The Perks of Being a Scientist: Attending Plant Biology Meetings

I attended my first Plant Biology Meeting as a graduate student– and I was in awe. So many people, and I didn’t know a soul. It was scary and I thought I would drown in anonymity. And I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of scientific presentations. That changed very quickly though when my PI introduced me his fellow scientists. The more I went, the more people I got to know. As my knowledge increased, so did my enjoyment of the presentations.

Susanne Hoffmann-Benning
Dr. Susanne Hoffmann-Benning is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University and is a long-time ASPB member.

And I was hooked.

After my son was born, my options of attending meetings dwindled. Both, my husband and I work with plants and bringing a child to a meeting didn’t seem like a great idea. But ASPB was very family friendly, so my husband, my son (then 4 years old) and I attended the ASPB meeting in Portland, OR. Those that were there may remember how when one of the speakers walked to the stage, a little voice proudly piped up: “that’s my daddy!”

Now I am back at the Plant Biology meeting and there is still more I enjoy.

I enjoy listening to cutting-edge research and “hot topics” in fields other than the one I work in. Since they vary from year to year, it is never boring. Never mind that sometimes two interesting talks are at the exact same time or the interest is so large, that the rooms overflow – for a presenter it is great to see all that interest.

Of course, I also love to present. As I prepared for my very first mini-symposium talk as a postdoc, I received an email requesting lettering in the slides large enough so it could be seen in the back of a room that held 350 people. I panicked! 350 people!!! And yes, the room was packed. Two years ago, when I actually chaired a minisymposium, I found out that even full professors who are established scientists and experienced speakers are nervous before their presentation…

Poster Sessions
They are huge! But they are a great opportunity for postdocs and students to present their data and get great feedback from fellow attendees. Every year, I have students, sometimes even undergraduates, present; and every year, they are totally giddy and full of ideas after their poster sessions. They see that their research matters!

The variety of workshops is just amazing. I send my students to workshops on paper or grant writing, on teaching or job perspectives. I always bring my female students to the women in science luncheon, because they are inspiring and fun. And because they show that while it may not be easy, it is possible. The guys, though, tend to refuse my offer!

It is surprisingly easy to meet people at Plant Biology meetings. Some are new acquaintances; some are old friends I haven’t seen in years. Science is the glue that brings us back together. I introduce my students to these friends and over dinner – not only is it good for their future to practice networking, they realize, when we are not tense about deadlines, classes or presentations, we can actually be fun!

I remember dancing until they kicked us out when we were graduate students!

Portland, OR was just voted best US city! ( 2/1/2014)

Why do I keep coming back?

This was the first meeting I ever attended, the one where I developed into a scientist, the one where I can always get candid feedback on my research, and the one where I made friends–some for a lifetime! Most importantly, it’s a great opportunity to show my students that science is inspiring and fun!

Be part of something special. Register and join us for Plant Biology 2014 in Portland, Oregon in July 2014.


Leave a Comment