more excited to participate in the best graduate student association the Penn State Biology Department has to offer (go ahead--try to find an alternative).  Seriously, we're a fun group, and we have a lot of great things planned for this year, so please come to our first meeting of the semester!  Of course the meeting hasn't been scheduled yet, but if you bookmark this page and return to it at some point in the next month, we'll have the date posted to the right.  Too lazy to bookmark?  You'll get an email reminder, anyway.  Ah, the beauty of that student listserv from which you can't unsubscribe...

Minutes: 4.6.2012

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Guest Seminar Speaker Announcement


We have confirmed Steve Ellner from Cornell University as our invited guest seminar speaker for the upcoming Fall 2012 semester (October 9th).  Dr. Ellner is a well-known ecologist and modeler, having done much to develop the use of integral projection models in ecological studies.  His research interests also include rapid evolution in a rotifer-alga predator-prey system and modeling the spread of a fungal pathogen in seafan corals.


Exploration Day Details


Exploration Day 2012 is happening this upcoming Saturday, April 14th.  We'll be setting up our two booths from 9-9:15am, ready to go at 9:30am.  There are technically two shifts (9-12 and 12-3), but anyone is welcome to stay for whatever portion s/he can make.  Our final list of fun activities for the kids includes the bird beak game, the bird identification board, Jeff's monkey photography, a microscope, the invertebrate collection, coloring sheets, and deep-sea worm arts and crafts.  Please remember to wear your Penn State Biology t-shirt, or see Jennifer about borrowing one.  Also let us know if you haven't worked out a ride yet.


Barbeque Social


Look to your email soon for details on the upcoming barbeque social to be held this Friday evening at Sunset Park.

Minutes: 3.2.2012

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Wow, it's been a while!  Sorry for the online absence, but BDGSA is alive and well.  Here's an update to prove it:

Invited Speaker List

We're working on selecting an invited speaker for next Fall semester to include in the Biology Department Seminar Series.  We've come up with a list (to be posted shortly) of potential faculty members at other universities with interesting research topics.

Additionally, we're considering bringing in a more 'popular science'-oriented speaker, such as a blog author or NPR reporter.  You will soon be able to vote on options via online poll.


We tentatively scheduled an evening of bowling for Thursday, April 5th.  The first game is on the BDGSA!  The timing also happens to coincide with happy hour...  More details to follow.

Exploration Day

We will be reserving a booth or two for Exploration Day 2012, which is taking place this year at Park Forest Middle School on Saturday, April 14th.  Each booth will feature fun hands-on activities to get kids excited about science.  We're thinking about resurrecting the classic 'match the beak to the food' game, as well as adding a touch-tank display. 

Coffee Machine Replacement

After (literally) decades of service, we can no longer tolerate the sub-par coffee provided by the machine in Mueller 317.  Today it was unanimously decided that Old Faithful needs to be retired.  A new coffee machine will be purchased in the coming days.  And there was much rejoicing.

Minutes: 9.17.2010

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To our new members, welcome, and to everyone else, welcome back!  We hope you got to make it to our first meeting of the new academic year, but if you missed it, here's a recap of the important announcements:


* Pizza


-We have free pizza at every meeting!  Seriously!  For that reason alone you should try to come.  And bring your friends! 


* T-Shirt Caption Contest


-In the ongoing epic that is our redesign of the Biology Department t-shirt, we've decided on our conceptual idea; all we need now is a good caption.  The logo will incorporate the 5-toed Nittany Lion paw print, which is, as all good biology students should know, anatomically inaccurate.  The t-shirt will point this out somehow using a witty caption.  Send your suggestions to Dominique (  Whoever comes up with the line we end up using wins a free shirt!


* Website Slide Show


-We're going to add a photo slide show to the top of the BDGSA website (  This means we need pictures!  Lab work, field work, hanging out--whatever.  If one representative from each lab sent in just one picture, we'd have the start of a pretty good collection, so please pass your photos along to John (


* Pumpkin Carving


-Finally, we'll be having a pumpkin carving event during the week leading up to Halloween.  Sounds fun, right?  More details to follow.


We hope to see you at the next meeting!

Minutes: 4.23.2010

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- WE NEED PHOTOS of biology grad students having fun or hard at work: please send photos of  yourself working in the field, laboratory, etc. or photos of you and your model organisms to post on the website.

- ALSO, please send CITATIONS of PUBLICATIONS you may have from your work at PSU to post on the website as well. Photos, citations, and suggestions regarding the website should be sent to John Parkinson (

- Other website suggestions discussed: add links to websites/emails of Bio department alumni for networking purposes; creation of a Facebook group

* T-shirt/Coffee Mug Design

-No design changes to vote on, just suggestions to change the images in the circles of the current design.

- A suggestion was made that we could incorporate some of the designs that our department has published on journal covers onto bio dept. merchandise

-We still have T-shirts of the original design for purchase. A suggestion was made by a graduate student to purchase T-shirts for outstanding undergraduate helpers in your lab

*End-of-semester BBQ

-An upcoming Friday evening, 5:30pm, at Sunset Park

-Members can bring along side-dishes or desserts, BDGSA will provide drinks and main dishes

-Look for emails advertising times & dates for BBQ

*Biotechnology activity volunteer opportunity at State College Area High School (April 30th, 2010)

-Contact Melissa Wilson Sayres ( if you would like to help with Biotechnology Outreach at SCAHS this coming Friday.

*Upcoming Summer activities

-Volleyball with the Entomology Dept. probably Wednesdays or Thursdays

-Other possible activities coming up this summer: river tubing, movie night somewhere on campus, camping

- Suggestions for other activities? Contact Social Chair Katey Glunt (

Minutes: 1.22.2010

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Welcome back everyone! The first BDGSA meeting of the semester was on Friday. Many new plans are in the works for this semester so please get involved.

New Officers discussed position duties and some changes were made:

- an update to the BDGSA constitution was presented and approved.
- secretary/treasurer will remain as one position
- Graduate Affairs officer will now be the Biology Rep to the GSA and will keep biograds informed of what is happening with the larger grad student body

BDGSA Website:

- Webmaster & Grad-Faculty will work on getting access to the website
- Plans for making the website more useful are being considered. Ideas include, making it a hub for seminar schedules and Biology events, funding opportunities & advice, and recording social events and functions.
- Other ideas? Contact the new webmaster John Parkinson <>

Recruitment weekend:

- The dates will be February 18th - 20th.
- Volunteers are needed to help organize events, meet with prospectives and guide people around campus.

Coffee Hour:

- Now at 2:30 on Fridays
- Last weeks bake sale for Haiti was a big success with over $277 dollars going to Hope for Haiti! Thanks everyone.
- A guaranteed reimbursal policy for up to $15 was approved for volunteers who bring baked goods.

Other Ideas:

- A once a semester newsletter with information about new students, faculty, classes & Grad student achievements is being planned. If you want to be involved join us for the next meeting (Feb 5).

- T-shirts & Mugs: New merchandise will be ordered soon, but ideas for a new design are requested first.

- Social events: Tussey mountain snow tubing in the coming weeks!

The next meeting will be Feb 5 at noon in 317 Mueller.
Please join us!

(BDGSA secretary/treasurer)

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Next Meeting

Our next meeting will take place Friday, March 1st, in 317 Mueller. As always, lunch will be provided!