Students and Postdocs speaking at meetings

Dianna L. Bourke dlb17 at PSU.EDU
Mon Oct 6 21:54:22 EST 1997

As I was reading the messages posted on Fri and Mon of this week there were
a few snippets which caught my attention.

Susan Forsburg said:
>You bet.  The first meeting where I gave a big talk when I was a post
>doc, I gave it because my PI couldn't go to the meeting.  I got
>two job interviews out of that talk (two people came up to me,
>separately, afterwards, to ask when I was coming on the market),
>and I got at least one more small-meeting talk from it (organizer
>wrote my PI, and said, "please come to our meeting, and if you
>can't, can Susan?")

and Megan Brown said:

> At a meeting I went to this summer, one of my main goals in
>attending was to find collaborators. I was helped by my abstract being
>chosen for a talk rather than poster presentation, so I was indeed more
>"visible." I came away with some good contacts and have been collaborating
>with one of them for the last couple of months.

At a recent WICB meeting that I attended I went on for a bit about how it
is really frustrating that THE SAME OLD SCIENTIST BIG WHIGS always present
the data "for their lab" and the students and postdocs almost never get any
significant visibility. Of course the students, postdocs and techs are
often acknowledged and thanked, but who remembers their faces or names when
the "credits" are only on the screen for 10 seconds? I firmly believe that
students and postdocs should present their own work even if it is only a
5-10 minute presentation of the lab's 30 minute session. The lab PI should
rehearse and grill them before hand so that they make the most professional
presentation they can and come in under the time limit. (Not that any big
whigs ever finish strictly on time anyway!) There would not need to be any
decrease in the quality of prensentations, either. Frankly I have seen
Junior Academy of Science 7th graders give clearer talks than some I have
seen at major symposia! At least you know what the 7th grader's hypothesis

I had the good fortune to be able to do platform presentations at the
American Association of Anatomy meetings when I was a student about 15
years ago and the experience was invaluable. In fact my professor insisted
that I give talks. Of course I was scared to death, but the speaking
experience was very useful and I met colleagues and friends that are some
of my strongest supporters to this day; very important for external letters
during tenure time...

I know that the number of participants at these large meetings has risen
like crazy and not everyone can give platform presentations, but the labs
that do should allow the people that did the work to present their own
data. As quoted above, this kind of visibility could be invaluable and
possibly a career maker.

So what do you think of this? Are you tired of being introduced to the same
PI 5 years in a row and it is always a new experience for them????? Are you
sick of people quoting your advisor's first author review article instead
of YOUR first author original paper? Newbie scientists unite! We could all
use a little more visibility especially when we have something important to

I'll get down from my soapbox now....

Dianna Bourke

Dianna L. Bourke
Penn State Hazleton

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