I am very excited to share today’s post that is inspired by my recent attendance at the Experimental Biology conference held in San Diego earlier this month. So, if you are a grad student, then Experimental Biology is for YOU!
Experimental Biology (EB) is a massive science conference – there must have been around 10,000 attendees if not more, which is completely based on my own personal opinion and lack of data. Yes I know that is an insane number of people! Basically, six scientific societies have their annual meetings at the same time as so it becomes one immense science gathering with many experts from multiple fields. These societies include:
- The American Association of Anatomists (AAA)
- The American Physiological Society (APS)
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)
- American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP)
- American Society for Nutrition (ASN)
- American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).
If you have a student membership or are thinking of becoming a member of either one of the listed societies, then you should think about attending EB in Chicago 2017. There’s a handful of people that I met at the conference who were there for the 2nd/3rd time – it’s that good that everyone keeps coming back! It is also a conference that is catered to graduate students. I was part of the ASBMB society and they did any amazing job on sessions for the professional development of students and offered great workshops with mentors in academia or industry, while also providing professional headshots if you wanted to update your LinkedIn profile!
I’m very fortunate to have a supervisor who told me about EB, as it was a great experience for him during his PhD. I’m here to tell you that this conference greatly surpassed my high expectations and that I left with a highly positive experience, where I am planning my next trip to EB. As a PhD student, let me be critical in sharing my thoughts on my EB-EXPerience. But first, let me start with the lab-selfie:
- EB has its own APP:
This helps a lot because you can browse through seminars, workshops, poster
abstracts or search for speakers. You can set your schedule ahead of time so you have an idea of which room you need to get to and have enough time incase you need to walk a lot. Let me warn you: the San Diego Convention Centre is huge, so make sure you have comfortable shoes on! The app definitely was a huge time saver, especially if you wanted to check out a seminar last minute. The actual Conference Program was the equivalent of the White Pages you use to get delivered to your door back in the day – no one has time to go through that when everything is digital now! The app is very helpful if you have a data plan or roaming plan if you live outside of the US.
- EB offers a wide selection of seminars and workshops:
With so many scientific societies at EB, I had many seminars to choose from where I learned a lot from many professors who were experts in their field. They were also engaging speakers as they communicated their research as a captivating story! The keynote lectures organized by APS were one of my favourite seminars to attend. As my research includes studying programmed cell death, one of my memorable moments was attending a seminar by Roberta Gottlieb (@RadicalSci): I’ve read many of her papers so it was pretty awesome to see her present some of her latest work in person – I won’t lie, I was a little star-studded!
Now one my biggest disappointments was when I found out that APS had scheduled a Keynote Lecture on the last day of EB, by the Nobel Laureate Dr Roger Tsien, who I was really looking forward to seeing while in San Diego. He won a Nobel Prize for his work on GFP (see post) and has done a lot of research on fluorescent biosensors that I use in my research. Unfortunately, I was scheduled for an earlier flight and I missed out. I heard it was an amazing talk. Now I have learned to book later flights – so please don’t make the same mistake I did! However, I was lucky enough to see Dr Roger Tsien visiting the hotel I was staying at…so I still got to see him!
- EB allows you to meet people from multiple fields:
a) Attending Symposia and Poster Sessions:
This is the perfect time to take the opportunity to ask questions after an intriguing seminar or symposia session. You could ask the professors more questions or simply just introduce yourself and let them know what you thought of their work. This could potentially open up for future collaborative work or post-doc opportunities. Asking questions also promote scientific discussions and can stimulate ideas that can help you in your research.
Attend poster sessions and talk to other students who might be doing similar research to you or doing interesting techniques that you could apply to your own work. I found that seminars were a great place to meet professors if the time allowed and to invite them to your poster if they had the time; poster sessions was a great opportunity to meet other students and to allows you to promote your own research – perfect place to share your enthusiasm for science with others!
b) Post-Conference Events/Receptions
These are a must to attend if you want to meet more students – this is where research becomes fun when everyone is relaxed after presenting their posters. Most societies will have a reception organized for every night with fancy appetizers, so it helps keep your cost down. At these receptions I got to meet many students with various scientific backgrounds visiting from many different countries. These events are important because some people you might meet at these big conferences, you’ll meet again during your scientific career, and maybe again at the next EB – the scientific community is small! There were so many people I met at EB that had then become good friends, and now meet up every year at EB. Because EB is so big, some students that I met one night, I didn’t see again during the rest of the conference because everyone attends different events – so exchanging numbers definitely helps.
- Free S-Swag:
Yaas, that’s Science Swag!! If your schedule allows an hour to two, browse the product show in the exhibition hall and get some free swag for your lab – don’t be afraid to chat with the reps of some of the companies you order from or approach new ones? It was really nice to meet people from Cedarlane, scored some free antibodies from Cell Signal, and hearing about new fluorescent biosensors by a new biotech company called Montana Molecular (follow them at @livecellassays). It’s always good to visit the booth for your society: I got an awesome tshirt from ASBMB who also provided free professional headshots during the meeting.
- EB – be realistic: you can’t do it all.
This is one drawback to a very large conference: you just cannot attend everything. You will have to prioritize certain seminars and workshops but that is where the app can help you. When there are so many societies in one meeting, this can make it difficult in determining which topic you might want to focus on. For example, I study cardiovascular molecular biology, but I attended many seminars on obesity, nutrition, alcohol consumption, diabetes, cell death, and even 3D tissue printing because it sounds so fascinating…but at the end of the day it is all connected, because that is science! Attend EB which the idea that you can’t attend everything.
- Enjoy the host city: San Diego.
Although my schedules were jam packed with conference seminars/workshops and evening events, I did my best to enjoy the beautiful city of San Diego:
After reading this, hopefully I will see you for the next EB-EXPeriene. My only last advice would be to extend your trip if you can a few days…there’s always so much to do! I wish I had two more days at EB…but my experiments were waiting!
Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog – Have a great weekend!