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BMMB’s Lion Lunch provides greater opportunity for students to learn from other students

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The cornerstone of the BMMB Graduate Program has always been the opportunity for its students to conduct research using excellent facilities, take advantage of countless collaborative opportunities and engage with faculty with diverse research interests. Learning doesn’t only happen in the lab or directly from a faculty member though. It can, and often does, come from the interactions between students within the BMMB community.

Lion Lunch was created as a platform for students to be able to present their research in a low stress, student run environment where they can have the opportunity to learn more about techniques and research being conducted in other BMMB labs . While enjoying a provided lunch, BMMB students learn about techniques used by other BMMB students. The goals of Lion Lunch are for students to expand their understanding of a method, identify a point of contact for troubleshooting a method, or provide an example of the types of research questions a method can answer. Currently, BMMB students have chosen to focus on methods but Lion Lunch is planning to expand into general research. Interest in Lion Lunch is also growing and there are plans to expand the audience to graduate students from other programs as well as post-doctoral researchers. Lion Lunch happens each month in 251 North Frear Laboratory and starts at noon. The next Lion Lunch is scheduled for November 27th.

The Lion Lunch initiative was started by Allison Williams, a BMMB Graduate Student working in the Bevilacqua Laboratory, in the spring of 2018 and was quickly supported by the BMMB Graduate Student Association. The Graduate Student Association is a great way for students in the BMMB Program to get involved in the BMMB community. It allows students the opportunity to turn their ideas into something that will not only benefit themselves, but the BMMB community at large. Lion Lunch is a great example of this.

Currently Williams is the primary organizer of Lion Lunch but hopes that others will join her. “For me, I think the value in this event comes mostly from hearing about troubleshooting a technique and what "good" data from a particular technique looks like”, commented Williams. She continued saying “I also see value in learning about the types of techniques that BMMB labs use. As you get further in your graduate career, it is easy to get caught up in what you do. So it is cool to hear about what other labs in our department do, and have a low pressure environment to ask questions to experts in these techniques.”


Williams is a 3rd year graduate student from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from Duquesne University. As a kid she was initially drawn to science largely because it was fun. Throughout her middle and high school experiences she was fortunate to have had teachers that not only stoked her passion for science but supported it as well. They helped her spark a real interest and curiosity as to why and how things happened.

She chose to come to Penn State, and more specifically the BMMB Program, because of her strong passion for RNA research. “I felt that the social environment provided by the graduate students during my interview was by far the best of any school that I applied to,” said Williams. “The combination of the strong Center for RNA Biology that Penn State maintains along with the awesome graduate students was enough to sell me on BMMB.