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Meeting of the Minds

Zubair Mohammed
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest, Illinois 60045

Science has been built not by the work of one person, but through the combined effort of many people over generations of research. All the hard work that scientists do results in important findings which need to be shared with the world. How is it possible to share one’s findings with others in the scientific community? In today’s day and age, online articles, messaging, and the internet have made communication easier. Before the advent of the internet, however, scientists had conferences where ideas could be shared with others in the scientific community. This tradition carries on into the 21st century, with meetings occurring on multiple scales, from regional to national, and even international meetings happening in a majority, if not every, area in the scientific world. 

I have personally been to all levels of conferences with the gracious help and funding of Lake Forest College. Each has a different feel unique to the type. For example, The GLC-ASPET (Great Lakes Chapter) meeting which happened at Midwestern University this past year had the microbiome as its theme, and the entire audience could fill a lecture hall. Compare that to the recent SFN (Society for Neuroscience) meeting, which occurred in Chicago at the time of writing, which represented almost all fields of neuroscience; 27,000 or so members attended the meeting, and all of them and would definitely not fit in your typical lecture hall. Some meetings, like the SFN, can actually occur for many days with different events happening daily, whereas the smaller region meetings usually end in one day. Even though they both accommodate different amounts of people and are held in different manners, the general layout of a conference tends to be standard, with multiple talks and poster sessions. Talks are given by the leaders of their respective fields, and poster sessions include research presented by laboratories ranging from the undergraduate level to post-doctoral fellows. Most meetings also have awards given to those who show distinction in their work and their presentation of it. Every event has been enlightening to say the least, and if you attend you will realize that many things that you didn’t even know were possible are being actively researched on. For example, a recent study that was presented involved the use of stem cells to grow brain tissue that produced brain waves! These types of discoveries would remain controversial and rejected by skeptics if it weren’t for conferences where the lead researchers could present their case to defend their research and to convince the scientific community of their findings. Another benefit of these meetings is that new ideas can serendipitously arise from the combination of research from very different areas of a particular field. It is a fact that some scientific discoveries have occurred purely due to chance, and serendipity can play a role in that discovery process. 

The bottom line is that if you have never been to a conference before, I highly recommend going to one to present, or even just to attend and listen, if you do not have any research to present on. If you do attend a conference, some tips include getting enough sleep the night before so you can be fresh and alert for the lecture sections, which may last about an hour or so. It is also helpful to bring some cash, as some meetings will have lunch provided, but others will not; instead, you will have to purchase your own meal. Don’t forget to take regular breaks as a lot of walking, standing, and sitting will be done, and since meetings will most definitely go on for the whole day, you will be terribly tired if you do not take those 10 or 15 minutes to step away. Another fun part of going to conferences is that vendors from a lot of research companies will be there marketing their latest and greatest software tools and machines. Of course, these machines can be quite expensive and cost thousands of dollars, but they will let you demo some things which can really open your eyes to the advances in technology that have been happening in the research world. The only real downside to attending conferences is that they are long, and thus can be draining, but I highly recommend going anyway. I am very grateful to have had the privilege to attend not one, but multiple meetings, and hopefully this is just the beginning!


Eukaryon is published by students at Lake Forest College, who are solely responsible for its content. The views expressed in Eukaryon do not necessarily reflect those of the College.

Articles published within Eukaryon should not be cited in bibliographies. Material contained herein should be treated as personal communication and should be cited as such only with the consent of the author.