This past week, one of our Cabinet Members, Benjamin Kerner, sat down with the President of the Undergraduate Biochemistry Society, Janki Patel, to learn more about their mission at Stony Brook.
B: What is the mission statement of your organization?
J: So for undergrad biochem society, our goal is to basically foster a community for students that are interested in biochemistry and any of its related fields. Our number one goal is to help undergraduates excel in what they want to do. A lot of our students are biochemistry majors, some are not, but we want to help them find opportunities, and scope out research, internships, and anything they can get involved with that will help them excel with their careers.
B: Excellent. What is your role in the organization and how did you get involved?
J: I’m the president and my job is basically to oversee the programs that we’re organizing and make sure that they’re running well. I got involved my freshman year as just a member of the club and I really liked the focus of it and how it was based on community and mentorship. Everyone was so close. I wanted to stay involved, so I got involved with the junior e-board at the end of my freshman year, which is basically like our eboard-in-training. We do it to train eboard members so that they can run the club efficiently when the actual eboard graduates.
B: Right, makes sense.
J: So I got involved that way my freshman year and continued my sophomore year. I became president last year, and I’m still president now.
B: Wow, so you were president during your junior year?
J: Yeah, so it was actually a coincidence because the whole eboard graduated at once, so I was the only one left to continue. So I took everything over and I’m really glad that I did, because I think I have been able to make a big impact, having two years as president.
B: Yeah, of course. That’s really cool! So, what are some things or events that your organization offers undergrads?
J: So we do a lot of different events and we’re trying a lot of new things too, as we’re going through a little transition period. Historically our most common events are our faculty seminars, which we hold every semester. We invite a faculty member to come speak about their research and give advice to undergrads about whatever they may be pursuing, as well as how they got into their career. Additionally, we always hold a med school/dental school/grad school panel during which we have students talk about their experiences in those programs and give advice to undergraduates pursuing those paths. Last year, I started an outreach program where we go to the hospital pediatrics room and do little science experiments with kids. So that’s a lot of fun, and something we’ve been continuing monthly. We also do a club trip in the spring. Last year we went to the BODIES exhibit. For the first time last spring, we also helped put together a big science club social, which SBYIR was actually a part of. It was a big fundraiser for Camp Kesem, and there was a raffle for pie throws involving faculty members and professors. It was awesome to see all of the clubs that I knew finally get together to put on this program. We raised a ton of money, so it was, that was really nice. Lastly, we’re also trying to arrange a panel for students who don’t necessarily want to do research, teaching, or medicine, and are wondering what to do with their degree.
B: That’s cool. Why do you feel that your organization is important to the undergraduate experience?
J: I think a lot of the time, undergrads don’t know what opportunities are available—I know when I was coming in I had no idea of the internships out there or the research positions out there. It’s really hard to find resources that will show you opportunities like that, so I think our club is a really helpful resource in that way, especially because of the mentorship component. When I came in as a freshman I became really good friends with the e-board, who were all juniors and seniors at the time, and they really nurtured me. They helped me in scheduling classes, figuring out what kinds of internships were available, where I could volunteer, what kinds of research positions I could get. They really helped me with that and I think that’s something that I’ve been aiming to do as a club leader, to help other students, because I know that it’s hard to find those opportunities without guidance. So I think that we’re a really good resource in that aspect.
B: So, what is the best way for undergraduates to get involved in your organization?
J: Come to meetings! We’re always at the involvement fair for each semester, so I would really urge people to come to meetings. Also follow us on Facebook and social media because we always post our updates there. That way, even if you can’t attend meetings, you’ll know about our events at different times that you might be able to attend!