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Live Chat | Get the Most Out of Neuroscience 2018


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Join the #SfN18 Live Chat | October 17th at 12:00 p.m. EDT

If you are unable to log in to post a question, please submit your questions to neuronline@sfn.org and we will post them in the thread.

Whether you are an annual meeting veteran or you are attending for the first time, proper planning is key to a successful experience. From new Dual Perspectives and classic symposia to professional development workshops and on-site interviews at the NeuroJobs Career Center, this live chat will highlight the diverse learning and networking opportunities at Neuroscience 2018

On October 17th from 12-1 p.m. EDT, facilitators will discuss tips on:

  • Navigating different types of events and meetings
  • Making use of virtual and on-site resources
  • Taking advantage of professional development and networking opportunities
  • Planning your time at the meeting effectively

Participants are encouraged to submit questions in advance of the live chat in the discussion thread below. You are also welcome to direct your questions to specific facilitators by tagging their usernames:@mfwells @caltimus1.


Facilitators:

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Cara Altimus, PhD
Cara Altimus is an Associate Director at The Milken Institute, Center for Strategic Philanthropy. She previously was a Staff Fellow at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA. Altimus currently uses her expertise in neuroscience to advise individuals and foundations seeking to make philanthropic investments in neurodegenerative disease and mental health. She received her undergraduate degree in genetics from the University of Georgia and her PhD in biology from the Johns Hopkins University. She completed her postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience.


Michael F. Wells, PhD
Michael F. Wells is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Broad Institute. He previously was a graduate student at Duke University and MIT in the laboratory of Guoping Feng. Wells’ main research interests lie in stem cell models of neurodevelopmental disorders and Zika virus neuropathogenesis. He received his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Notre Dame and his PhD in Neurobiology from Duke University. Wells is currently a SfN Trainee Advisory Committee member and recently co-founded the Wishart Group, a mental health advocacy non-profit organization led by Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos.


If you are unable to log in to post a question, please submit your questions to neuronline@sfn.org and we will post them in the thread.


Annual Meeting Resources:

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  • 1 month later...

Hello and welcome to the live chat! My name is Cara and I attended SfN every year since 2007 – making this year my 12th year. The meeting is huge, but covers every area of neuroscience making it a great opportunity to learn new things, make new connections and meet friends. I look forward to sharing lessons I’ve learned and tips for navigating your first meeting.

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Hi everyone and welcome to the live chat. My name is Michael and I have been attending the SfN annual meeting since my first year of graduate school in 2008. This will be my 10th SfN conference, and thus far my experiences have ranged from amazing to disastrous. By talking to you about the ways I prepare for SfN, I hope to help you avoid the negative and maximize the positive of the controlled chaos of the annual SfN meeting. Talk to you all very soon.

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I have 2 questions :

  1. I feel like every meeting I attend gets bigger and bigger which makes planning more difficult. How do you plan for a big meeting like this?

  2. how many contacts should I realistically try to make without overwhelming myself when there are so many people to meet?

Thank you!

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Hi- It certainly is a big meeting. I often think about what I want to get out of the meeting when setting up my itinerary. For example, some years I was most interested in learning a new technique, other years I was exploring a new field, or thinking about the next career phase. You certainly can’t do everything at the meeting- but the flip side of that is that you can really customize your schedule.

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Hi Am24,

To answer your first question, I can’t stress enough the usefulness of the SfN app. I use the app for everything, including my poster/talk searches and storing new contacts (which can be exported from the app after the conference, btw). The app in my opinion is by far the best way to plan your SfN and make sure things do not get too overwhelming.

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Regarding the number of contacts- I think its really person and year specific. My tactic is to go to the socials, posters, booths that I’m interested in and be open to meeting people there. Some years are better than others. BUT following up (via email) with a new contact is a great way to make it more meaningful.

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I attended every neuroscience meeting from 1984-2000 and then some especially in San Diego. The conference center is overwhelming and finding meetings rooms was always a challenge. Are there better indicators for the directions for the rooms? Luckily the security guards are very kind and willing to assist but I would prefer to be able to navigate on my own if there were better signage.

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Q: I want to know how to navigate SfN appropriately to make connections for grad programs.

