My first scientific conference!

I wrote this post right after the conference on one of the flights, but didn’t have internet connectivity.. However, I’m posting it for the date it was written on!

So I attended my first ever scientific conference this April.. It also happened to be one of the biggest international cancer meetings.. So there were about 20000 people and at least 10 parallel sessions at all times.  The convention center was huge and sometimes the talks were at opposite ends of the building.  I have mixed feelings about the conference.. To start with, I’m not very excited about research now. I’m finishing my PhD degree because I’ve already invested almost 5 years in this, and I don’t want to quit. I wanted to go to the conference to see what its like and also because its important for my professional profile, irrespective of what I decide to do later. On the first day, I was overwhelmed by all the sessions and the mental and physical exhaustion. I then realized that I can’t possibly attend back to back sessions from 8-5 and saturate myself. So I planned it better for rest of the 4 days and it wasn’t that bad.

I actually enjoyed some sessions which were very inspiring. These were usually talks by the most established professors in the field presenting ~20 years of research from their lab done by 100-200people. To start with, I was interested in some of these topics and it was inspiring to see how far we’ve come in understanding and to some extent treating cancer. I really enjoyed one talk for the sheer brilliance of the scientist and the hard work of ~300 researchers and collaborators, even though it was outside my interest and research area. My poster session went quite well, several people from the industry stopped by and provided good feedback. A few graduate students also stopped by because they were interested in my work. It also felt good to get some external validation that the work that I’m doing is good. I also visited some posters in a totally new field that I thought I may be interested in.

All in all, I think it was a great learning experience for me, not just in terms of science, but in terms of life and career goals as well. I learnt how to attend the conference without getting burnt out every single day, and also enjoyed the city a little bit. I also realized and accepted the fact that while research can be exciting and satisfying for some people, I’m not one of those. While I enjoy reading and understanding how things work, I don’t necessarily enjoy the frustration that comes with conducting research to answer those questions. So it’s good to just accept it after struggling with it for so many years!

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