Niki Grotewold’s Reflection:
For my STEP project I went to a research conference in Washington D.C. hosted by the American Society for Microbiology called the 8th Biofilm Conference. This was a five day conference where over 60 professors from around the world gave talks on biofilms and after the talks we were able to socialize and get to know about each other’s research. It also entailed me presenting a poster on one of the days and various graduate students, post-graduate students, and professors would ask me questions and give recommendations on how to proceed with my research.
Months ago, I was hesitant to embark on the journey to presenting at such a large conference due to the prestige of the people that would be there and the overwhelming amount of high-level science that would be involved in the everyday schedule. After much consideration I realized that I was ready to prepare a project that would be worthy of presenting at such an event. I spent a lot of time doing research in the lab to advance my research project and finalizing the poster so that it would look professional and be understood easily. I had much help from my two post-graduate mentors and from my professor.
Attending the conference taught me a lot about science and about wanting to pursue a PhD when I grow up. The constant discussions at the conference about various research projects going on throughout the world that all connect with each other to add information to databases that doctors can use to help cure patients gave the institution of research much meaning for me. I think that this experience helped to finalize my decision about pursuing a PhD and about doing research for the rest of my life. Being the first person to discover something significant and then relaying it to other scientists that are researching topics related that are then able to make discoveries off yours was seen at the conference in so many ways.
At the conference the day would start at 8 am and talks would be given for two hours until there was a 20 minute coffee break and then talks would be given another two hours until lunch. At these breaks, professors and students from across the world were able to mix at tables and talk to each other about their research. This had a major impact on my view of the field which has the rumor of being anti-social but in all reality is filled with interactions and collaborations that fuel scientific discovery. Talks would then resume until 4pm where we would then go to see poster boards of specific research projects. Being able to interact with researchers 1 on 1 about their project and their thinking of how to test certain parts of it to achieve a result were very rewarding. I felt like my brain was stimulated throughout the conference and that it was an irreplaceable experience in terms of learning what it’s like to be in the science research field. I greatly look forward to repeating this experience at other conferences.