June 19, 2009 8:26 PM
Attending Professional Conferences
First of all, I can't believe it has almost been a month since the end of the semester, and already, the next semester seems to be looming not far ahead...where has the time gone!
I'm sure all of you are keeping busy, whether it is traveling with friends, taking classes, or participating in awesome programs and internships. Keeping busy is always good.
As for me, I am currently still doing research in Chelsea Specht's lab on a topic that I never thought I would be working on (virus-induced gene silencing, a type of reverse genetics technique). It has been really exciting and frustrating, but overall, quite a satisfying experience. While I love talking about research (and I encourage all of you to try to get some research experience just to see if you'll enjoy it), another thing I find to be very important is attending professional conferences.
Even if you don't do research, these professional conferences give you a good perspective of what the field is like - what kind of research do these people do, what are these people like, what is the new, exciting technique/technology that people are using...etc. It is the forum for professionals to communicate their findings to their peers. At the same time, it is a way to keep up to date with what is going on - science is changing at such a rapid pace that it is difficult to keep track of sometimes.
For students especially (like me), and I would even say undergraduates, this is a great way to network - you meet professors and researchers from different universities throughout the US, and sometimes internationally as well. It can be daunting to talk to some of them (they have done some brilliant things), but just go up to them and introduce yourself! You'll find a way to make conversation, I guarantee it. Not only that, you can also talk to graduate students to get a feel for what the graduate school experience is like at each of the different universities - the program, the funding, the research interests, the weather, the PI (Principal Investigator or what I call the "Professor of the Lab"), etc.
So, depending on your interests, look for conferences that might interest you - ask professors of classes you like what kinds of conferences they attend. Also, if you need funding, always check out the ASUC Travel grants ($500). That could cover most of the registration and housing costs of the conference.
Oh, and if anyone is interested in plants (like me), Botany & Mycology 2009 is a good one to look into. Evolution 2009 just took place. And anyone interesting in ethnobotany should think about the Society for Economic Botany and the associated conference.
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