ASBMB Annual Conference: Perspective from an Undergrad Attendee

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending the ASBMB annual conference as the Emory student chapter travel award recipient along with our chapter president, Sally Zhang. It was an amazing experience, and I would highly encourage all undergraduates who have enough research experience to present a poster to apply for our chapter’s travel award. The award covers up to $500 of travel fees which can be used for transportation, hotel, and meals. As an undergraduate with official ASBMB membership, conference registration is only $25. With support from your lab or academic department, this conference can be a very low cost opportunity to present your work to an international audience and engage in the largest meeting of its kind.

Our graduate advisor Julia de Amorim presenting a poster about our club

The conference is held in early April as part of the larger Experimental Biology (EB) meeting. EB hosts five larger societies (American Association of Anatomists, American Physiological Society, ASBMB, American Society for Investigative Pathology, and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics). This amounts to over 5000 poster presentations and over 300 representatives of different companies in attendance, representing an average of 65 different countries. While you would be attending as a member of ASBMB, most events are open to members of all five societies. This allows you to explore a broad range of disciplines, with a focus on anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, investigative pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. Attending the conference allowed me to learn about cutting edge research in a variety of interesting subjects.

As one might imagine considering the size of this meeting, there are ample opportunities to expand your scientific network. I had the pleasure of meeting a scientist whose work I have been following for some time after listening to her give a keynote speech. If you do your research beforehand, you can set up meetings with other scientists who plan to attend to spark collaborations, gain career advice and mentorship, or simply learn more about their work in person. Even if you don’t prepare, there are abundant opportunities to meet new people and build your network through the daily poster sessions and oral presentations. 

While I was initially nervous about the undergraduate poster competition, it ended up being one of my favorite components of the meeting. Before you present, all undergraduates have a brief orientation where we received advice and encouragement. This helped settle my nerves so that I could give a strong presentation. I ended up receiving an honorable mention for my poster, but what was most helpful was the feedback sheets that each competitor receives from their three judges. Here, you are rated on categories such as ability to answer questions, poster board layout, etc. The judges also wrote out personalized comments that really helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a presenter. Not many conferences offer such valuable feedback on your poster, so I am glad I could take advantage of this opportunity.

My poster at the ASBMB undergraduate poster competition (Liz Enyenihi)

In addition to the poster competition, there are many sessions oriented towards undergraduates that help you prepare for a future career in science. This included a workshop where we had a “speed networking” event with scientists who work in a variety of professional settings. I enjoyed having the chance to speak one on one with people who were excited to mentor younger students and share their experiences. I learned about options in government, academia, and industry that I was not aware of previously. It was also great to meet undergraduates from institutions all over the country and learn more about different schools which was helpful as I look towards applying to graduate school.

I hope you will consider applying to present at the conference and/or for our chapter travel award. We will be posting resources for acquiring funding to attend a conference in the coming weeks, so be sure to follow our page for updates. Feel free to reach out to me with any specific questions or comment on this post!

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