As I was leaving Portland to attend the 11th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), as one of four people sent to represent OHSU, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having only attended one other scientific conference that was in my specific field and did not include undergraduates, I was unprepared for the noise level and high energy that I encountered as I walked into the America’s Center in St. Louis, MO.
ABRCMS boasts of being the largest professional research conference, with this year’s pre-registration consisting of over 3,000 individuals including faculty, program directors, graduate students and postdocs, and 1,500+ undergraduates. There were 7 separate poster sessions and 2 oral presentation sessions split into at least 6 rooms each to accommodate the approximately 1,500 research presentations and posters. Trying to decide which oral presentations to attend and which posters I wanted to be sure to visit was a bit overwhelming!
Luckily, my main job while at the conference was to be an advocate for OHSU. To this end, I spent much of my time helping to pass out literature and talk with people who stopped by our OHSU booth in the exhibition hall. I learned a lot of things in those few days. For example, did you know that OHSU has 26 graduate programs. Most of the questions we fielded were about the myriad of programs we have here at OHSU, the application process for those programs, and about living in Portland in general. It was a very full 4 days.
As we finished packing up our booth at the end of the conference, there was an audible sigh of both relief and satisfaction. I think that I speak for all of us when I say that our hours spent hoping to inspire students to stay in science, and to consider OHSU for graduate school were well worth the energy. I can also say that in talking with all of the students about their research and life as a scientist, their youthful enthusiasm was contagious. I plan to continue to be involved with undergraduates and high school students that are interested in science so that I can channel that enthusiasm every day as I continue to live the life of research, which is reminiscent of the definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over again, even if slightly differently each time, hoping for different results.