An early career researcher's guide to the American Chemical Society National Meeting

Hear from early career chemist Catherine Rawlins as she shares her top tricks and tips for getting the most out of the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition (19–23 August 2018; MA, USA).

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Aug 15, 2018

Catherine M Rawlins1
1Northeastern University, Boston (MA, USA)

As an early career researcher, whether you’ve just defended your PhD, like me, or you’re already established in a post-doc or industry position, there is a lot to be gained by attending the biannual American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting. I have been a volunteer with ACS for the past 5 years and have learned the ins and outs of the organization, however, ACS is the largest scientific society in America and thus the meetings are large! Attending a conference of this size and breadth can be overwhelming, as there are so many things to do and attend, and so many activities occur concurrently.

In this article, I give my tips for attending an ACS National Meeting to make the most out of this opportunity. These tips can be applied to other large conferences, both nationally and internationally, and have proven successful to me as a young chemist over the past 8 years. The 2018 Fall National Meeting will be in Boston (MA, USA) from August 19–23 and, as a local to the area, I will also provide some tips for enjoying your time in 'Beantown' so that hopefully you will have a great experience!

1. Plan out your day 

Be sure to study the program in advance and schedule the essentials. Visit the ACS website to download a PDF of the program, since paper copies are no longer distributed upon registration for free. I recommend downloading the app and planning out your schedule on there; it saves paper and allows you to search within the program by discipline, author name or by institution for specific talks and posters. I like to make a list of the essential posters I want to visit at each session and prioritize those first before visiting others. The posters are often organized by discipline so you can spend time in one spot. Don’t forget to bring your drink tickets that came printed with your badge!

It is also important to note that not all the events will be in the convention center and may be at hotels at a different location. Therefore, you should remember to factor travel time into your schedule.

2. Visit the Exhibition Hall 

Sunday night, when the exhibition hall opens, is the busiest time to be there but the best time to get all the good freebies. If you look at the floor plan on the website, you can see which companies and groups have booths that you may want to visit – don't forget to stop by the MedChemNet booth #512 for your chance to spin the wheel! You will likely want to pick up a tote bag to carry your bounty and check out the daily raffle drawings to win some big prizes.

In the center of the exhibition hall there is a large area filled with booths and information about ACS. Not only do they have good freebies, but there are great resources available, as well as ways you can connect with other chemists and really get to know the organization.

3. Explore the career development options 

The exhibition hall is also home to the Career Fair, where prospective employers have booths and you could find the job you have been looking for. Additionally, at every ACS National Meeting, there are free 4 hour leadership courses available. I have experienced a few personally and they have proven to be very helpful for my career. There are also workshops that give guidance on preparing for an interview, improving your resume or CV and networking like a pro. Visit the Career Development section of the program to sign-up (space permitting).

4. Attend the social events 

You may have noticed upon registration that there are different events each night of the conference, usually accompanied by food and drinks. Some are free, but others may cost a few dollars; if you didn’t sign-up for them upon registration, stop by and see if walk-ins are welcome. There are usually some events advertised in the email blasts leading up to the conference so keep an eye out. It is a great way to network and meet new people!

Top tips for visiting Boston:

  • Don't drive into the city if you can avoid it! In Boston, there is always lots of traffic and parking is limited – and expensive – near the convention center. If you are driving, consider finding a MBTA stop that will let you park there for the day and commute in on the train.
  • If you are staying in the city, Boston is very walkable, but it wouldn’t hurt to buy an MBTA pass. Most train stations will have a kiosk where you can buy tickets.
  • Take advantage of the shuttle buses that ACS offer to transport you between the hotels and the convention center – it will save you time and money.
  • On Sunday, August 19 from 6:30pm–9:30pm there will be a mixer hosted by the local Northeastern Section and the National Younger Chemists Committee at the Back Bay Social Club. A perfect opportunity to meet your fellow early career researchers and learn more about the organizations!
  • The Younger Chemists Committee is also sponsoring several symposia, including “The Best of Both Worlds: Green Chemistry in Academia and Industry” on Tuesday, August 21 at the Westin Boston Waterfront, Marina Ballroom II. It is a full day event with two sessions, one for academia from 8:30am–12:00pm, and one for industry 1:00pm–4:30pm.
  • The Boston Red Sox are playing at Fenway Park August 19–23: if you want to catch a game while you’re in town, there are sometimes cheaper tickets still available to buy.
  • In the main entrance of the exhibition hall, there will be a hospitality booth, hosted by the local Northeastern Section of ACS. Talk to the volunteer there between 7:30am and 5:30pm for more tips and advice on the area.

I hope you found these tips helpful and enjoy the conference!

Don't forget to come and say hello to MedChemNet at booth #512 in the Exhibition Hall; we look forward to meeting you there! Let us know on twitter @MedChemNet which talks and presentations we should not miss.

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