7 tips for my future self on how to organize a conference by ESR3 Varbina Ivanova
I have always enjoyed going to conferences - hearing about others' research, showing my work and participating in scientific discussions and networking events. Still, I didn't realize quite how much planning it takes to organize such an event until June this year when the ALLODD 1st Training School & Networking Meeting took place in Barcelona, Spain. As prof. Xavier Barril’s ALLODD ESR, I had the chance to be part of the organization of the Barcelona meeting events - the Allosterism & Drug Discovery Conference and the ALLODD Training School. Being on the organizational team, I learned all about the little details of scientific meetings and experienced a real organizational process - from having a well-planned program and interesting speakers to thinking about coffee breaks and networking events; from counting numbers and budgets to sending organizational emails to participants. After successfully going through the ups and downs of conference organization, I decided to prepare myself a list of important points on how to plan scientific events. Here are my 7 tips for future conference organization:
My PhD experience as part of the ALLODD network and project started some days before my official working day in late January 2022. Just a few days before, I came to explore the city and start adjusting myself to it. The beautiful and romantic atmosphere, the landscapes that the city of Budapest allows you to appreciate are overwhelming. I had never been in this city before, but I felt not so far from home, maybe this was also due to some companion of trip in the first days, but this is another story.
What I would like to focus on is my 6th month period spend here as a PhD student referring to how we perceive time, as someone once said “a year can be the longest or the shortest of your life” (even though we are talking about a half a year this time). The very first working day seems to be so far now but at the same time these full 6 months filled with tasks and events have passed so fast that it doesn’t really feel like half a year. I remember the first day to be caught by the beauty of the building I am currently working in, and the campus surrounding it: I was excited to start this new adventure. Having travelled for several Erasmus projects I took part in, I understood that just after colleagues and network for me the workplace contributes to appreciate what I do. Entering the lab for the first time I felt welcomed, one of my supervisors here introduced me to the group, and my meeting with lab colleagues was making me think glad and happy.
This first impression turned into something real the following days when starting to work. I can say that even though at the start can be a little shy talking with new people everyone showed to be welcoming and available anytime into answer you and dedicate you part of their time and this I really appreciate, and I thank them for it. The next day the work officially started: a project on HDAC8 inhibitors which revealed to be not as easy as predictable. The challenges I believe are those who shape us or shape our thoughts and if we can find a way of learning from that we maybe really could get to reach something good for our own personal and professional growth. Not just challenges but also having the chance to share and learn from more expert figures is something really important and which in my opinion can really drive the scientific progress. This is what I feel getting through the ALLODD network, to be driven somehow in what we do, which of course is not just internationally expressed but also related to the single labs. That said, so the ups and down of research already made their way toward me, but I liked it and I like the challenges, so I started giving myself to it in order to find solutions to the problems and I think several teachings came to my way.
As the first months passed by university events and responsibilities started to approach: exams courses and dates to establish, educational activities, the first meeting in Vienna for the ALLODD project together with some other small tasks, there was little time for stalling! I was thrilled at doing things, completing tasks and assuming responsibilities and meeting other ESRs like me extending our experiences and connections throughout national borders. From my point of view I could particularly appreciate the first ALLODD meeting cause it allowed us to introduce ourselves and while starting creating a network it give us the opportunity to get to know the people taking part in it, have some practical and also psychological training, lectures and experience whose lessons I will never forget and which I believe were really good to introduce as a start point in the first period of our PhD. I liked we had the chance to get to know more about the project, the scheduled events and exchange periods and other Professor and researcher of the ALLODD network, listen to their ideas and experiences, and of course it was also pretty nice to had a walking tour in the city!
Following this just other 3 months have passed filled with new deadlines, new project starting, webinars, reports, the journal clubs, and a new event from the ALLODD was already on the way: the Barcelona workshop. Two days of conference and three spent between presenting our work, training, and experiencing other scientists’ work and realities. Everything was well planned and organized, and we also had the chance to meet and live a little the city together with the other group members. It felt particularly intriguing even to get somehow in touch with other representatives and partners of the consortium through their intervenes and in break times and to deepen some concepts and approaches, and the contrast of previous and new research approach or strategies, all this especially well highlighted in the round tables.
So far, I am so glad to be part of this consortium I am happy I will have the chance to travel and exchange with the industrial world which I never experienced until now and have taken part to these events. It is nice to have the chance to get to know people from different background working together and share experiences and goals towards the common target which is allostery. I hope and I am sure our contribution in this will be important, and that the resources a network and in particular this network can bring will come up useful for understanding and exploring allostery. I am looking forward to other events and opportunity that this founded project will allow us to experience.