Some of this depends on exactly where you’re already at with preparations and whether or not you are presenting at the meeting. I’ve broken this down into two categories – one of which you likely fall into. Overall, you want to use your time at the meeting to engage with folks you think you might be interested in working with in graduate school. The goal here is two-fold: 1) Get your name out there & start getting noticed by the people who will be evaluating your grad school application; 2) Start evaluating the people whose lab you might join to see if they offer the kind of environment that is going to allow you to succeed in grad school.
You should also make sure to attend the Graduate Student Fair, talk to the folks manning the fair and inquire about the different graduate programs out there.
Option A: You have a specific research focus and know what schools / people / programs you are interested in pursuing
- Email PIs whose research interests you ahead of time. Tell them you’ll be at the meeting and are interested in hearing about the program; invite them to your poster or the poster of the research you’ve been most involved in.
- Meet wit PIs & grad students in PI’s labs. Convey your interests and your experiences. Ask about lab environment, ask about PI management / mentorship style, ask about whether or not PIs are taking students in a couple years.
- When PIs or PI’s lab members come to your poster impress them with your research findings and your conceptual knowledge of the field. Indicate your potential interest in working with them. Discuss how your interests and theirs overlap.
- Since you still have at least a year left before you apply for grad programs inquire with the folks you meet about whether or not their institution has a summer undergraduate research program which would be a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in your possible future lab
- Ask people from programs you are interested in what else you can do to ensure you submit a “competitive application”
Option B: You don’t have a specific research focus and don’t know what schools / people / programs you are interested in pursuing
- Sift through the Neuroscience Meeting Planner to ID talks and posters that interest you. Use the curated itineraries if your interests are still broad but fall within a few possible categories (i.e., neurodegenerative disease, cognition, vision)
- Poster sessions are a great place to talk casually and ask people how they got started doing what they do. Find a poster or group of posters that pique your interest. Visit with the poster presenters. Find out about their research and what led them to their project. Take note of what excites you more than others and build upon that by attending more talks and poster sessions on similar topics
- Look up recent papers of presenters. See if they interest you further to begin to narrow your focus. Use your experience at this meeting to begin to narrow your focus so that next year you are well-prepared to seek out graduate programs that offer excellent training in your area of interest