A Marathon of Conferences

collage of images from conferenceThe months of March and April were filled with a whirlwind of conferences. I had the pleasure of traveling to several meetings across the U.S. including the Wonder Women Confidence Conference (WWCC) in Stone Mountain, GA on April 18th, NIDDK NMRI workshop in Bethesda, MD on April 11-13th, Experimental Biology (EB) in San Diego, CA on April 20-26th, and Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) San Diego, CA on April 25-28. All these meetings had commonalities that included networking, publishing, funding, and of course, science.

My favorite part of attending scientific meetings is the science. I sit in on various talks that are related to things of interest to me, even if they are outside my area of research. Being an introvert, I find comfort in focusing on sessions that surround science and ways to gain the funding to move my research forward. My weakness is networking. I find it difficult to reach out to others and sustain a relationship of collaboration, mentoring, and professional socialization. This year at WWCC and NMRI, I had conversations with women who shared their thoughts on building a solid network. For example, networking is multifaceted that include mentoring, encouraging, challenging, counseling, advising, sponsoring, and affirmations; thus finding a supportive, like-minded network of individuals in the hypercompetitive world is vital. Although people are encouraged to build a network based on hierarchical relationships, it is now being emphasized to form relationships that can be sustained over an entire career. For example, Dr. Martin Frank has been a member of the American Physiological Society for over 20 years. During EB, there were people, including myself, that reflected on the benefit of him being a part of their network over the course of their entire career. Some networking opportunities can be found at National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and strategies on how to build a network in the 2016 article by McBride et al.

Some common aphorisms in science are “Publish or Perish” and “Fund or Fail”. EB lets you join conversations on the expectations of publishing. There were sessions that fully covered publishing ethics by American Journal of Physiology (AJP) that are similar for most journals including the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). According to a talk given pertaining to funding by a representative from NIGMS, publication history is imperative in an application for funding. Publications give reviewers a snapshot into an investigator’s productivity and how they use their grant funds. Additionally, seminars explaining how to choose where to publish including section seminars from various vendors including: AHA as well as the American Kidney, Physiology, Nephrology, and Genomics Societies. The most noteworthy session for me was about blogging as a top way to communicate science to a large audience. Increasing people are using social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat to share scientific information quickly in 150 characters or less. However, a Nature article suggests, although blogging is not for everyone, it is still a viable way to promote collaborations and share crucial information to the scientific community succinctly. Dissemination of research is a good way to advance the writer’s career, which is contrary to the thought that social media is phasing out blogging. Additionally, publishers shared ethics information, such as authorship, author responsibility, communicating with journals, rigor and reproducibility, transparency and data sharing. All now benchmarks of what reviewers are looking for in a publication.  Since the NIH is looking for these things in grant applications, I would recommend looking for a workshop that covers these topics in detail either online or face-to-face.

As a researcher, it was also important for me to present my research at conference. My poster presentation at EB focused on NADPH oxidase-dependent ROS in renal cells. My research interest is elucidating the relationship CVD has on renal dysfunction in the presence of endogenous oxidative stress. During the poster session, I spent time speaking with researchers ranging from high school and undergraduate students spanning to late career investigators sharing information pertaining to the impact increased oxyradical stress have on the mechanistic pathways that lead to cardiorenal disease (CRD). During our dialog, I met with people that I had known previously, such as Dr. Robert Mallet from UNTHSC, my mentor from the STAR Fellowship program (pictured); Drs. Manuel Navedo from UC Davis, Layla Al-Nakkash from Midwestern University, and Adebowale Adebiyi from UTHSC (postdoc mentor), my mentor from previous EB years (pictured). During sessions and after hour socials, connected with Marsha Matyas and Dr. Marty Frank from APS, publishing mentors (pictured) and the amazing group at the Porter Physiology Development & Minority Travel Award committee as well as new investigators to potentially form collaborations. The people in my network may not speak with me daily or even monthly, but they are my support when I am working through the processes of designing research experiments, data analysis, identifying funding sources, writing grant applications, and writing for publication. While in San Diego, I took a detour to the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel where the SCAI Sessions were held to speak with clinicians working with cardiac devices. Being that I am interested in securing a career in industry, SCAI provided the opportunity to network with general cardiologist, pediatric cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeons and biomedical companies that produce the devices used in cardiac repair.

Not any of us builds a career alone. It takes knowing the area of study, networking with people that has solidified a career in that area, finding a mentor that will sponsor you in advancing your career, as well and publishing the data that was generated with the funding that supported the research. In an arena of diverse scientist and clinicians, all studying various CVDs, it is important to find the thing that drives your passion and people to help support that passion. Working together, we can fight the hard fight of cardiovascular disease. Keep reading updates of heart health guidelines on AHA New.

Anberitha Matthews, PhD is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis TN. She is living a dream by researching vascular injury as it pertains to oxidative stress, volunteers with the Mississippi State University Alumni Association, serves as Chapter President and does consulting work with regard to scientific editing.