I began my day on November 10, 2017 with a doctor’s appointment. I needed to be cleared to get on the airplane to SFN 2017 because I was 8 months pregnant. I was cleared and I had a great conference. I was busy but relaxed. I made it to the sessions I needed to get to, and did not worry about the rest. I was an official blogger, I led a professional development workshop on science communication and I presented my research as a dynamic poster. In between, I caught up with my friends, connected with the new neuroscientists from my undergraduate university (University of Scranton) and made new connections for both my current research project and my career plans.
A highly successful SFN!
At 8 months pregnant, I was a little worried about travelling by myself. To make things easier, I brought my husband with me. He came to parts of the conference and explored Washington, DC with the rest of his time. I highly recommend this if you’re going to attend a conference in your third trimester. He carried my stuff when I needed it and made sure I had enough snacks and sleep. It also placated my mother.
My Professional Development Workshop, A Practical Guide to Science Communication, went smoothly and I received a ton of positive feedback. My husband said, “It was really cool to see you in your element, leading a group of people and standing on a huge stage talking to an international audience.” Now, we know spouses and partners are a bit biased, but several others told me that they found it useful, fun and a productive way to spend 2 hours. I wrote an official SFN blog post with details about the workshop, but suffice to say I very much appreciate the team of facilitators who made the workshop happen with me and the participants for working through our discussion questions in such a productive and thoughtful way. And, a huge thanks to Joe Palca and Maddie Sofia from NPR’s Joe’s Big Idea (I write through their project) who stopped by and helped out.
My poster, “Network properties of multisensory integration in the developing optic tectum” went almost as well. I had a few issues with my remote, but those were easily solved as the poster session continued. I presented as a Dynamic Poster for the second year, and enjoyed it just as much this year as last year. Here’s a blog on the nuts and bolts of putting together my poster for the 2016 conference. I wrote an official SFN blog post reflecting on this year’s poster. Here I’ll just add that I much prefer this format to either a paper poster or a talk. It combines the easy conversation of a paper poster with the availability of videos and three-dimensional data representations of a talk. Done well, it outperforms both a paper poster and a talk for conveying your research project in a clear, concise and compelling way.
Being an official Annual Meeting Blogger
As an official blogger, I was given a platform to amplify research I thought was exciting, interesting and/or underappreciated. I was required to post three scientifically focused blogs from two specific themes – development and sensory systems. Beyond that, I could post about anything I thought might be of interest to other conference attendees. We used the NeurOnline platform, a sort of social media platform just for members of the Society for Neuroscience. Importantly for me, our posts are in a public forum that does not require member credentials to read.
Blogging about the meeting gave me the opportunity (and perhaps the confidence) to walk up to random presenters and say “I’m curious about your research but know very little. What are you excited about here?” I learned about several exciting new topics this way, most of which made a blog post on the list below.
Full list of blogs
- Introduction post
- Advice for a fun and productive meeting
- What’s new in Zika virus research?
- A new method for ensuring high quality data in human fMRI
- Sensory systems throughout the animal kingdom (featuring crocodile fMRI!)
- Stem cell research
- An awesome outreach program for kids
- Using brainstem-optimized Diffusion Tensor Imaging to assess microstructure differences in children with Autism
- Reflection on my Professional Development Workshop on science communication
- Reflection on my Dynamic Poster
- A wrap up reflection on the whole meeting
I encourage you to go check out the posts – and contact me if you have questions about the topics or specific content, as well as if you are considering a dynamic poster or proposing a professional development workshop for next year or interested in science communication generally.