No discussion about graduate school is complete without talking about the glorious bench work oasis that is attending a conference. Yep, you heard me right–approximately once a year they let us geeks out of the lab and set us loose on some poor unsuspecting city. This year I attended the American Association of Cancer Research national meeting in Orlando, Florida. Now before you get jealous of my reprieve from the endless rain of the Pacific Northwest I want you to imagine the sunshine mixed with 18,000 cancer biologists and a healthy dose of the retirement set—far from wild and crazy.
Now if I had my druthers I would’ve picked a smaller meeting where there aren’t so many shiny things to distract me (Speakers, posters, and forums, oh my!) but my boss has a proclivity for this meeting so obey I must. This year was extra special because it was my first time presenting my own data as a poster at a national meeting. Nothing makes me feel more superior than wielding a cardboard tube that symbolizes my scientific achievements through airport security. (It’s the little things in life right?) The poster session itself was rather anti-climactic. Just four hours of me trying to literally blind people with science and very few people stopping to look. No worries, the sheer awesome-ness of my poster was probably too much for the average conference-goer anyway.
All joking aside I really do relish attending these meetings. For people like me who learn by hearing and seeing (which is a major handicap in a field dominated by reading) getting to attend seminars given by some of the world’s top scientists is a major highlight. Its not everyday that I get to hear a Nobel Laureate speak…I’m putting that in the win column. Not only that, conferences give me exposure to research topics outside of what’s happening at OHSU, allow me networking opportunities, and as I mentioned before, it gets me away from the bench for a bit. Plus as a bonus, there really is no better entertainment than observing what scientists interpret ‘business attire’ to mean. I swear I saw sequins, white jeans, frosted hair, a push-broom moustache that would make a hipster jealous, and a banana clip…priceless.