Monday, September 23, 2013

ACS National Meetings… Large is the new small... @AmerChemSociety @ACSNatlMtg #ACSIndy

In my previous post, I implied that the reason for going to ACS meetings is that they are so very large. Trouble is that such size is precisely the reason why many chemists avoid them and advise others to do likewise. So here's my advice on how you can eat your cake and have it too at national meetings (and this isn't restricted to ACS meetings!)...

First and foremost, you have to make choices about where you need to be when. You should just give up, without regret, on those things you just can't do or fail to reach because you stopped for something else along the way. As a beginning graduate student, I would focus only on the technical session closest to my research area, but later I started to hop between sessions to get a better sense of the field. In either case, I was completely oblivious to the rest of the meeting, thereby keeping it manageable. I know of other chemists at that early stage in their careers, who made completely different and equally satisfying choices. For example, they may have jumped in nearly exclusively into the career development training sessions or into the chemical education offerings. Others used their time at the national meeting to jump into technical or professional sessions outside of their core doctoral research area. Regardless, we never failed to present our posters or talks so as to share our work and hear feedback from others.

As a working professional, I now distribute all of these strategies into my meeting days, adding governance and outreach activities too. But my overall algorithm is essentially the same. I look at the meeting as a physical realization of the web. There's no way that I can visit every site. Instead, I surf sites to learn, teach and share chemistry with others. The difference is that at the ACS meeting, I can actually see and interact face-to-face with people. Which is to say that I act as if I'm attending a small meeting filled with all the people that I want to see. Indeed, being at the national ACS meeting with so very many people insures that the cross-cut I see is invariably filled with the ones I was looking for! I do miss some, though, and that's why I come back for the next one.

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