The Chemical Society of Washington (CSW) offers a travel award to defray travel and/or registration costs to a National ACS meeting. The award is open to current graduate students in the Jurisdiction of the CSW. Awardees are asked to share with CSW members something from their experience that impacted their perspective as a chemist.
By Robert Brothers
After four long and frustrating years of graduate school I was finally able to attend my first American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting. This experience happened just in time because I was beginning to question if I really wanted to pursue a career in chemistry or science at all. Fortunately, attending this conference reminded me how much I love science and chemistry.
When I first landed in San Francisco I was distraught to discover not all of California is sunny and warm. I immediately purchased a souvenir coat, several of which were conveniently sold on every street corner. I did not let the cold, overcast, rainy weather dampen my spirits; I was excited to explore a new city, to be in California for the first time, and to attend my first ACS conference.
An excellent conference experience would not be complete without making a “conference buddy” to attend events with and help you feel more comfortable when meeting new people. On my first day at the conference I met Jake, who was also a fourth year graduate student. Later he humored me in my pursuit to taste a Dungeness crab and see how it compared to the Maryland Blue Crab. We began having coffee every morning at Blue Bottle Brewers before the conference and exploring San Francisco together in the evenings.
One evening we attended the LGBT happy hour in the Russian Hill meeting room at the Marriott, which had beautiful views of the city. My exposure to other LGBT scientists has been somewhat limited, so I was pleasantly surprised by how many people I met. I found the insights and advice from everyone I spoke with to be helpful and inspiring. It was a very supportive and encouraging atmosphere for me.
While at the conference, I found the “Medicinal Chemist’s Toolbox” and “The Future of Medicinal Chemistry” seminar sessions particularly motivating. These seminar sessions educated me in the research other scientists are conducting and excited me about future job opportunities. This helped me step back and see the bigger picture outside of my research. Later during my poster presentation I was thrilled by how many people I met. I had so many interesting conversations and received helpful feedback on my research. This reignited my passion and excitement for the chemistry I am conducting.
This experience reminded me how much I love chemistry and science. The scientific banter I enjoyed with my “conference buddy,” the support and insights from other LGBT scientists, and the valuable feedback on my chemistry allowed me to redirect. I am grateful to the Chemical Society of Washington, ACS Medicinal Chemistry Division, and The George Washington University Chemistry Department, whose combined generosity provided travel grants, allowing me to completely fund my trip. This significantly reduced my stress level, allowing me to fully enjoy my experience. I am now excited and motivated to finish my work, graduate, and pursue a career as a chemist.