A: First of all, I highly recommend attending the graduate fair at SfN which runs Saturday through Tuesday (https://www.sfn.org/Meetings/Neuroscience-2018/Sessions-and-Events/Graduate-School-Fair). Here you can find information on 85 graduate schools around the world and can meet some of the representatives from each department. Secondly, if there are programs you are interested in, visit posters from said program. Interact with the presenters to get a sense of whether or not that department is a good fit for you.

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To piggyback on Cara’s comment on socials, I highly suggest using the app for this. The app has both an activity feed and streams Twitter comments that use the hashtag #sfn18. This is a great way to stay updated on sfn-adjacent social events that may be taking place around San Diego.

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Regarding the jobs question- I’ll share my experience regarding looking into non-academic jobs. There are a couple ways to approach SfN for the jobs outside of academic. The first is using the meeting as a way to learn about what kind of jobs exist - you can learn about these through the professional development track, but you can also go through the exhibitor section to talk to scientists working in other industries, such as scientific publishing, non-profit, government/ grant management, and scientific equipment companies. Finally, I’ve found that folks outside of academia are really open to sharing their stories and path to current career. Consider reaching out to a few people to ask if they would be interested in grabbing coffee over an informational interview. Now that I am in a non-academic job, I actually make time every day for a coffee with someone who reaches out :slight_smile:

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Ya it is a big place. I often use the app and maps within it to navigate around the conference center. My other advise for SfN is to use the outside walk ways (such as the one along the water side). Its usually less congested and provides some much appreciated sunshine

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The SfN annual meeting is a great resource for those looking for academic jobs, especially post-doc positions. If you are interested in a particular lab, seek out the lab members who are presenting (you can search them in the app). Go to their posters and talk to them. Try to get their contact info for future interactions. If you are lucky, you may even be able to meet with the PI (many PIs use SfN to recruit new talent btw). Many labs prioritize fit over productivity, so if you can show the lab members that you are a good team player before you even apply to the position, then you should be in good shape.

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Submitted questions:

  1. What is your advice for what you have to do at your first SfN?
  2. What do you do when two events you want to go to overlap?
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I’ll start with the second question about what to do with 2 events overlap. There are a couple ways to handle it. One is to look at the location- sometimes they are close and you can split your time between them. However, if they are far apart (2 different hotels for instance)- I recommend picking the one that is highest priority and staying there. Keep the other one as a back up though incase the first event isn’t what you had in mind.

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For your first SfN- look for socials in your specific area research area. Those are great for meeting people. Also the big lectures are a great way to learn new things about other areas of neuroscience if you aren’t sure what to do during a specific time block

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Janel Johnson

Hi! We know that the convention centers can be a overwhelming for some. Convention center signs along with signs created especially for SfN assist in getting around the meeting. Additionally, the mobile app has a helpful feature where the app will indicate on convention center maps exactly where a session room is located. As a hint for navigating the San Diego Convention Center, the entrance is on the ground level, along with the Poster Floor and Exhibit Hall. On the Upper Level, you will find Ballroom 20, which is the lecture hall, and all other session rooms.

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  1. I highly recommend attending the presidential lectures–the speakers are chosen for a reason.

  2. I struggle with this every year. If there are two talks that overlap, I ask a friend who has similar interests to go to one while I go to the other. That way we cover our bases. It is even more difficult when there are two social events that conflict. I usually try to make an appearance at both, but if this isn’t possible, I try to go to the event where I will have the strongest social connections. If all else fails, I use Twitter to see which social event may be the most interesting.

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I absolutely recommend that an undergrad should attend. Its a great place to start learning about the field, what areas are of greatest interest to you and what graduate programs might provide the best for your interests.

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Absolutely. SfN is a great place to think about your future. I recommend attending the Grad School fair if you are interested in pursuing a PhD, or meeting with some of the exhibitors if you are thinking of going the non-academic route.

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Regarding what to prepare and when, I try to broadly outline my days ahead of time. When am I presenting, are there specific social events that are important to me, or meetings that people have requested. The at the meeting, I try to refine my daily schedule the night before each day.

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Every year, I use the app or the online program to find talks or posters that may interest me. I do this at least a week in advance in case other topics of interest come to mind. The worst feeling is finding out a talk after the fact. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned to schedule breaks during the day. These include lunch breaks and even naps (I’m getting old). You really, really want to avoid burnout. Finally, I ask my friends and colleagues if they are going to SfN so I know who to contact about social events. In my opinion, the social aspect of SfN is equally if not more important than the science.

