By Wendy Sarubbi | October 1, 2014 9:47 am

More than 100 Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences faculty, staff and students spent Saturday afternoon outside of the lab and getting to know one another at an inaugural picnic September 27 that included a faculty vs. student kickball tournament. The faculty team came out victorious, with a dominating 15-7 win in a game filled with laughter and epic falls in the mud.

“I really wanted to have an event that would bring all of BSBS together to just have fun and relax,” said Ph.D. student Sarah Gitto who came up with the event idea and helped organize it at Chisolm Park in St. Cloud.  “We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.”

The kickball picnic served as a welcome to new Burnett School Director Dr. Griffith Parks, who came to the College of Medicine two months ago from Wake Forest University. “It’s terrific to get people out here and spend a great Saturday afternoon, it builds camaraderie,” said Dr. Parks.  “Everyone has been so welcoming, and just so happy that we’re all getting together.”

Students said the event was not only fun but created networking opportunities that help in the lab setting.  “It’s important that everyone knows each other because it can speed research up,” said Ph.D. student Richard Barrett. “You might have a big question in your lab, and spend months on it, when all you had to do was walk next door and there’s an expert right there.”

After a potluck and barbecue meal catered by Burnett’s Office Manager, David Frosch, competitors took to the kickball field, which was still soaked from Friday’s rain. Despite mud and puddles, players weren’t afraid to get their hands — and everything else — dirty, as they faced off.  Ph.D. student Aladdin Riad didn’t let crutches and a recent hip injury keep him out of the competition. He donned a black and white shirt and served as referee.

While the kickball tournament was hard-fought, competitors on both sides kept smiles on their faces and shared plenty of laughs.  “Part of having a good research education program is working together as a family, and that’s what this feels like,” said Assistant Professor and Lyme disease researcher, Dr. Mollie Jewett.  “Most of the time we’re working really hard in the lab, so when we can get together and play and just enjoy each other, it makes all of those hard work days even more successful.”

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