Annual meeting events and advice for undergraduates

Undergraduate Poster Competition winners in 2015.

The 2016 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting is held in conjunction with Experimental Biology, a conference of six societies that will feature more than 500 sessions and 6,000 posters. More than 10,000 scientists from all over the world will be coming to San Diego to share their research and to network. It can be an overwhelming event, and taking time to prepare before you arrive is essential to getting the most out of the meeting.

Undergraduate events

Undergraduates can start with the ASBMB annual meeting orientation at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 2, in Rooms 6B, C and F of the San Diego Convention Center. A great way to meet other undergraduate students from across the country, the orientation provides tips on how to navigate the meeting and plan out a schedule.

The ASBMB also hosts the 20th annual Undergraduate Poster Competition on Saturday. More than 200 undergraduates will present their research, and those with the best posters in each category will receive recognition and cash awards. Poster presentations are held from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Graduate school exhibitors will be set up nearby to speak with interested undergraduates.

The Exploring Careers speed-networking session takes place on Saturday from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. in Room 6A. The session brings a variety of science professionals together to sit down with undergraduates and discuss their career paths.

The ASBMB Student Chapters program has several sessions at the meeting. The meeting is an excellent place to connect with this network of students and faculty members, who together make up more than 100 undergraduate chapters across the country. The Student Chapters will host an “Organizing a successful ASBMB Student Chapter” session at 6:15 p.m. Monday, April 4, in Room 14A and then a reception at 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, April 3, in the Marina Kitchen at the Marriott Marina Marquee for all faculty advisers. Any faculty members interested in starting chapters should attend the reception.

Budget your time

Browse the preliminary online program and start planning before the meeting. If a speaker or topic is of particular interest, pencil it into your calendar and brainstorm some questions to ask on site. Be sure also to visit the exhibit hall to meet with graduate school exhibitors and industry representatives.

Presenting a poster

If you are presenting a poster for the first time, be sure to know your material and practice. Try your presentation out on friends or family. And make sure you practice in front of both scientists and nonscientists. It’s important that your material and explanations be understandable to everyone. Your poster also should not have too much information or look cluttered. If you are nervous about fielding questions, try to remember that questions are a positive — they indicate curiosity from your listeners.


Come to the meeting prepared to make contacts. Arrive with business cards and have a short spiel worked out for anyone who asks about your scientific interests and career plans. If you present a poster at the meeting, keep paper copies of the poster on you at all times in case you speak to someone who wants to know more about your research.

Some of the events we’ve mentioned are excellent networking opportunities for undergraduates. Chat with your neighbors at the annual meeting orientation, and show up to the “Organizing a successful chapter” meeting to speak with faculty and student members from across the country.

Have a good time

Really enjoy the meeting. It is a busy event, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Carve out time to slow down and take in all that is happening. Have fun at the receptions. They are an excellent chance to mingle and have a laugh even as you meet new contacts and learn what others are doing. By the time you leave San Diego, you should feel rejuvenated and inspired to take on whatever your next steps may be.

Andrea Anastasio Andrea Anastasio is the Student Chapters program coordinator at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.