For my third post in the Student Leader Spotlight Series, I am highlighting Boris Rebolledo-Jaramillo, a sixth-year student in the Bioinformatics and Genomics program and also President of the student organization GenoMIX. Boris works in the lab of Dr. Anton Nekrutenko developing computational pipelines for understanding mitochondrial DNA variation and evolution in humans. (Side note: Boris passed his thesis defense this week and is officially a Ph.D., so congratulations!)
The Bioinformatics and Genomics (commonly referred to as BG) is one of the six interdisciplinary programs within the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State, and BG students started GenoMIX to serve as a forum for both undergraduate and graduate students to engage in activities related to the graduate program. GenoMIX helps with recruitment of new students, mentoring, professional development, social outings, and organizing different events, such as retreats and seminars.
Every fall semester, GenoMIX organizes the annual BG retreat — the students do everything from sending out invitations to setting up the venue to creating the schedule. In the spring, they use a student-nomination process to invite an outside speaker to give a seminar related to bioinformatics and genomics. In addition to choosing the speaker, the students send out invitations to speakers, organize the speaker’s itinerary, and take care of scheduling the venues.
This past year, GenoMIX also started organizing monthly meetings to discuss practical topics in bioinformatics and genomics so that different members could teach a short workshop on a different subject. This not only helps members learn about different areas of interest but also helps the students gain experience in communication and teaching.
Despite being the President, Boris emphasized that a lot of what GenoMIX does is based on group decisions among the officers and general members about what they can organize and then implement how and when to do those activities/events. Because the group works so well together, Boris said that its much easier to balance being a leader in the organization with the rest of his responsibilities as a graduate student because he is able to delegate a lot of tasks to other students. In fact, when asked what is one characteristic he believed every leader should possess, Boris answered with being able to trust your teammates so that you are comfortable with delegation. He also added that being able to adapt when things don’t go as planned is important as a leader.
For students who might be interested in taking on a leadership position for the first time, Boris noted that being a leader requires the ability to identify individual needs in a heterogeneous group and then being motivated to improve the group experience. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself — take on the responsibility to identify the problem, determine a solution, and then motivate others to help with your plan! For specific resources to becoming a better leader, Boris also stated that Penn State offers several resources for student groups.
Boris gives credit to his leadership abilities to having academic advisers who gave him control over his ideas and decisions rather than forcing him to always do things their way, which showed him that trusting others is fundamental in a team. “We all have something to offer,” said Boris. “Your job as a leader is to identify the one, or many, skills in every team member and then trust each person to use his/her skills. The challenging (but fun) part is to find ways to combine everyone’s skills towards a common goal. That can set a leader apart and defines the group’s success.”
If you’re interested in finding out more details about GenoMIX or joining the group, check them out on Facebook!