By graduate intern at the NJCBM, Jeremiah Van Doren
I arrived the Rutgers Life Sciences building at 8 AM on April 22, 2015. The building's lobby, a vast and open space, is sparsely populated save for a few seats, tables, and the occasional passer-by, most who work in the building. On this occasion, a new array of tables, each dressed in an elegant black tablecloth and neatly decorated, now filled the once empty lobby. Caterers were populating a long buffet table with coffee and delicious pastries in anticipation of those needing their caffeine fix to get their day going. Yet, with all these new additions, nothing seemed out of place. It was as if the space was made for such an occasion.
On this day was the 2nd Rutgers University Neuro-Engineering Industry Showcase.
Soon after arriving, I began assisting with the final touches: placing additional chairs in the auditorium, organizing the welcome desk, and helping the catering staff with their delivery all the while resisting the urge to eat every last donut in the pastry platter. It was my duty, to help out as best as I could and to ensure all the events of the day would progress smoothly. Once it was determined that things were ready, I took my spot at the registration table along with my fellow coworkers and my tray of name cards and stack of folders that were specially made for this day. I was ready for the day to begin.
In a matter of minutes, the once-empty lobby was now filled with people spanning from all across industry and academia. Those who knew each other were catching up over a cup of coffee and preparing for the day ahead. Soon it was time to file into the auditorium to listen to the welcomes of both Rutgers Chancellor, Dr. Richard Edwards, and New Jersey Center of Biomaterials Director, Dr. Joachim Kohn. The showcase was underway.
Something transformative did happen within those first few hours. As the attendees came out, I noticed that many were now talking with somebody outside of their initial "clique" during morning coffee. Members of industry were conversing with professors and graduate students. I had the benefit of having a conversation with two wonderful people from Celgene on topics ranging from pollution to the best things to do in New Jersey. People were there not to just to hear about innovation, but to connect with each other.
My first real foray into the behind-the-scenes work of a showcase allowed me to see these types of functions from a different perspective. As a graduate student, I was familiar with showcases, having attended several during my academic career. Now, as a member of NJCBM, I now understand the hard work and vigilance such an event requires for it to be truly successful.