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Janel Johnson

Absolutely!! Our moderators would probably give the best advice, but I think that attending as an undergrad is a great way to start connecting with those in your research area. For networking opportunities, we recommend attending the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (F.U.N.) Social. The F.U.N. Social will take place on Sunday, November 4 at 6:45 p.m. and is open to all registered attendees. There, you will be able to connect with other undergrads interested in neuroscience. For more information, visit www.sfn.org/socials.

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Janel Johnson

Great question! If you know the name of the grant, the grant’s name can be searched via the Neuroscience Meeting Planner and the mobile app. Search results will show presenters who added the name of the applicable grant to their presentation.

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One other thing–I suggest resting as much as possible before leaving for SfN. You may be tempted to gather more data for your poster right before your flight, but trust me, you want to arrive well rested and relatively stress-free.

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I think the mini symposium topics are a good indicator of what is up and coming in neuroscience.

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John Carlo Combista

Are there any summer research programs in neuroscience in USA for undergraduate from outside USA presented in the meeting because when I searched most of the programs are for US citizens only.

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Submitted question:

Is there a way that I can be more proactive about meeting more people in my field at the meeting other than going to socials?

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John Carlo Combista

Thank you very much. But I know it will be very competitive. They offer it every year right? If it will, I want to try that opportunity.

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This site has a comprehensive list of summer research opportunities. I am not sure what the citizenship requirements are for each program, but I can tell you that if the program isn’t on this list, it probably does not exist: https://www.pathwaystoscience.org/Discipline.aspx?sort=MED-NeuroSci_Neuroscience

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John Carlo Combista

Thank you very much! I just read the eligibility requirements of the travel award, it requires an abstract of research of which for now I don’t have yet.

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Outside of the socials, the best bet in my opinion is the poster floor. I have met many people while just wandering the floor for hours and stopping at posters that are both in and out of my particular interest. Again, if you using the meeting planner can help you narrow down who the individuals in your field may be because this would help make sure you are on the floor at the same time. If you are like me and are a bit of an introvert, I “practice” talking to new people while at SfN by striking up conversations with relative strangers (Uber drivers, hotel workers, etc). This helps prime me to be in a more social state.

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John Carlo Combista

Do you have e-mails for further questions as the live chat is limited to just 1 hour which is about to end already. Thank you very much.

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Thinking about the key tips for SfN -

  1. Wear comfortable shoes and pack a snack in your bag
  2. Look up old friends and colleagues- its a great place to catch up
  3. Be intentional about learning something new - it can have a big impact on your current research direction.
  4. Use the sponsors section to look into new tools or software for your lab
  5. If you are NIH funded, take a moment to meet your program officer - or the trainee program officer- they have great information about specific grants, or upcoming programs.
  6. Don’t over book yourself- its a marathon meeting (not a sprint) :slight_smile:
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Thanks for coming everyone. I would like to leave you with my top 3 tips for navigating SfN, in no particular order:

  1. Take care of your mental health. The SfN meeting is defined by long, intense days filled with science, and potentially even longer nights filled with social events. Do you best to protect yourself from burnout.

  2. Download the app. Use this to schedule your days and keep track of new contacts. Use the activity feed for up-to-the-minute updates of SfN talks and socials.

  3. Do no harm. SfN is a work-place event and should be treated as such. I have seen some people do some really dumb things at SfN, both at the convention hall and the after-hours socials. Treat each other with respect and never forget that what happens at SfN does not stay at SfN.

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Janel Johnson

Janel from SfN here! As a planner for the annual meeting, here are my top three tips for attending.

  1. Get your Certificate of Attendance as soon as you get to the meeting and put it in a safe place. Many institutions require this document for reimbursement. Certificates are not provided after the meeting. No exceptions.

  2. Download the mobile app before getting to the meeting. The app has information regarding hotel shuttles, convention center maps, and general information that will be helpful in finding your way around San Diego. All of this along with giving users the ability to plan schedules. The app is used by SfN staff and meeting attendees alike to navigate the meeting.

  3. Remember to have fun! In San Diego, you will be surrounded by thousands of like-minded people all in one place. Take time to have lunch or dinner with a new colleague. Connect with companies on the Exhibit Floor and see who has the best swag. Stop by the SfN Booth and chat with a journal editor or check out what is going on at the Society!

If there are any additional meeting-related questions, contact program@sfn.org. See you all in San Diego!

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