The City and the Science

By Elikplim Adaba

I attended the meeting in San Francisco last fall, and since Boston was my second ACS experience, I was more prepared this time around. The secret to any ACS meeting, I have found, is not only attending the talks (both professional and technical), but also experiencing the host city. I booked my flight and accommodation to enable me to experience Boston both before and after the conference.

On the Saturday before the meeting, I grudgingly got out of bed and made my way to the airport. Getting off the plane, I quickly made my way to my host’s house (booked on Airbnb), left my luggage and went out to explore the city. First stop was the Boston Tea party museum where events leading to the revolt were re-enacted for us. After that, I went to the Samuel Adams (my favorite beer) brewery. We were taken on a tour of the brewery and tried out some of their new beer varieties and specialty brewed beer.

My schedule was such that, I could balance my time between technical and professional talks. I learned from my first meeting that ACS provides lots of professional courses for its members. This time around, I registered for a couple of them. My first talk was about job opportunities in the US for a non-US scientist. After that, I went for a course in finding your path in chemistry. The course discussed four common career pathways for chemists: academia, industry, the U.S. federal government, or working for yourself. All of these career pathways require you to go for some form on interview, so I took another course on that. “Acing the Interview” outlined some guidelines and tips about the interview process. I also went for mock interview and resume review sessions offered by the ACS career services.

The most memorable day of the whole ACS Meeting was Tuesday. My oral presentation was scheduled for the afternoon session. Even though it was not my first oral ACS presentation, I was a bit scared because I had to go alone; my supervisor was not present at the meeting. In the morning, I attended some lectures in honor of one of the ‘shining stars’ in my field of organometallic chemistry. There, I listened to talks from different people whose work I only read about but never met in person. I was thrilled about the depth of what they knew and their enthusiasm about what they were doing. In the afternoon, I gave my talk and was surprised to see three professors from those morning lectures were present. I answered a couple of questions and was also given some recommendations about different directions to try out for my research, which was exciting.

My visit to Boston would not have been complete without a visit to the adjoining city of Cambridge; home to MIT and Harvard. On my last day, I took a tour of both campuses. At Harvard, I visited their amazing Museum of Natural History.

At this meeting, I was able to find my path in life and network with people from academia, industry and the federal government. I had the opportunity to talk about my research and received valuable feedback. That feedback is one of the most important aspects of national meetings such as these: we as scientists need to learn from each other, and challenge each other to be better. Just as important, I remembered to explore the city where we converge to do our science. Exploring Boston and its surrounding areas helped me know more about the birth of the United States of America, and I’m a more well-rounded person for knowing it. I thank CSW for providing funds to help make this trip possible.

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 CSW. Awardees are asked to share with CSW members something from their experience that impacted their perspective as a chemist.

For more information on the Student Travel Award, please look here. Contact [email protected] with additional questions.

Photo credit: comstock / CC BY 2.0