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Work Hard, Play Hard

Work Hard, Play HardEvery year, students at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences have a field day-literally-raising money to support their research.

Boston [09.08.09] Think three-legged races and water balloon tosses are just for kids? Students from the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences have spent the past 14 years proving such events can be fun for all ages.

Held annually on the first Friday in August, the Sackler Relays bring together students from the Sackler School's eight programs for a day of friendly competition at Ellis Oval and Kraft Field on the Medford/Somerville campus.

The day's events include a one-mile race, a relay, volleyball, tug-of-war and an obstacle course. Each competition is worth a certain number of points and the team with the most points at the end wins. But the winning goes beyond the point tally at the end of the day.

"The Sackler Relays were started as a way to foster community spirit among the different programs," says Patrick Smith, a graduate student of immunology at Sackler and chair of the Graduate Student Council. "The creation of the event coincided with the formation of the Travel Awards, so for the past 14 years we have collected donations from the relays that go directly toward supporting the awards."


Sackler's Biomedical Travel Awards are awarded to students who complete an application detailing their research topic and the conference they wish to attend. A Sackler School Awards Committee reviews student applications and select the winners.There are two rounds of applications - in the fall and in the spring. The winners receive a scholarship to help fund their travel to conferences where they usually present their work and get feedback from experts in their field.

"Three years ago we began looking for a way to raise more money for the scholarships, and we wanted to add something to the relay events that wouldn't factor into the point system and was just for fun," Smith says, referring to the recent addition of the faculty dunk tank. According to Smith, Dean Naomi Rosenberg, Ph.D., and Professor Ira Herman, Ph.D., are two crowd favorites.

As far as the donations go, Smith says students owe much of their gratitude to Sackler faculty.

"Last year the relays raised $9,000 and each year 60 percent to 70 percent of the money raised comes from faculty donations," he says. "I don't think many people are aware of how much the faculty donates. It's especially important in this economy where many of the local businesses who usually donate are unable to contribute as much as they have in the past."

Smith says fostering community spirit among the programs seems to naturally come out of the relays.

"People are here for a long time, five to six years," he says. "The relays help you get to know people in other programs. It is a great place to meet people in a social setting."

Story and audio production by Kaitlin Provencher, Web Communications.
Photos by Joanie Tobin, University Photography.

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