Personally, I love going to conferences because it is so much more than just presenting my research. I find it critically important, as I’ve also learned from my mentors, that presenting research at conferences is an important step as a graduate student. For the most part I would say that I’ve applied for poster presentations, with the concern of “what an oral presentation will entail”? It is now that I am in my final year of my doctorate degree that I’ve ventured into the realm of oral presentations. Needless to say, I am worried for my first one, but I am excited that I’ve already received acceptances of oral presentations! As much as the presentation is exciting and an important component of a conference trip, there are many other facets that I believe are equally as important.
1) Going to conferences is a great way to network both socially and professionally.
Venture outside of your comfort zone and spend time with other researchers from various institutions. This is a perfect time to make connections across the US (potentially the world) of researchers of whom you can bounce future collaboration ideas off of. In addition, you’re building your professional network. It goes to say the very popular saying “it’s all about who you know”, truly has meaning behind it. So take a leap of faith and begin communicating with others at these conferences- you never know if that person may have a post-doc/faculty/staff position which is a perfect fit for your post-graduation!
2) Venture to explore the city!
When I travel to conferences it goes without hesitation that I visit some of the local “hot spots” and touristy activities. This has been a wonderful experience for me to be able to travel around the United States. The photo connected are from one of my most recent conferences where I got to go to Washington DC. I find it truly remarkable that I was able to visit some historic landmarks in the United States, all due to presenting my research at this conference. I do not recommend to skip out on the entirety of the conference, but keep in mind that this is an ideal time for you to visit around. Who knows- you may even meet a fellow graduate student that is interested in visiting around, so it may be both networking and visiting in the same experience.
3) Connect with old friends.
When away in a new location for a conference, I find it to be a great way to connect with old friends or colleagues. In one of my trips on 2016, I connected with a former Aggie (James in the photo) in Boston! This was exciting to me as he graduated in 2015 and I hadn’t seen him for years but we shared many fun memories at Texas A&M. While visiting Boston I was able to catch up with this friend and reminisce on fun times we had in our past. This is one of many friends and colleagues that I’ve connected with. In 2014 I connected with a friend in San Diego at an annual conference that I met in 2010 when I studied abroad in Australia. The power of social media and staying connected with old friends has allowed our generation to unite across the world.
4) Eating the local food.
The food in some of the cities where conferences are held is very unique. Take the time to try these options. This photo is of an Ethiopian restaurant that I had in Washington last year (I actually ate my meal with a current Aggie in the Bush School that I met last year). I had never had the opportunity to try this ethnic cuisine and I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. Go venture out into the town and try some food choices that you potentially would not have the option here in BCS.
I hope you have enjoyed some of my tips of how to make your conference trip the best that it can be! Share with others :).
Thanks and Gig’em,
Kristen Hicks MS, RD, LD, PhD Candidate | Nutrition and Food Science
is a PhD Candidate and Registered Dietitian in BCS who aspires to improve the health of all Americans.