What to do at a scientific conference as a grad student

Finally I found a theme to write. I have decided that I would be writing about my graduate school experiences that would help others. The first topic I have chosen to write about is what to do at a scientific conference as a grad student.

Scientific conferences are a hub of knowledge, novel ideas, great scientists, job offers, and most importantly networking opportunities. You cannot ask for a better place to get them all. However, during conferences, most graduate students most of the times commit few mistakes which they do not realize at the moment. They may not realize even later. But attention to few things would definitely help them not only to improve as a scientist but it may also help get a job later. Here are few important things to do before, during and after the scientific conference. Good thing with graduate students at conferences is that you are a graduate student.

1. It isn’t a fun trip, take it serious.

Many times student tend to take their scientific conferences as fun trip and try to visit places without spending much time at convocation centers. Do not do that. If you are serious about your career, then be serious at conference as well. One good thing with conferences is that they start at 7:00 or 8:00 AM in the morning and wrap up by 5:00 PM. So what all you need is enough energy to roam around meeting different people. Have fun after 5:00 PM though.

2. Plan your Itinerary.

With the advent of smartphones, it is now easy to prepare your itinerary online weeks ahead of the actual conference. If you do not have one, prepare one on the website using your login and take few printouts with you.

3. Attend the important sessions and posters.

Attend the important sessions and follow posters that are related to your research. Scientific sessions usually consists of very latest advancements in research areas and these lectures are usually delivered by reputed scientists in the field. Take notes, ask questions without fear. You can later email them and thank them for answering your questions.

Chose the poster sessions you would like to attend, talk to the poster presenter. Ask questions if you have any. If not, try to talk about something that is in common. Since they are grad students or post docs who are in a learning phase as you, it is more easy to connect with them. Take their email address or phone number. Write a sentence about your conversation to use it in the mail.

4. Connect

Scientific conferences gives you the best opportunities to connect. You can make as many connections depending on your capability to talk to people. Luckily, this is the place where every one is willing to talk and collaborate. All you need to do is say hi with smile on your face and introduce yourself and talk few things that are common to both of you (How to do it, I would post it next). Take their contact or business card. Write a sentence about your conversation to use it in the mail later.

5. Mail them after conference and connect them on Linkedin

Once you come back from conference, take the list of contacts you made. Make a folder in your gmail or wherever you are comfortable. Send them brief mail again introducing yourself and the conversation between you both. Connect them immediately on your Linkedin network. Send them occasional emails. Try to look at the big picture.  This actually helps you later whether you are in academia or in Industry.

6. Meet your old buddies

A couple of weeks before going to the next conference, mail them asking whether they are attending the conference again or not. If yes, take appointment and meet them. If you have no time to email them, then you know where to find them. Talk to them briefly.

By the time you are ready to graduate, you might have met your contacts at least a couple of times. And in todays world every contact is very important. Most often students try to make contacts just before graduating. But, if you are doing it from your first conference, you are at greater advantage

P.S: Please write comments and add your experiences or suggestions. I would add them.

P.S: Forward it to your friends if you think it is recommendable.


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