Recently, Travis blogged about his experiences while attending a scientific meeting through the eyes of a “professor from a small, undergraduate-only university.” I thought it would be informative to expand upon one of the topics that he wrote about in his post: taking undergraduate students to [national] scientific meetings.
My Experience as an Undergraduate
I first went to a regional scientific meeting that was sponsored by BBB, an undergraduate biological honors society, during my senior year at Gannon University. I presented some independent research I did w/ my faculty advisor on fish reproductive behavior [which eventually was my first publication]. It was my first public research talk and it went well; I got invited to their national conference. Last year at World Congress of Herpetology, I actually recently reunited w/ an undergraduate that I first met at that national BBB meeting some 10 years after we met. We’re both still in academia and at the time were both postdocs. The meeting had an obvious positive influence on my academic trajectory and prepared me [I think] for some early success at national scientific meetings that I attended early in my graduate career, all of which were sponsored by larger organizations.
The regional, and national, BBB meeting were satisfying at the time and certainly have their benefits [in fact, I plan on taking my undergrads to an upcoming regional BBB meeting in Erie this summer]. They, however, do not represent the typical scientific meeting in any way. The research at larger national meetings (e.g., ESA, JMIH, SICB) feature the research of prominent researchers of all career stages and are not geared for undergraduates. They are large, intense, and are socially vibrant… most of which target graduate students, postdocs, and professors. With that said, undergraduate institutions often fall short of providing their students with opportunities to experience the academic culture, which includes attending large national scientific meetings.
My Experience as a Professor
I have none. But I want to take my students to a scientific meeting. We have some great early data from our first lab project and I’m lucky enough to have ample funds to travel w/ my students to a meeting this summer. What are some of your experiences with your undergrads? How did you go about prepping them for a different world? How did you, as a [untenured] professor, interact with your colleagues? Many questions here and I’m hoping to have some type of conversation on this topic.