Top 5 Reasons to Attend Professional Conferences in Your Graduate Career

In today’s technology centered world, we manage most of our graduate research and networking with emails, video conferencing and phone calls. But attending professional conferences provides the opportunity for one-on-one interactions and a way to disseminate new research and ideas in a group setting.

I recently returned from the 145th American Fisheries Society Conference in Portland, OR, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to the fisheries profession. It was a whirlwind week of fisheries lectures on topics ranging from salmon population modeling dynamics to the management and eradication techniques of the invasive lionfish. The conference also offered trade show exhibits featuring the newest technology for environmental sampling, and a plethora of networking events to meet new colleagues and reunite with old peers. This was my fourth large conference to attend during my graduate career thus far, and attending these meetings helps me brainstorm new ideas and explore different research fields. I always feel reenergized to continue with my graduate research when I return from one of these meetings.

After returning from AFS and reading about professional conferences tips at these two great blogs: Southern Fried Science and The Fisheries Blog, I decided to put my own twist on why graduate students should attend science meetings.

Here are my top five reasons why it should be a priority for graduate students to attend conferences during their educational career.

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Disseminate your research through poster or oral presentation. Photo Credit: Kristin Foss

1. Present your research! Sharing your research is an integral part of the science profession, and attending professional conferences is a great way to present your research whether via poster or oral presentation. A huge part of graduate school is being able to effectively communicate your research to your peers and a broader audience. It is nerve wracking standing in front of your colleagues and experts in your field of research, but it is a fantastic opportunity to show all the hard work you have put into your research thus far.

2. Learn about new research and techniques! Presentations and posters at conferences provide areas for students to learn about the newest sampling techniques and groundbreaking research in the field. It is also a great place to see the research experts in academia collaborate and interact with managers and other professionals toward management and policy decisions.

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Learn about new sampling techniques and ground breaking research from attending symposiums and poster sessions. Photo Credit: Marianne Weiss/ Image from flickr

3. Market yourself! It is a competitive world out there, so having the extra ‘wow’ factor can help you stand out. Business cards are a great way to give others your information without having to scramble to write your email  address on a napkin or scratch sheet of paper. Your cards should include your name, email address, phone number, school/degree, and you can include information like your research interests, link to your online portfolio, or even your twitter handle. Up to date resumes are great to pass out to potential graduate advisors and employers. With social media playing a larger role in the sciences, a twitter account lets you interact directly with other scientists and promote your research at the conference.

4. Foster working relationships! In this day and age of telecommunications, one-on-one interactions are crucial to fostering working relationships. Attending professional conferences provides graduate students the opportunity to meet with collaborators, committee members and friends throughout the field. Also, it is a great way to meet up with graduate students you have met at previous conferences- these are your colleagues and fostering those relationships now is beneficial for your professional future.

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Fostering working relationships as well as making new network connections are an important aspect of attending professional conferences. Photo Credit: NMAS_47/ Image from flickr

5. Network! One of the most important reasons to attend professional conferences is to network with new graduate students, academics and professionals. In my young career thus far, I’ve learned the importance of networking- it’s critical for future research and employment opportunities! Take advantage of mentorship lunches, social events and daily research symposiums. Introduce yourself to potential employers and experts across the field- network for those connections now to benefit your career in the future.

Of course, there are numerous other reasons why it is important to attend local, national and international conferences, but these are the five reasons why I attend these professional meetings. These tips are generally applicable across the science realm, but may not necessarily be the same for other fields.

Science is a cooperative and collaborative endeavor, and attending professional conferences in your graduate career allows you to gain critical skills and explore research outside your laboratory.

By: Kristin Foss

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