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A Graduate Student’s Perspective On Attending A Conference Changes Over Time

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Author: Jessica Zavadil | Category: Beyond The Bench | Neuroscience | Neuroscience | November 16, 2015

Months before a conference, you must submit an abstract. 

You practice walking the fine line between overstating and underselling your research to guess where your research will be when the conference comes along.

Weeks before a conference, you must put together a poster. 

This usually entails working extra hours to squeeze in experiments for that last figure and reworking your poster over and over to get everything to fit in the allotted space.

Days before the conference, we start to actually think about attending the conference. 

This mostly involves dreaming about your hotel room and looking up restaurants in the new city you will be visiting.

But once you arrive, then you truly begin to focus on the science. 

You are filled with excitement when you see someone “famous” across the hall. 

A good conference is filled with sessions that energize you. 

You start to think of new ideas for your own research and how you can tie in what you’re learning to make your work better.

The CPRIT Innovations in Cancer Prevention and Research was this kind of conference. 

With a unique mix of basic scientists, clinicians, and public health specialists, I was able to sit through talks about cancer immunotherapy, implementing cancer prevention programs in rural communities, and the latest data on the relationship between obesity and liver cancer. 

At the poster session, there were over 500 posters with just as much variety in topics. 

At my own poster, I talked with students, academic professors, and industry professionals alike. 

It was invigorating to talk with people about my research and have real conversations and exchange ideas and experiences. 

My hard work felt worth it. It reminded me of why I’m doing all of this, why I love doing all of this.

I also had the rare invitation to give an oral presentation at this conference.

I really enjoy presenting my work, and was especially excited to have researchers who also study liver cancer in the audience.

I only started to get nervous when I learned the speaker immediately before me was an Academy of Science member! 

This was the largest forum that I have presented in to date, and it was truly an honor. 

What’s the point in doing research if not to share with others what you have learned?

When you get home, you’re tired but thankful and excited to get back to the lab and try out your new ideas.

The "Beyond The Bench" series features articles written by students and postdoctoral fellows at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. 

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