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Navigating EB2013

April 25, 2013

This past week I was able to attend the Experimental Biology (EB) Conference in Boston as a member of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). In a word, it was awesome. A native New Englander myself, simply hearing those distinctive Boston accents and walking around the beautifully old city was a warm welcome home. Plus, I love Dunkin Donuts bagels – instant dopamine. But those were just bonuses because the chance to attend such a gigantic scientific meeting and rub elbows with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the scientific world was amazing.

Now, I’m only a PhD student, and this was only the second conference that I’ve attended. The first was the incredibly overwhelming 2012 Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans – talk about a mindblower.

SRSLY.

SRSLY.

So, I mean, the EB conference was slightly smaller than that… but still thousands of participants were present. At SfN there were a lot of opportunities for networking that I missed out on simply because I was too nervous to approach strangers and try to make a connection. So this time I promised myself to get over it and just try – I mean honestly why am I such a chicken?

I’ve always heard that in any career, the people you know will ALWAYS influence your success. It’s maybe not the most comfortable truth we can admit to ourselves, but we all know some highly successful people that probably didn’t get to where they are on merit alone.

I'm lookin' at you, ladies.

I’m lookin’ at you, ladies.

So why not take advantage of that fact and expand my network to better my odds? And that’s what I did. My mantra became, “just say hi, just say hi.” I must admit that speaking to complete strangers isn’t all that scary for me, but having to speak to them about intellectual topics and try to make a good first impression can be intimidating. I feel like I’m just standing there derpin out while they silently beg for me to leave them alone.

So I just had to keep pushing myself – who cares if the interaction turns out to be awkward? In that case I will likely never have to see this person again. On the other hand, if I can connect with just ONE person, even just enough for them to remember my name (or even better, my research!), then my network has been positively influenced. Who knows what type of connections that person may be able to provide for me in the future?

I have to admit that my most successful networking evening was sort of mediated by my boss – but I think baby steps are okay. He scored invitations to the President’s Reception for my two labmates and me, and spent the entire night showing us off to these really well known scientists who were probably wondering what the heck we were even doing there. Granted, we spent most of the time scarfing down the free pot roast and sushi (duh), but we also had a chance to interact with all kinds of people in our field. We met former members of our lab that are now off in the real world – and that was a particularly relaxed networking opportunity. What could be easier than connecting with others within your “family tree” so to speak? Now I have a rapport with these people who are familiar with my work and can now serve as possible collaborators, mentors, friends, etc. So… as much as any graduate student will whine about their advisor, in this case I am really grateful for mine. He might be a pain in the neck sometimes, but he is nothing if not well connected. It’s great that he understands how valuable that can be, because he took a lot of time that evening to make sure we were meeting people and to show that he was proud of us.

Let me tell you, I am so glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone this week. Not only was I able to expand my little scientific network to include many more exciting people – I was also inspired to start this science blog and take my future science goals more seriously. I also got to enjoy a winning Red Sox game and tour the city via amphibious war vehicle soooo… there’s that.

Little did they know this wasn't the designated Duck launch

And now we will experience first hand what the tea felt like as it was thrown into the disgusting Boston scum water! Weeee!

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From → General Science

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