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How to Prepare for ISSCR 2019: Tips from Your Graduate Student Colleagues

  • 24 May, 2019

The annual meeting can be overwhelming, with new scientific discoveries to learn about and colleagues to meet. We asked two trainee members for their thoughts about how they plan ahead to ensure they make the most out of their time at the meeting.

Kimberley Babos and Louise Menendez are both graduate students with Justin Ichida at the University of Southern California. They are looking forward to the annual meeting coming to their backyard at the Los Angeles Convention Center for their 6th and 5th annual meetings, respectively.

With so much going on at the meeting, and so many sessions and opportunities to meet people, how do you plan and prepare for the annual meeting?

Louise:
First, I focus on basic logistics.  I get a map of the city, orient myself to   where my hotel is in relation to the Convention Center, and figure out how to coordinate any transportation I might need.

Kim:             
I think about putting myself out there, being a little vulnerable, and meeting and interacting with stem cell science peers. The meeting is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to people, even ‘big name’ scientists; you never know what relationships you could foster or what might come out of these interactions.

Louise:        
You’ll want to find some good meet-up spots – nearby coffee shops or restaurants where you can meet up with people. It’s a great idea to check out the Convention Center in advance. Then you can suggest where to go to meet with both new acquaintances and also coworkers, collaborators, and friends.  

What advice do you have for a first-time attendee?

Kim:             
Take part in attendee orientation! Not only will you be provided with tips and tricks, and clarification about some frequently asked questions, but you’ll also be instantly connected with 40-50 new people in the same position as you. During the remainder of the meeting it is such a delight and comfort to see these familiar faces.

Louise:        
Use the ISSCR app! Star any talks you want to go to and posters you want to visit to make the most of your time during both concurrent and poster sessions. The app will show you if there are any conflicts so you can prioritize your schedule. If you miss any talks don’t forget to see if they are available online after the meeting is over.

Kim:      
Talk to people during the poster and evening networking sessions, meet with exhibitors, and don’t forget to bring your business cards! The annual meeting is a wonderful networking opportunity. I have made lasting relationships with fellow attendees as well as exhibitors that may assist my transition out of my doctoral journey. Look for topics and research that are generally interesting to you, not just those in your current field of study, and try to make it a goal to meet someone new at every poster session.

What is your advice for getting the most out of a meeting of this size and scope?

Kim:             
Plan ahead. The app is your best friend during the meeting. It will help you stay on track (especially during the Concurrent Sessions), notify you when plenary sessions begin, and allow you to highlight posters you’re interested in seeing. You can also use the app to “link” with other members. You can then go back later to reconnect with them!

Louise:   
I always go to all of the poster sessions. I love to walk through and look at all the posters and then spend more time at posters related to my research. Posters are a great way to talk to people about more detailed aspects of their work (i.e. methods, statistics, and things that are not always covered in oral presentations). Additionally, if I missed a talk during a concurrent session I will also check if the presenter (or anyone from the same lab) has a poster so I can still touch base with them even if I couldn’t make it to their talk.

What is your favorite part of the meeting or some of your “can’t miss” events?

Kim:   
The Junior Investigator (JI) Social Night is a BLAST! This evening is only for junior members and is a fun, relaxed way to kick off the Annual Meeting by eating, networking, and dancing with your fellow JIs! Who doesn’t love a good time?!

Louise:        
Yes, the JI Social Night is a must. We always encourage the new attendees from the orientation to go so there will be plenty of familiar faces.

Kim:           
Also visiting the exhibitors and vendors! They are so much fun to talk and interact with.

Louise:     
If you are giving a talk do not miss out on the President’s Reception. It’s a great way to interact more personally with some of the big names at ISSCR because it’s always easier to approach them over appetizers and drinks.

What benefits do you receive from attending the annual meeting?

Kim: 
Networking has been the most wonderful asset of the meeting for me. I’ve met scientists from all over the world and along diverse paths of the science spectrum whom I have kept in touch with years later. Visiting the vendors serves as an excellent networking opportunity, as well. “Meet the Experts” luncheons are a great way to meet established PIs and scientists from both academia and industry in an informal setting.

Louise:   
If you attend the meeting over several years you will undoubtedly see familiar faces. From junior investigators, to PIs to ISSCR staff and board members there are so many people to meet and seek out if you want to learn more about their research and work. This year I am also excited to take advantage of Job Match as I am finally almost done with my PhD.

Kim:           
Another huge benefit is the ability to show off your work! Use the meeting to proudly discuss your findings, get ideas from other scientists, and find new collaborations.

Is there anything else you think trainees should know about attending ISSCR2019?

Louise:    
Don’t be afraid to approach people to talk to them! If you are giving a poster presentation, I recommend staying at your poster for the whole two-hour poster session instead of your assigned one hour. There are always so many posters, so someone who may have wanted to speak to you about your work might have trouble getting to you in just the one hour. You do sacrifice the opportunity to see the other posters that night, but often times they are posted early and you can look at the ones you have already starred in the mobile app.

Kim:         
Have fun! The meeting is a professional event, but it’s also fun. When you’re attending a science conference like this with a group of like-minded people also striving to enhance research for the betterment of humanity, the energy is contagious. It’s hard not to get excited about new biological findings and the future of stem cell therapies. The stem cell field is still so young, and there is so much to learn, and it’s an honor to be shaping its future!