Lehigh’s Graduate Student Senate provides graduate students with travel grants to support travel to conferences. However, this highly sought-after funding typically runs out before the end of the fiscal year, and graduate students who do not receive grants must fund their own conference travel to present their research to a broader audience.
“As Lehigh strives to grow in prominence, we need to get this great grad student work out there in the world, and these grants are designed to facilitate that,” says Kathleen Hutnik, associate dean for graduate student life. “Graduate students are on the cutting edge of their fields. In collaboration with their faculty, they are the ones who are advancing knowledge helping us solve the world’s ‘wicked problems.’ They need to be attending professional conferences to both share and learn with others, both nation- and worldwide, who are working on similar problems. What a lost opportunity if a student cannot participate in these vital conversations.”
Mike Mfarej, a fourth-year doctoral student in biochemistry, and Caitlin Hyland, a fourth-year doctoral student in cell and molecular biology, have organized the Lehigh University Graduate Student (LUGS) 5K to help increase funding for this essential element of graduate student life.
“In line with the Path to Prominence, we know that Lehigh’s reputation and image as a research institution is supposed to flourish in the coming years and is already supposed to be flourishing,” says Mfarej. “Graduate students have an inextricable role in that process, from all the teaching and service requirements that we fulfill and the research that we produce … Showing support to graduate students is really important because [increased funding] is just going to help everyone think more collegially and more intellectually by getting to conferences and interacting with new colleagues.”
The race, which will follow a course on Lehigh’s scenic Mountaintop Campus, will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 14. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. in the lobby of Iacocca Hall. Runners and walkers are encouraged to participate, and all participants will receive a t-shirt, swag bag and post-race refreshments.
In celebration of the important research contributions of Lehigh graduate students, the event will also feature a graduate student research showcase in Iacocca Hall. Attendees can browse the posters of graduate students from across the university who have received travel grants and presented their work at conferences.
“A lot of graduate research happens up [at Mountaintop], so we felt like we wanted to showcase it there,” says Hyland. “We really want it to be a representation of the entire university.”
Mfarej and Hyland encourage the university community as well as the wider Lehigh Valley community to attend as either participants or spectators.
“The Lehigh Valley is home to a lot of growing scientists and researchers and academics, and the people that are receiving their graduate education here are going to be thought leaders and influencers in coming years in settings like colleges and universities across the country, and in other settings, too,” says Mfarej. “So supporting [the graduate student] population, I think, is important … And also for Lehigh students, especially undergraduate students, graduate students have a huge hand in their growth as students, especially with all the teaching and mentoring that some graduate students do.”
Click here for more information and to register for the LUGS 5K.