The original structure of the Bioengineering and Bioscience Unified Graduate Students (BBUGS) began as a Student Leadership Council (SLC) of an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC). The ERC under which we began was the Georgia Tech and Emory Center for Living Tissues (GTEC) which was focused on tissue engineering research. In the years since GTEC was founded, biotechnology research has expanded exponentially on the Georgia Tech campus with increasing numbers of new buildings, three new degree programs, and a multitude of new researchers. For this reason, the SLC of GTEC decided to broaden their student group to encompass all students in the bioengineering and bioscience communities.
As most funding eventually does, GTEC’s NSF-funding ended in 2009. As a part of the transition of GTEC into a self-funded research center, the SLC was challenged with what to make of our future. Since a multitude of focused student organizations already existed, we decided we wanted to be more encompassing. Although never exclusionary, some students who were outside the field of tissue engineering felt that GTEC events were not relevant to them. Therefore, the GTEC SLC chose to keep some of the structure of the SLC but expand the scope to all biosciences and bioengineering fields. We joined forces with the IBB staff and the Public Policy Forum and established collaborations with Emory’s itm, Emory ASP, the BME Student Advisory Board, and the Emerging Leaders Network. Our vision was not to swallow other student organizations but to befriend them and work together to bring all the graduate students together in a bigger network than currently existed.
Not only did the acronym work, but because we are so diverse. We work in labs and buildings with people who came from different academic backgrounds and who are in a wide variety of degree programs. Computer scientists, pure biologists, and mechanical engineers work together toward a common goal but often use different tools and approaches. By ourselves, we are akin to beetles, fireflies, and dragonflies, but collectively we are all bugs who want to survive and someday fly away. OK… we admit it’s a little cheesy, but no matter what we’re called, if we ban together we’re less likely to get squashed.
We’re excited to see BBUGS continue to grow as it exposes graduate students to all those elements of education that occur outside of formal classes and lab work. The future is bright (and fun) and you should learn how to get involved in BBUGS!