By Rebecca A. Schmidt-Jeffris
Chair, Committee on Student Affairs
As the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America approaches, students will begin creating posters and practicing their talks for the competition. Everyone knows the drill: prepare for your presentation, go to other presentations that interest you. However, limiting yourself to just these two aspects of any meeting may leave you feeling underwhelmed or as if ESA is not doing enough for you.
But what are your other options?
If 2015 will be your first meeting (especially if you are student) or if you are looking to get more out of this year’s conference than you have in the past, here are some great opportunities to get involved and take advantage of all ESA 2015 has to offer:
1. Three Minute Presentations. While most students are aware of the Ten Minute Paper and Poster competitions for the President’s Prize, there are also other opportunities to stand out in the society. This year, a new student competition, the Three Minute Presentation, will also be held. There will be a President’s prize for the top presenters in this category, as well as an “audience choice” winner, to be selected by the audience watching the competition.
2. Student Debates. The Student Debates occur at every national meeting and are an excellent way to showcase public speaking skills and entomological knowledge. All debate participants are considered invited speakers at the meeting and will be authors on a publication summarizing the debates in American Entomologist. Next year, the debates will be held during the International Congress of Entomology and teams from any country are welcome. Click here to find out more about this exciting competition.
3. The Linnaean Games. These are an entomologically themed trivia contest. The top two teams from each branch are invited to participate at the national meeting. Interested students should put together a team representing their university to compete in the 2016 branch meetings. This will give you a chance to compete at ICE!
4. Awards. In addition to these competitions at the meeting, there are also many awards offered to students by the ESA. You cannot win if you do not apply – ask your advisor to nominate you next year! At ICE, there will be a special Graduate Student Showcase, which will give you a unique chance to describe your work to an international audience. For students participating in ESA 2015 competitions, all of this hard work will be recognized at the Student Awards Ceremony on Tuesday evening.
5. Networking. Networking opportunities abound at ESA conferences. While it can be intimidating, new members will find that the society is very welcoming. If there is a person you are particularly interested in meeting, introduce yourself to her during the break after her talk, or during the poster social hour if she is presenting a poster.
You may want to meet students that work in her lab to find out more about their research. You can also ask a mutual friend or colleague to introduce you. Furthermore, there are many social activities that provide chances to network. Here are some of them:
There is a new members’ social that will allow you to meet other new members and ESA leadership (and also, there is ice cream).
Each evening, there will be a different event to attend: the Welcome Reception on Sunday, mixers on Monday, and the Student Reception on Tuesday. These are all excellent opportunities to meet new people in your field.
Networking is particularly important as you approach graduation and begin to look for a Ph.D. assistantship at a new university (for undergraduates or Master’s students), a postdoctoral position, or a permanent career position. The Career Center, located in the Exhibit Hall, will have a listing of currently available positions. There is also a board for posting your CV or résumé.
Some universities and companies will also have tables in the Hall, which will allow you to talk with representatives from these institutions first hand.
Several Lunch and Learns address topics that will be helpful to students starting the job search.
The best networking in ESA comes when you start giving back to the society. Getting involved in ESA has allowed me to meet many people I would not have otherwise, and provided me with some excellent leadership experience. Every year, ESA puts out a call for volunteers to help with the meeting (and this pays for your registration fee). Some sections need student volunteers to conduct their business meetings. Branches and sections also appoint representatives to the Committee on Student Affairs, which organizes the Student Debates and Student Symposium, and represents the student membership on the Program Planning Committee. Contact ESA staff or the appropriate branch/section leader to inquire about positions on this committee or other volunteer opportunities. Students can also organize and submit symposia for ESA and branch meetings. If you have a great idea for an ESA event contact someone in leadership to find out if you can organize it. We would be happy to have your input!
There are many ways to take advantage of ESA meetings. In order to get the full value from their memberships, students should seek opportunities to get more involved in ESA. There is no better time to start building your personal brand to be known as someone who gets things done, is capable of organizing, and who has genuine concern for the direction of the society. This can be done one small volunteer role at a time.
We’d love to hear advice that other members have for students in the comments. What are some other ways students can ensure they are making the most of ESA 2015?
Rebecca Schmidt-Jeffris is a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University. She started becoming involved in ESA during her time as a student at Washington State University, volunteering to organize events at Pacific Branch meetings. She is currently the chair of the ESA Committee on Student Affairs and will begin serving on the Student Transition and Early Professional Committee this year. Her research interests include integrated pest management, biological control, and the effects of landscape and management practices on pests and natural enemies. If you want to chat with her about ESA, entomology, and science, her Twitter handle is @Phytoseiid.