Donning lab coats, new graduate students embark on bioscience studies

During a ceremony at the Li Ka Shing Center, first-year doctoral students marked the beginning of their graduate careers by donning white lab coats and taking an oath of integrity.

At the Sept. 23 lab coat ceremony, new graduate students in the biosciences recite an affirmation, declaring an “uncompromising respect for truth” and promising to “never let the potential for personal recognition, profit or advancement cause me to act in a way that violates the public trust in science.”
Jim Gensheimer

Nora Enright understands the value of medical research.

“I’m a Type 1 diabetic,” Enright said. “From an early age, I’ve known that discoveries can really change people’s lives.” A first-year PhD student in bioengineering, Enright was nibbling on appetizers Sept. 23 at an evening reception outside the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. She and other new graduate students at the School of Medicine had just received crisp, white lab coats, with their names embroidered on them, during a welcoming ceremony inside the center. Classes began that day.

“This is an exciting time for you and the Stanford community,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, who addressed the students in a recorded video because he was traveling. “There is no better time to take the journey on which you’re embarking. It’s a time when you can open up whole new fields of research.”

The lab coat ceremony marked the beginning of the students’ graduate careers in the biosciences, including biophysics, cancer biology, immunology, stem cell biology and neuroscience.

Arturo Molina, MD, president of the Stanford Medicine Alumni Association, told the students that the lab coat is a symbol of “respect for science.”

Arturo Molina, president of the Stanford Medicine Alumni Association, helps Isabel Delwel, a graduate student in microbiology and Immunology, into her lab coat during the ceremony.
Jim Gensheimer

“It symbolizes curiosity and pursuit of truth,” he said.

‘Wear closed-toe shoes’

Guest speaker Ryan Watts, who earned a PhD in biology from Stanford in 2004 and is now the chief executive officer of Denali Therapeutics, in South San Francisco, offered some practical advice: Confessing that he always wore flip-flops, he encouraged the students to “wear closed-toe shoes” as a safety precaution in the lab.

He also encouraged them to build strong ties with their classmates and advisers. “Anytime I had a career decision to make, I’d meet with people and discuss it with them,” he said.

After the students donned their coats, they read the Stanford biosciences affirmation, declaring an “uncompromising respect for truth” and promising to “never let the potential for personal recognition, profit or advancement cause me to act in a way that violates the public trust in science.”

Meeting peers

“It’s great to have a big welcoming cohort,” said Eerik Kasenlit, a first-year bioengineering student from Estonia, after the ceremony. “It’s been wonderful to see everyone and learn which departments they’re in.”

Mallory Laboulaye, a new PhD student in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, talks with pathology professor Marius Wernig at a reception following the lab coat ceremony.
Jim Gensheimer

Kasenlit, who worked in the biosciences industry for several years, said he’s looking forward to being back in school. “I want to study how cells make decisions,” he said.

Angel Madero Rincon, a first-year student in biology, hopes to study protein homeostasis and neurodegenerative diseases. A native of Colombia, he said he chose Stanford because the school allows students to work in labs outside their departments.

“That was very attractive to me because I intend to take a multidisciplinary approach to my research,” he said.

Enright, who grew up in Vermont, hopes that she can contribute to a medical breakthrough during her time at Stanford.

“I’m excited to make connections with people and collaborate with them, in addition to making a discovery,” she said. “Fingers crossed.”



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