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How to Make the Most of Your Time at Entomology 2017

Lina Bernaola and Big Blue Bear

Denver’s Big Blue Bear knows there will be a lot to do and see at Entomology 2017, November 5-8. Lina Bernaola, student representative to the ESA Governing Board, offers advice for maximizing your time at the conference. (Photo credit: Lina Bernaola)

Editor’s Note: As Entomology 2017 approaches, today we continue with the second in a five-part “Students at #EntSoc17” series on Entomology Today, in which members of ESA’s Student Affairs Committee share what fellow student members need to know to be prepared to ignite, inspire, and innovate at Entomology 2017.

By Lina Bernaola

It’s almost time once again to bug out next to the giant Blue Bear at the Colorado Convention Center for Entomology 2017, the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America! There are a ton of things to ignite your curiosity across all four days, so allow me to go over a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your trip, without exhausting yourself in the process. Let’s think about maximizing your conference experience in three separate parts: pre-meeting preparations, managing times and activities during the meeting, and post-meeting follow-ups.

Lina Bernaola

Lina Bernaola

Pre-Meeting Preparations

Planning for the meeting always begins before the conference starts! Ensure your conference materials are ready and packed away properly: posters are packed away in their tubes and presentations are saved to a USB drive and the cloud. You do not want to waste valuable time working on these things while you’re at the conference. Be sure to create a set of business cards ahead of time and even résumés if you are on the hunt for jobs. In fact, look at the ESA Online Career Center job board ahead of time to see which skills are in demand and who’s hiring, to prepare for your informal discussions with leaders in the industry and potential employers during the meeting.

Also, take a look at the online program to sketch out your itinerary for each day. The home screen provides instructions on how to navigate the meeting agenda and allows you to select by program or by day. You can even search for specific speakers whose talks you are interested in attending. The most important thing to keep in mind as you search through all of these options is to prioritize based on your own needs! If you are a student or are early career professional, then seek out your Section Symposia to meet others focusing on similar research, as well as the Lunch and Learns throughout the week. If you have traveled from outside the United States or are interested in making new connections with those who have, then stop by the International Branch meeting and social on Tuesday afternoon. And, of course, try out some of the meetings specifically geared to your interests—there are dozens of options!

Past annual meetings have had excellent apps available for smart phones that allowed you to easily navigate the show floor and presentations. ESA’s annual meeting app will be available in early October, so we highly recommend you download it to optimize your time at the conference. Either way, consider leaving a few holes in your schedule for breaks and flexibility, and, if your phone is your daily planner, make a note of all your “must-see” presentations and workshops in the app scheduler.

As you know, the most straightforward things to take care of are registration and lodging, but don’t neglect the rest of your logistics or packing. Most of the official Entomology 2017 hotels are within walking distance to the convention center, so transportation won’t be an issue. Denver also has efficient bus and light rail systems (even the airport is serviced on the light rail’s A line) when needed. The Denver Convention Center also provides information on getting around Denver and to the Convention Center.

Managing Times and Activities During the Meeting

After you arrive in Denver and settle into your accommodations, swing by the registration desk at the Convention Center on the ground level to pick up your badge and conference materials. Since you will be on your feet most of the day, try to leave any excess baggage or giveaways in your hotel room during your first break. Keep your cell phone battery full and carry a portable battery charger with you, too. Take some session notes throughout the day while the information is fresh in your mind, and jot down how the presented material can apply or relate to your own research; this will be helpful when you return from your trip and want to discuss those new ideas with your colleagues.

Sometimes, you will have a quick connection between presentations, but give yourself the occasional break to have coffee with a new acquaintance. Networking is an important reason for many conference goers, so indulge in some scientific conversation and swap contact info. These hallway chats can be quite beneficial and are the perfect time to introduce those business cards you made earlier. Often, these new informal connections can lead to future collaborations or job opportunities!

Consider starting your day early by attending one of the five Sunrise Sessions, which include the annual Women in Entomology Breakfast, and a session on “Achieving Success as a Mentor.” Meals don’t mean you have to hit the brakes. We recommend keeping up your momentum by grabbing a lunch and taking it to one (or more!) of the eight Lunch and Learn sessions. Planned this year are some inspiring topics ranging from “Inspiring Science through Storytelling” to an “Ask Me Anything” session with ESA journal editors. Monday evening is the big social mixer night, but mixers are planned on other nights as well, so attempt to go out at least once to socialize instead of working on your poster or presentation. While it may feel comfortable to stick with people you travel with or know well, you should push yourself to interact with as many other people as possible during this four-day event.

Additionally, be sure to purchase a ticket to attend the new ESA Awards Breakfast on Tuesday morning where you can sit with someone new and hear the Founders’ Memorial Lecture. If your schedule allows it, support fellow students in their Linnaean Games and Student Debate events, and be sure to stop by to view the posters on display in the exhibit hall.

In an upcoming post in this blog series, we’ll reveal places to sightsee, restaurants to dine in, and social activities in the vicinity to check out. For the adventurous, Google has a great tool to discover Denver in a day: tabs for formal travel guides, the top sights to see, and itineraries are available in just a few short clicks. Wander the streets or, if you have an afternoon or more, step outside the city limits to explore beautiful recreational areas nearby, like Red Rocks Park.

Post-Meeting Follow-Ups

Once the conference finally wraps up, try to decompress from the travel and reflect on the new information you absorbed as well as the contacts you made over the short week. A common recommendation for learning a new skill or piece of information is to pass it on to someone else. So, review your notes before chatting with your colleagues about the wonderful talks you attended! Even consider polishing up those notes before emailing them to your coworkers. Follow up is critical in networking, so touch base with the people you connected with via email while the meeting is still fresh on their minds as well.

A lot of attendees won’t have a great deal of time to do some of this homework before the conference, because days leading up to a meeting can be hectic as we put the finishing touches on posters and presentations. However, by utilizing ESA’s resource and devoting a small portion of your time to preparation, you can get the most out of the upcoming ESA meeting!

Let’s get excited and see you in Denver, folks!

Lina Bernaola is a Ph.D. candidate at Louisiana State University in the Department of Entomology. Her research involves investigations of the mechanistic basis of plant resistance against above-ground and below-ground organisms in rice. She studies the effects of mycorrhizal fungi, a symbiotic soil-borne organism, on rice resistance to insect herbivores. The ultimate goal of Lina’s research is to provide a better understanding of plant-insect-mycorrhizae interactions in rice pests of Louisiana, which will help to develop more effective pest management programs in rice. Lina has been actively involved in the Entomological Society of America since 2013 and currently she serves as the Student Representative to the ESA Governing Board. Twitter: @LinaBernaola. Email:

Blog post edited by Student Affairs Committee members Casey Parker and Adekunle Adesanya.

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