Friday, January 15, 2010

Scientific research conferences for minorities

Within the last six months, I had the opportunity to attend three different scientific conferences to present my research. When first approached about attending these meetings, I was immediately overjoyed at the thought of traveling, but then I suddenly became nervous of what others would think of my work. I am generally a shy person and get even more so at the thought of sharing my research with colleagues more senior than myself. To overcome my shyness, I prepared my research poster and practiced what I would say at the conference. Then, I briefly scanned the NCBI Pubmed website for new and relevant publications to be sure I was current on happenings in my field of research.

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) conference I attended offered a poster presentation session for minority students to showcase their research aside from the general poster session of the conference. (I would like to note that I was able to attend this conference virtually for free due to a travel grant issued by the (ASCB Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC).) Once at the poster session, I hung my poster and marveled at the number of minority scientists at all levels in their careers in attendance at the conference. Now is the time to admit that I was still nervous to present at this conference. Why? Because I brought my five-year-old daughter with me. I am a single parent and generally where I go, my daughter goes. So, there we were, my daughter and I, at a national research conference and it was time to present my poster.

As I presented to judges and fellow students, post-docs, faulty, etc., I realized how truly beneficial it is to my career to share my research with other scientists. First and foremost, you verbally communicate your research ideas with other scientists from all backgrounds. Presenting to those who are not intimately familiar with your topic forced me to learn how to explain my work for the masses. It was also a time for me to be critical of my communication skills. So, you may wonder how it worked out with my daughter there during the poster presentation. Well, she asked questions about the poster just as my audience! I did not expect that.

Conferences to check out!
About travel grants and awards
  • Who can receive an award? This depends on the conference. Some conferences offer awards to undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and faulty members.
  • How to apply for an award? Most conferences have an application process which includes submitting an abstract of your research for review.
  • How much is the award? The travel grants typically range from $500-1500 and may cover conference registration fees, travel, lodging, and dining expenses.
  • When will I receive the award? Most awards are received either at the conference or after the conference. Thus, be prepared to pay for conference-related expenses. SAVE ALL RECEIPTS.
If a conference you are interested in does not offer a travel award, it may offer discounts on airfare, rental cars and/or hotels! So, check with the conference's hosting organization to learn how you can reduce conference costs.  Also, seek out funding mechanisms from your home college, which often have monies set aside for conference expenses. If you don't ask, you will not know what is possible.

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I'm Minority Scientist and I started this blog to
1) share useful information to assist minorities, including women and underrepresented peoples, navigate a career in scientific research and
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pursued a PhD in the biomedical sciences as a single parent.

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