This March I had the opportunity to attend the Experimental Biology (EB) conference in San Diego with a few other members of Dr. Streicher’s lab from the Department of Pharmacology. I hadn’t attended a national scientific conference before, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a conference as large as EB; with over 14,000 attendees, 5,000 posters, and multiple oral sessions happening simultaneously each day, there was always somewhere to be and something to do.
A big portion of the conference was centered on poster presentations. EB is hosted by five different scientific societies, so the content of these posters spanned a number of different areas of interest. Each society had a section of around 250 poster-boards in the convention center where different posters were displayed each day. The variety of topics covered at these sessions was fairly staggering. One student I spoke to was developing a vaccine for the drug commonly known as bath salts that would attenuate many of its damaging effects, while another was working on a project involving recovery from spinal cord injury via mitochondrial biogenesis. When I was presenting at my own poster, several people passing through stopped to discuss a protein we had studied in common, or to share a new perspective on potential mechanisms behind my results. The conversations I had were thought-provoking and supportive, and it was exciting to be among so many other people who share a common passion for research.
In addition to these poster sessions, EB was packed with oral sessions throughout each day. These talks consisted of around four to five speakers whose research centered on a common theme, such as new cancer therapeutics or the use of stem cells in disease treatment. While the sheer volume of speakers and sessions was somewhat overwhelming, the app for the conference made it easy to pick and locate sessions we wanted to attend. I was fortunate enough to be selected to present my research in one of the young investigator sessions, and it was interesting to experience the oral sessions as both a speaker and a spectator. The questions I received after presenting my work were thoughtful and supplied more areas of potential interest to consider in my work. Meanwhile, attending the symposiums provided some insight into exactly how expansive the body of knowledge we are uncovering and developing is. I think what I was most surprised by at the conference was my ability to participate in and understand the different projects presented; the topics I’d learned of in lectures as abstract were suddenly tangible and being applied to all sorts of different scientific advancements. As an undergraduate, being exposed to research and its complicated language early on is invaluable, and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to attend this conference.