Thanks to an Honors College travel grant, I got the chance to travel with my advisor, Dr. Timothy Muldoon, to the Optical Society of America (OSA) conference in Miami, Florida to present my research and collaborate with other students and professionals. My specific research focused on the development of a non-invasive diffuse reflective microendoscope, that could improve the early detection of cancer in epithelium, such as the lining of the oral cavity or gastrointestinal tract. [See Gage’s earlier posts, Shining a Light on Cancer Detection and Highlighting Advancements in Cancer Detection for more info.]
My trip lasted four days. Throughout the duration of the trip, I spent most of my days listening to graduate students, professors, and industry leaders present their research. Most of the information was well beyond my knowledge base. But it was still extremely beneficial because you learn to familiarize yourself with common terminology, learn how to clearly and concisely present research to a large and diverse crowd, and learn about current state-of-the-art biomedical devices and surgical techniques using these devices. On the last day of my trip, I had the opportunity to present a poster at a two-hour poster session where I explained my research progress and answered questions.
During my poster session, I was able to network by asking professionals where they worked, how they got involved their specific research, and if they had any advice for me moving forward. People are always willing to help and give their advice when asked. I received a lot of good feedback about how I could present my research in a scientific paper, something that is very important to me since I am seeking a graduate degree.
I have several pieces of advice for students wanting to travel for their research. First, you may be one of the youngest people at the conference. Don’t be intimidated. You are there to learn. Older students and professors like the opportunity to help the younger generation. Second, come ready with a bunch of questions you can ask professionals, such as “What projects are you currently working on?” “How did you get involved with that project?” “Do you have any advice for me moving forward in my career?” You will gain respect and courtesy if you confidently seek advice. Finally, definitely pursue the opportunity to travel by applying for travel grants. Research and knowledge means nothing unless you learn to communicate your ideas and results to others.
So, what’s next for me? I will be seeking a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Arkansas in the Translational Biophotonics and Imaging Laboratory. Throughout my graduate career, I will be attending at least one conference per year to present and listen to state-of-the-art research. Having this conference experience under my belt will give me a lot of confidence moving forward throughout graduate school.