Vanessa Bijak

Biography Paragraphs
Venessa Bijak
Vanessa Bijak, PhD

Vanessa is a fourth-year PhD student in the Chemistry Department. Her dissertation research focuses on unveiling the role of SNARE proteins in neuronal exocytosis to understand how neurons communicate with each other to control all different processes in the human body.

Vanessa has participated in Career Design and Communicating Research modules of the PhD Plus program. She’s interested in pursuing a career outside academia to allow her to combine her research background in chemistry and biochemistry and research communication skills obtained during PhD Plus training.  In addition to her role as a Liaison, Vanessa is a Vice-Chair of the ComSciCon at UVA’s organizing committee. She serves as a Vice President and Outreach Chair in the Polish Students Association at UVA.

Q: Why did you apply for the PhD Plus Liaisons Program?

A: I applied for the PhD Plus Liaisons Program after I attended some PhD Plus core modules. I wanted to be part of this program and promote it among other students because I believe it is a great opportunity for everyone to develop more skills before they graduate. Moreover, I want to learn more about Research Communication. Working closely with Dr. Marlit Hayslett is an excellent opportunity to do it.

Q: What are you doing as a PhD Plus Liaison in the context of your department and “Communicating Research” area of focus?

A: Under the guidance of my mentor, I am organizing a Science Communication conference – ComSciCon at UVA with other Research Communication Liaisons. I am excited about the fact that this conference will be the first of its kind on Grounds.

I realize that it is easy to prepare our presentation when presenting to peers or people with a scientific background; however, it gets harder when we have a broader audience. It is hard to choose what is essential to show and how much detail to share. With this information, my second liaison project aims to run my workshop on crafting slides and presentations to help scientists successfully deliver the right message to the target audience.

Q: What professional skills are you developing as a PhD Plus Liaison?

A: While serving as a Liaison, I want to improve time and project management skills, which I’ve gained through working together with other liaisons on the UVA ComSciCon. I also want to get more confident while giving talks or workshops for a bigger audience.  Besides these skills, I would like to get more experience in event organizing, such as communicating with department administrators, fundraising, and decision-making in challenging times, such as the pandemic we are facing now.


The primary role of the PhD Plus Liaisons is to bring the professional training provided by the broader program into specific disciplinary/departmental contexts and to communicate the needs of specific departments and disciplines back to the broader program. Liaisons communicate with students and faculty in their home departments about their peers' professional development needs, helping to gather departmental feedback to be used for the development and improvement of the program and conferring with liaisons in other departments across the University of Virginia. In addition to supporting their fellow graduate students and informing the continued evolution of the PhD Plus Program, Liaisons themselves benefit from sustained access to training, mentorship, and support in a professional focus of their choosing.


Over the following months, PhD+ Liaison highlights will provide an opportunity to get to know the Liaisons for Academic Year 2019-2020. Learn more about these PhD student leaders, why they decided to participate in PhD Plus Liaisons program, their professional development goals, and how they are collaborating with the PhD Plus program and their departments.

We will select 2020-2021 cohort of the Liaisons Program in Summer 2020.

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