Tag Archives: Annual Meetings

University of Massachusetts Plant Biology Symposium 2014

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Plant Biology program hosts an annual symposium every fall.  I’ve posted information about these symposia in the past.  The organizers of the symposium have been supportive of the blog and I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with some of the members of the department.


The 2014 edition of the symposium will be held on Saturday, October 11th, and it’s not too late to register.  This year’s theme is “Evolution of Plant Form and Function: Insights from the Integration of Development, Ecology and Genetics” and there is a great list of speakers at the one day event. The speakers include: Lena Hileman, Clint Whipple, Ben Blackman, Stacey Smith, and Peter Linder.  This should be another great event!

My Philosophy On Attending Scientific Meetings

I enjoy going to academic meetings and very frequently post information about upcoming meetings and symposia.  Some people have recently asked me why I put so much emphasis on meeting information on the blog and others have asked how I decide which meetings to attend, including this recent comment.  I go to meetings for many reasons – some of which I will cover here – but, specifically for me, the main reason I go to meetings is to interact with other scientists in my discipline.

I believe going to scientific meetings is a vital part of mastering how to communicate your research.  The types of communication you have the opportunity to master can range from giving an oral presentation to hundreds (or perhaps thousands!) of other scientists to speaking with someone for 30 seconds in an elevator.  Academic meetings give you an opportunity to master your communication skills.

MSA 2011 presentations

Meetings are also great places to learn about the cutting edge of your research area.  Often scientists will present their most recent findings prior to publication.  You might be able to learn about new technologies or novel ways to analyze data before you read about them in publications.  Often during the question and answer portion of talks, theories and controversial topics are discussed, with a debate in real time.  I tend to return from meetings mentally energized with lots of new ideas to investigate and think about.

Meetings are great places to network and meet people in your research area.  It’s easier to strike up a conversation or collaboration via email if you’ve met someone in person at a meeting.  Also, if you are in academia, the people you speak with at meetings will likely be the ones who are reading your grant proposals and reviewing your manuscripts.  Future job contacts and impromptu pre-interviews happen at meetings.  Most importantly, there’s the added bonus of developing friendships with your fellow scientists.

Lastly, I enjoy traveling, so going to academic meetings is a way for me to mix business with pleasure, so to speak.  I’ve gotten to see some truly beautiful places under the auspices of attending scientific meetings.


If you are a student or a post-doc – or have been asked to present a talk – there may often be registration discounts for meetings and symposia.  You may be able to get a discount if you volunteer to help out at the registration desk or other planned events.  You might also be asked to provide financial need.  You should check with the meeting organizers as soon after the meeting is announced for these types of discounts.

When it comes to choosing a meeting to attend, I personally prefer smaller more intimate meetings, with a range of participants in the hundreds, and not in the thousands like you tend to find at large meetings.  Large meetings can be valuable, but I personally find that it’s more difficult to attend all the talks you want to and to locate the people you want to speak with.  I will often speak to people who have attended specific meetings in the past and ask them about their experiences in order to gauge if a meeting will be a valuable one to attend.

Before going to a conference, I usually get an idea of which talks I would like to see and who I would like to speak with at the meeting.  This can happen before I leave for a meeting if the conference booklet is posted online, but it typically happens right after I arrive at the registration desk.  Some people prepare by bringing business cards, and although I haven’t used business cards, this could help people remember you after the meeting.  You also want to prepare your “talk” – whether it’s for a speaking presentation, a poster presentation, or just speaking in the hallways or at a dinner of the meeting – you should be able to communicate your research clearly in many different formats.

During the meeting, I have different strategies depending on the meeting size and the types of talks.  I try to pick the talks that are most relevant to my interests, but sometimes this leaves me running between sessions.  This can be a great time to “bump” into someone you want to speak with, but you may also miss important talks this way too.  Sometimes, particularly at the end of meetings when my mind is overwhelmed, I sit through entire sessions just to see if there is something interesting in a disparate research area that can be applied to my research.  I’ve gotten some great ideas listening to talks I thought would not be pertinent to my research.  I take notes and make sure to write down literature to look up and read when I get home from the meeting.

After the meeting is over it’s important to follow up with those you have started collaborations with and those whose research papers you want to read.  If you’ve taken notes, review them and think about posting them to a public forum, like a blog, so that others can share in on your meeting experience.

Aboveground-Belowground Interactions Meeting, London, October 2012

This meeting, “Aboveground-belowground interactions: technologies and new approaches” looks to be an interesting one.  The meeting is co-sponsored by three British organizations — the British Ecological Society, the Biochemical Society, and the Society for Experimental biology — and will be held at Charles Darwin House, London, from October 8th to 10th, 2012.

Here’s more information from the meeting website:

The conference aims to identify the specific skills that biochemists, molecular biologists, physiologists and ecologists can bring to cross-disciplinary research in this area, thus creating new opportunities for collaboration in above-belowground research. The conference will introduce examples where cross-discipline and across-scale research has successfully examined the mechanistic basis of multi-trophic interactions, and will aim to identify the potential for applying such approaches to above–belowground systems, which are traditionally more intractable.  The following three key questions will be addressed:

• What are the major challenges in above–belowground research?
• What tools and approaches can be adopted from different disciplines to address these challenges?
• How can high-throughput tools aid integration across disciplines and scales to facilitate a unified approach to studies of above–belowground systems?

Genetics Of Fagaceae & Nothofagaceae Meeting, October 2012

The IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations) working group has organized the “Genetics of Fagaceae & Nothofagaceae” meeting to be held in Bordeaux, France from October 9th to 12th, 2012.

This meeting will build upon a successful “Genomics of Forest and Ecosystem Health in the Fagaceae (Beech Family)” meeting held in North Carolina Research Triangle Park in 2009.

The aim of this international conference is to present new scientific findings in the area of genetics and genomics of species within the Fagaceae and Nothofagaceae.

Registration is open.

First International Conference of Genomics in the Americas, Philadelphia, 2012

I haven’t been sure what to make of the BGI/ICG series of meetings thus far (see here and here), but at least the first foray into the Americas – The First International Conference of Genomics in the Americas, to be held September 27th to 28th 2012 in Philadelphia – looks to be interesting.  There is a good group of speakers lined up for this meeting, even though the BGI have rightfully taken some criticism for skewing the speaker list a little on the male-side of the genomics spectrum.  Registration is open now.

Carl Zimmer’s Keynote Address at the 2012 JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting

I’ve been having some issues with posts because my server was hacked into again.  I don’t know what is so interesting to anyone trying to break in and leave malware.  So, I apologize.  I’m getting back into the swing of things and trying to fix some problems after a couple weeks of travel.

I recently returned from the 7th Annual DOE-Joint Genome Institute User Meeting on the Genomics of Energy and the Environment.  The keynote address by Carl Zimmer has been posted online:

UPDATE: For more information see the DOE-Berkeley Lab‘s Blog Post A Communicable Cure For YAGS and check out Jonathan Eisen‘s blog posts (here and here) about JGI’s User Meeting 7.