The Chemist: My Conference Experiences

Hey everyone! This week we're going to talk about experiences we've had at conferences. I've been to a few, both as an undergrad and as a grad student and I've presented at two so far, but I'm going to focus on the general feel of a conference.

The picture I chose this week is a little throwback for a Thursday and is my poster from my senior year at Pitt when I presented at the NOBCChE conference in Orlando September 2015. (If you're a chemist or chemE consider going to this year's conference in Minnesota. I'll be there so if you go be sure to let me know!) I don't work on polymers anymore but I loved this conference and that research! Plus I got a publication out of it.

Anywho, whenever you are in your career PLEASEEEEE go to a scientific conference, whether it be a local or national one, because they're great experiences. All of the conferences I've been to have been great learning and networking opportunities that have helped me tremendously to get to where I am today. At the NOBCChE conference in Orlando, I met the then Vice Chair of Graduate Studies at Ohio State AND was able to solidify my internship with the Mid-Atlantic Laboratory of the DEA, so suffice it to say big things can happen if you're prepared and put yourself out there.

The general layout of a scientific conference is that there are going to be technical talks, poster sessions, fancy awards luncheons/dinner, some workshops, and maybe even a career/academic fair. These events are good to go to in order to meet people that are your colleguages and see what other research groups are doing. Career/academic fairs are good for shopping for grad schools, post doctoral work, fellowships, internships, etc. Some conferences are hugeeee and can be intimidating, but if you're up for it bring some business cards and maybe a few resumes and see what happens. Like my dad ALWAYS says, "It's better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." You basically just want to soak up as much information as possible because you never know if you'll use it in your research or in your career - so bring a little notepad and take notes!

Conferences are a place where you can meet people whose names you always hear in your field. It's practically a safe space to have a nerdy fan girl/boy moment. I definitely have them when I go.

If you're going to a conference to present a talk or a poster, which I strongly encourage you do, then that's a little different of an experience. This is the time where YOU are the expert because it's what you've been working your butt off doing. Be confident, it's really not that bad. I love giving posters because it's more of an intimate discussion of science so you don't have to be completely formal. It's a normal conversation about the research you've been conducting and you'll be surprised how many people you'll impress.

All in all going to conferences and actually participating in all they have to offer make them worth it AND you get to travel to new places. Remember to always find some downtime to go exploring that new city. I just came back from Indianapolis a few weeks ago and we had a ball site seeing. The picture below is of a few of my group members and I at lunch.

But seriously, go to a conference or three. The information and networking that gets done there is incredible.

If you have any specific questions about any of the conferences I've been to or presented at, then let me know.

-The Chemist

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