Outside the Classroom

Beyond coursework, research, and fulfilling their training grant requirements, BTP trainees go above and beyond in participating in many professional development and volunteer activities, both within their programs and across campus and in the larger Madison community. Trainees embody The Wisconsin Idea, the university’s guiding principle that what happens on campus should influence people’s lives off campus.

The Chemistry Opportunities Program (CHOPs) at UW–Madison is an annual recruiting event that invites highly qualified prospective graduate students to campus to learn about the graduate programs offered here. For some BTP trainees, this is how they got their first glimpse at the graduate student experience at UW–Madison and many return to volunteer to meet other potential graduate students, share information about their graduate programs, and answer questions about graduate student life.

Many colleges and schools at UW–Madison have Graduate Research Scholar programs. They are fellowship programs on campus that offer a community of support and networking events for its underrepresented minority students in disciplines from all across campus. When not in a BTP-funded year, BTP trainees can be funded by a GRS program and take full advantage of these opportunities. Many continue with the community even after their funding ends to volunteer and participate in outreach and professional development activities.

Career development is also an important part of BTP. For example, departments affiliated with BTP, as well as the university as a whole, host colloquia on topics such as how to navigate a male-dominated field and encourage diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. Another example is the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s Innovation Roadmap and other programs from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which focus on issues of intellectual property, small business, entrepreneurship, and responsible conduct of research. Other opportunities include those from the National Research Mentoring Network and resources from the university’s Learning and Talent Development programs. BTP trainees are given information about these events by program administrators.

Trainees have also connected with the Forward BIO Institute. Founded in 2018, the Forward BIO Institute works to accelerate transformation of innovative biomanufacturing-related technologies into healthcare solutions. The Institute employs industry standards and practices to accelerate translation, with a focus on milestone-driven, targeted technology development. In addition to these activities, the Institute’s workforce development efforts seek to educate and engage faculty, staff, and students in this process.

Some BTP students are involved in STEM education and outreach by visiting local schools and participating in the annual Wisconsin Science Festival. In the past, one trainee volunteered to teach a one-week section on general biology for UW-Madison’s highly successful PEOPLE program, which strives to recruit and empower underrepresented minorities and first-generation college attendees to succeed through their education. Also, Life Sciences Career Day is a biennial event in which trainees participate to learn about career opportunities outside of academia. BTP trainees serve as organizers of this campus-wide event along with graduate students from other departments and programs.

Thanks to the BTP travel allowance as well as funds available through the Graduate School, trainees are also able to travel to local, national, and international conferences to present posters and give oral presentations on their research.