Part II: Prepping for the ASBMB annual meeting

11/7/2018 1:41:07 PM

Earlier this week, we featured some tips on how to prep for the ASBMB annual meeting with information related to ASBMB membership renewal, submitting an abstract (deadline is Wednesday, Nov. 14) and ways to convince your lab supervisor to let you take time off to go. Here, in the second part of the series, we offer advice on finding funding, planning meeting logistics and other conference prep to start now. More planning tips will be featured closer to the meeting date, so stay tuned. 

Tip 4: Find funding sources

The deciding factor for attending a conference usually is money. Luckily, there are a number of potential ways to defray travel and registration costs. Here is information on travel awards and other options to look into. Also, see part one in this series for some other ideas to help pay your way to the meeting.  

A) There are a number of travel awards offered through professional groups, scientific societies and other organizations that will fund most or some of your conference expenses. Here is information about ASBMB travel awards and other places to look for funding

  • The ASBMB offers a number of travel awards and childcare grants. As an additional bonus, some travel awardees have exclusive access to additional professional-development programming and mentoring opportunities. You must apply through the travel-award system by 5 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 27. (As a reminder, to be eligible for a travel award, you must submit a conference abstract as the first/presenting author by Nov. 14, have renewed your ASBMB membership for 2019 and not have received the same award in the previous year.)  

  • The FASEB Diversity Resources Program also provides travel awards to Experimental Biology for underrepresented groups in science (i.e., individuals from minority groups, with disabilities and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds). Keep an eye on that website for more information and contact that program office with any questions.  

  • Many academic institutions offer travel grants for students. This funding may be available through offices that include academic/student affairs, undergraduate-research office, honors college and graduate college. Reach out to relevant program staff to see what is available.  

  • Look into professional-development grants that may be offered through other professional affiliations and memberships that you maintain. This may include organizations such as your local postdoc association or community organizations like Rotary Club.  

  • Do some research to see what other travel and funding awards are out there. A few funding databases to look at include this U.C.-Berkeley Sponsored Projects’ Travel Grants list and the  Pathways to Science website.  

B) Talk to your primary lab supervisor, PI, department head and/or division director about travel funds that may be available. Allowances for conference attendance may have been included in the budget for the research grant that is funding your work. Also, if you are a participant on any training grants or related programs, check with that program coordinator as well.  

C) Check with conference organizers about any volunteer opportunities. In some cases, volunteers may get a reduced or waived registration fee. For example, ASBMB Communications Director Angela Hopp is recruiting official conference tweeters who will get their registration fees waived. Send an email to Angela if you are interested in this opportunity.  

D) Consider crowdsourcing funds from friends and family to cover your expenses. You can set up a GoFundMe or other personal website to collect donations and share this info via your personal networks. In general, crowdfunding works best if you can offer perks (e.g., personal shout out to contributors on social media, framed copy of your poster presentation, science swag) as well. So, think about ways to build this into your personal fundraising campaign.  

E) Lastly, you always can pay for the meeting yourself, if that’s an option for you financially. Attending a conference can be a large return on investment, especially if it leads to a job or other professional opportunities that increase your personal gains overall.  

Tip 5: Plan meeting logistics

Other meeting logistics include registration, travel and housing. Experimental Biology is a large conference that brings in over 12,000 attendees, so don’t wait until the last minute to plan, or housing and travel options may be booked to the limit. Here are a few things to think about.  

  • In addition to submitting an abstract and applying for travel awards, you must separately register for the meeting. The early registration deadline is Feb. 5, which will save you a few bucks or more, especially if you are an ASBMB member.  
  • Other logistics include travel and housing. The earlier you plan then, in general, the cheaper these expenses will be. You can check with your university or institution to see if any travel-agent services are available. And, some airlines and other transportation companies may offer student discounts or related promos.  
  • Housing information is available on the Experimental Biology website for official conference hotels that have a reduced meeting rate. A room-sharing message board will be up on Experimental Biology site soon to help you find a roommate. Also, you may consider looking at alternative housing arrangements (e.g., home-sharing rentals, hostels) if you are on a tight budget.  
  • Another travel consideration is transport to and from the meeting, which can quickly add up expense wise, so look at options to walk, share a ride with other attendees and/or use a hotel shuttle service. Also, food is another expense that can be quite pricy. Take advantage of conference events that offer free food and consider packing your own snacks.  
  • Lastly, many travel awards (including the ones from the ASBMB) are reimbursable, in that you will have to pay for expenses up front and then submit a form to get reimbursed for funds after the event. You may need to look at options for saving in advance, borrowing funds from a family member, etc.  

Tip 6: Start on other conference prep

There is some other conference prep that you can start now to stay ahead of the game and take advantage of all that the conference offers. Here are a few things to add to your to-do list.  

  • It’s not too early to start prepping materials for the conference, including outlining your poster or oral presentation and updating your professional materials (e.g., résumé /C.V., business card).  
  • Keep an eye on the Experimental Biology website for when the detailed conference program is released, so you can start planning your meeting itinerary. You can sign up for EB communications to get emailed updates as well. There also will be a conference mobile app coming out that can help you organize your schedule and network with attendees.   
  • Also, start networking on social media to find fellow scientists to hang out with, people who may be hiring or have other lab openings, etc. You can follow both the Experimental Biology and ASBMB Twitter accounts, and use the hashtags #ExpBio and #ASBMB2019 to catch the latest buzz.  
  • Most importantly, begin thinking about what professional and personal goals you may want to set for yourself for the meeting. It helps to have an idea of what you want to get out of attending (e.g., obtain external input on the direction of your research project, explore options for graduate school) to stay focused and plan accordingly.

Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.   

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