2013 TTH Annual Conference, Part 2

On February 15-17, members of The Triple Helix met at Harvard University for the organization’s 2013 Annual Conference. In this two-part blog post, we reflect on our experiences and lessons from the event.

Day 3: by Akshay Sanghi


Akshay Sanghi presents his research at the AAAS conference.

On my last day in Boston, snow whirled in strong wind conditions. As people left on Sunday morning, we exchanged phone numbers, and I wished them all safe travels. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting chapter representatives, and this was my first opportunity to put a face to all the email communications that I had over the past year.

After last goodbyes, the other poster presenters and I rushed to the Hynes Convention Center. From 1 to 5 in the afternoon, I had the opportunity to talk to AAAS conference attendees about my research under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Cone at Johns Hopkins University. Though this was my first international poster session, I quickly picked up on the casual atmosphere. The first person to stop by my poster was a journalist for Science magazine. She shot a six second video of my description of my research. It may have been a daunting task, but I am proud to say that on the third take I managed to speak a coherent sentence.

There were so many diverse presenters at the session, one of the many being Exploratorium, an organization that designs science museums. Another intriguing connection that I made that Sunday was with a group of Japanese scientists. I was fascinated, not only because they research similar topics that I do, but also when a conference attendee explained that Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, conducts his research at Kyoto University in Japan. The AAAS conference was a special experience for me because I had the opportunity to network with diverse organizations and people. Brittany’s experience Sunday at the alumni panel reflects just that as well.

Day 3: by Brittany Hsu

On Sunday, we had six Triple Helix alumni speak on a panel to discuss their previous involvement with the organization and their current career paths. We began with a talk from Zain Pasha, the founder of The Triple Helix Online and a current member of the Board of Directors. As Mike mentioned, his talk on Saturday focused on social media, but today he discussed how he got involved in The Triple Helix and his career in consulting. He noted that although most people in The Triple Helix had science backgrounds, he was an Economics major and “never took a biology course in his life.” Zain mentioned that his coming from a small town made it so enjoyable to get to know all of the diverse people that form The Triple Helix. He presented finance and consulting as a potential career path for TTH students who like to travel and meet new people. Zain emphasized that people from any background can get involved in consulting, and having analytical and technical skills as a science major might in fact provide a competitive edge.

After Zain, Julia Piper, founder of the The Triple Helix Science Policy Division and former CEO, spoke about her PhD work in Evolutionary Biology at Harvard. Julia discussed both her initial involvement as a writer for The Triple Helix at UC Berkeley as well as how attending her first Triple Helix conference in Boston broadened her perspective of The Triple Helix. After her initial impression, Julia was amazed that she could travel so far to meet new people and decided to stay involved with The Triple Helix for many years to come. In fact, despite her busy schedule doing bench research for her thesis, she took the time to help coordinate this year’s conference.


Alumni of The Triple Helix give career advice to conference attendees.

Subsequently, Jack Dayan Li, former Triple Helix Executive Editor-in-Chief, spoke about his long career with The Triple Helix. Jack discussed how, having started writing for The Triple Helix as a freshman at Harvard, over the years he enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with students around the world and maintain close friendships. He noted that as you get older, your network and personal contacts get smaller, and he emphasized how much he valued the opportunity to reconnect. Jack is currently pursuing a MD/PhD degree at Harvard-MIT and hopes to pursue cutting edge biomedical research. Alongside Jack was his contemporary, Kevin Yaung, founder of the first chapter of the Triple Helix in Asia. Kevin, who is currently working towards his PhD in Solar Energy at Yale (but not before taking a few gap years to attend the National University of Singapore), advised us that as an organization matures, there is a need to take calculated data-based risk in order to stay relevant and succeed. In terms of building a career, Kevin emphasized the importance of looking for career areas with a high barrier for entry to give it value. The more specific you are, the more you can stand out.

We were also fortunate to have two members of the Board of Directors skype in to join the panel. Manisha Bhattacharya, a Cornell graduate, credited the Triple Helix with the development of her interest in business though she has a major in biology. She found that her management experience as Executive Editor in Chief and CEO of the Triple Helix gave her a unique background that few undergraduates had, allowing her to combine her interests in biology and business to pursue a MD/MBA at Duke University. Jennifer Yang, another biology major, started her Triple Helix career in production at UC Berkeley before becoming the first Executive Director of Internal Affairs on the EMT. Having since planned two conferences and developed the alumni network, Jennifer stated that the biggest bonus that she received from The Triple Helix was the friendships she made. As a current first year medical student, she emphasized that despite our busy schedules and ambitious career goals, it is important to be a “normal person” and have fun sometimes. She found that the members of Triple Helix definitely fit this criteria and Jennifer values the time she spent with them.

If there was a common theme with all of the panelists, it was their passion for both the Triple Helix and the people within it. It was wonderful to see them reminiscing about their time in The Triple Helix even though they hadn’t seen each other for over 2 years. I was so impressed with the depth of their commitment to The Triple Helix and that each of them had stayed involved in some way or another. They all offered to serve as mentors for current Triple Helix members and were happy to advise on any personal or TTH-related matters**. They each emphasized that Triple Helix is a unique organization because we offer members the opportunity to connect and cultivate friendships with some of the brightest students around the world.

** Email edia@thetriplehelix.org if you would like to get in touch with any of our alumni panelists.

Akshay Sanghi is President of the Johns Hopkins University chapter of The Triple Helix. Brittany Hsu is the Executive Director of Internal Affairs of The Triple Helix. Read about Part 1 of the 2013 TTH Annual Conference, and follow us on Facebook.