Live Chat | Get the Most Out of Neuroscience 2018



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 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.


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 and we will post them in the thread.

Annual Meeting Resources:


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


Submitted question:

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


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.


Submitted question:

I will be applying for jobs soon and I need advice for finding/using networking opportunities at the conference?


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.


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 ( 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.


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.


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:


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


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.


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?


Yes you are right I have really enjoyed those walk way as well. Thanks good advice about using the app.


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.


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