Knight Campus Turns Challenges into Success

In what has become a trademark of the Knight Campus, our team members turned challenges of the last 12 months into strengths, deepening relationships and forging new academic, research and entrepreneurial opportunities. Our team’s dedication and hard work has positioned us to build on our considerable momentum into this year and beyond.

Last fall, our virtual celebration drew many times the audience we’d have been able to welcome into our new building during a more traditional event. While we’re eagerly waiting for the time we can be together with you in the building, we have a full slate of upcoming opportunities to engage with you virtually in what we’re calling the Year of the Knight Campus.

We invite you to find details and RSVP information on all of our upcoming events by clicking on the linked text or by visiting our Knight Campus Events Calendar. You can further join us by subscribing to our new email list, where we are regularly sharing news and events.

Last month, we hosted a discussion, “Building on the Code: How Genetic Technologies Benefit Biomedical Research and Human Health.” The accomplished and diverse panel reflected our effort to strengthen our bonds across campus and the state and create deeper relationships with industry.

Wayne Morse Chair Françoise Baylis moderated a conversation among Calin Plesa, an assistant professor at the Knight Campus, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, professor and director of the Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy at OHSU, and Chris Gemmiti, executive director of technical operations with CRISPR Therapeutics. The discussion focused on the many benefits genetic technologies are having on biomedical research and the promises it holds for human health. Video of this conversation is available here.

I hope you will consider joining upcoming signature events, which continue this Thursday, March 11, when Samantha Zyontz, of Stanford Law School, is slated for the winter installment of our Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

On April 1, our community science event, Science Knight Out, returns with, “The Nature of Nurture,” a talk led by Leslie Leve, Alumni Faculty Professor in the College of Education.

And on April 27, our spring Entrepreneurship Speaker Series features “Therapeutic Opportunities in Glycoscience,” a talk by Carolyn Bertozzi, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University.

A prime example of how we’ve turned challenges into strengths is the Knight Campus’s role in providing lab space for analysis of results as part of UO’s COVID-19 Monitoring and Assessment Program. The flexibility of the Knight Campus currently enables our innovation center to host a COVID testing lab that can eventually process up to 20,000 samples a day. It illustrates how our building can quickly adapt to support new and varied uses to assist in the campus’s mission of developing new interventions and novel approaches to unforeseen health conditions.

We’re also making tremendous strides in our academic programming and recruiting efforts. You may remember that last fall we launched the UO’s first engineering degree program — a joint doctoral offering in bioengineering with Oregon State University. In the six weeks after the program received final approval, we received more than 70 applications from around the world, in part because of a successful digital marketing effort.

We’ve offered admission to a group of amazing PhD students, which is nearly three-fourths female, and very diverse across the board. These individuals are so accomplished that we nominated several for prestigious university fellowships. I look forward to introducing you to our second cohort of students when they arrive on campus in late summer.

In the meantime, I am proud to share with you profiles of the program’s first cohort admitted officially in January, already on the Knight Campus. A representative of the accomplished group is Kylie Nash, a student in the program and my lab, who joined me in an interview on Portland’s KGW-TV late last year.

The Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program (KCGIP) is also continuing its success. Fifty percent of students who started the program in 2020 are women and/or members of underrepresented communities. That’s just one product of the program’s dedication to inclusion. Students also had the opportunity to expand their understanding of inclusion, diversity and equity issues in STEM through a series of workshops and a three-day symposium on inclusion, which featured panels of senior industry leaders, alumni and a keynote talk by Dr. Mary Moore titled “More than a Checkbox.”  

Success has also come in the form of 74 paid internship opportunities for the KCGIP master’s students. The program’s Bioinformatics and Genomics track hosted its fifth-annual Genomics in Action conference with more than 200 registrants. At this year’s virtual event, academic and industry leaders shared innovative approaches in bioinformatics while also providing opportunities to network with program partners and alumni. 

We are in our third year of creating opportunities for undergraduates who are interested in careers in translational science. The Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholars Program will have its largest cohort to date. We look forward to introducing you to this year’s group of 12 students this spring. Our work on launching a bioengineering minor is progressing through the approvals process, and we hope to have good news to share with you soon.   

I’m pleased to update you that our new partnership with PeaceHealth is progressing well. The steering committee of the Center for Translational Biomedical Research is reviewing proposals for projects to launch our post-doctoral fellowship program for underrepresented minorities in STEM. We hope to have an initial cohort of at least two individuals on campus by early summer.

Recruiting for faculty has continued to be very active as we expand our team with talent in bioengineering and neuroengineering. We have two open searches resulting in very strong finalists engaging with our faculty and the broader campus in research seminars and virtual visits this past month. We look forward to introducing you to new faculty members in the coming months.

We also will be welcoming an additional faculty member, Paul Dalton, later this spring. Paul is joining us as an associate professor from his current position in Wurzberg, Germany. Paul’s emphasis on biomaterials and 3D-printing complements a number of the research programs already established in the Knight Campus and creates a bridge between current efforts in bioengineering and neuroengineering.

He plans to use techniques that he’s helped develop to fabricate new, advanced biomaterials that can be translated to clinical applications. Paul’s career, like that of so many of our faculty, embodies our mission of science advancing society. We are thrilled to have him and look forward to welcoming him in person just after spring break.

The same is true of all of you. We simply can’t wait to meet you in person, on campus, to engage more deeply in research and discovery. Until then, we look forward to seeing you through our many virtual events.