The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

New HGSAC Leadership Looks to Build on Recent Success

Experienced HGSAC member Bruce Chen replaces departing Kelly Ness as Graduate Adviser

From L-R: Connie Rogers, Associate Director; Peter Hudson, Director; Kelly Ness, 2017-18 Graduate Adviser; Jim Marden, Director of Operations; Bruce Chen, 2018-19 Graduate Adviser; Troy Ott, Associate Director for Graduate Education

The 2018-19 academic year has arrived, bringing with it a change in leadership for the Huck Graduate Student Advisory Committee (HGSAC). The HGSAC provides a bridge between graduate students and faculty at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. It also coordinates social, academic, and professional development resources for students. Each year, the HGSAC elects a new leader, who serves as Graduate Adviser to the Huck Institutes.

Exiting that role in Fall 2018 is Kelly Ness, of the Integrative and Biomedical Physiology program. Bruce Chen, a PhD candidate in Genetics who is also pursuing a graduate degree in applied statistics, will succeed her.

Colleagues painted a picture of Ness as the consummate logistician: personally quiet – at least at first – but organized, tireless, and ultimately, impressive. She made improved communications a key part of her tenure as Huck Graduate Adviser.

“Kelly brought a number of strengths to the position,” said Troy Ott, Professor of Reproductive Physiology and Associate Director for Graduate Education at the Huck Institutes. “One of the most important was her organizational skill, and her ability and competence with social media.”

“Coming into her administration, she really wanted to up the profile of the HGSAC in terms of communications, and she really did that,” he continued, noting her use of email campaigns and coordinated scheduling to improve engagement. “I’m absolutely pleased with what she’s done, and I predict that she’s going to go on to do great things based on the way she was able to rise to this leadership challenge.”

Incoming Graduate Adviser Chen, who served on the committee under Ness, had praise for her leadership of the third annual Life Sciences symposium, a task she took on with short notice. “This was the first year that HGSAC hosted the Symposium. Kelly did a really good job; she was the commander-in-chief.”

Where Ness excelled at communicating the accomplishments of current graduate students, Chen hopes to foster stronger ties with recent Huck alumni, tapping their experiences to help the next crop of graduate students.

He spoke of bringing in outside resources and his objective to increase the number of events available to graduate students to network and learn from professionals who have made successful transitions from academics to the working world.

“I’ve been on the committee for a while, and there are things I want to continue, but I have some other ideas too. We could host a panel discussion with fresh graduates from the Huck and other Penn State alumni. They can help the current graduate students better position themselves in the job market.”

“We also now have this LinkedIn group that will hopefully bring together alumni of Penn State with the invited speakers from our career exposure seminars and other networking events. This will create a tighter community and offer current students access to more resources outside of campus.”

Ott has confidence in the incoming Chen, whom he describes as “thoughtful” and “well-prepared.”

“Bruce has been around, and involved, and active in supporting the HGSAC since the very beginning. He’s demonstrated his commitment to the mission of the group and has held a number of leadership roles in the HGSAC.”

Ness had similar praise for her successor, citing his long-term commitment to the Huck Institutes’ student leadership.

“Bruce will be a great HGSAC chair,” she said. “He is experienced, dedicated, and strives for excellence. He has served on the HGSAC board since the creation in spring of 2015, has progressively taken on greater and greater leadership roles, and he has many innovative ideas to improve the training graduate students receive at the Huck.”

“He clearly has leadership potential,” agreed Ott. “I have great hopes that Bruce will be able to continue to build on the excellence that Kelly has established. Kelly set a high bar, but I think Bruce is up to the challenge.”