Guest post by Lucas Vanhaelewyn, PhD candidate, Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology, Ghent University
Being a scientist is a wonderful job, especially when your theory is suddenly confirmed on a gel, or when that fluorescent signal does get upregulated. Those moments highly compensate for those lesser days when you accidentally cut your fingers with the razor blade, rather than the plant tissues, or when that western blot turns out quite differently than expected. When starting a PhD, many tend to disappear into the lab for 4 to 6 years. Most kick-off with an in-depth literature study and slowly transit to practical work, exploring the borders of the scientific unknown. Over the years we slowly grow into an expert of various lab techniques and become a master of very specific literature.
On the way, we can become so occupied fighting the daily challenges, that we lose track on time and lack the energy and motivation to expose our wonderful and hard-earned scientific results to the world. Truth is, however, that attending a conference can be a great way to take a step back, put things in perspective and broaden your mind. As a second-year PhD student, I had the fortune to be granted a travel grant to attend the Plant Biology meeting in Hawaii in 2017. Besides the exotic destination, the huge conference and its topics were a thrill. I got to try my first GMO papayas and it has been a delight to meet like-minded people to communicate with about (non-)scientific topics and experiences. I learned that others’ opinions and ideas, sometimes can feel like a mental slap in the face – especially when your theories and beliefs get shredded. But most importantly, you learn to reflect on your research in a different way than what would have been possible while remaining in the lab for years or while keeping your science communication limited to your direct environment. It is energizing to let a new wind blow in your sails, even if it steers you in a direction you didn’t plan to explore.
Perhaps you are thinking about attending a Plant Biology meeting. The numerous annual travel grants make it possible for new people to attend the meeting, to get inspired, and get bitten by the conference bug. The application process is very straightforward and worth your effort. You will love it, ASPB is a vibrant community that invests resources in plant scientists, and most importantly organizes opportunities for youngsters to develop professionally and stand out. Examples that I appreciated and definitely recommend are: the ASPB/CONVIRON program and the ambassador program but also the Plantae Fellows program and all publicly available resources through Plantae are outstanding.
But ASPB is more, its Plantae platform is advancing and allows plant scientists to communicate about the specific problems they face, to attend seminars, or to read blogs on how to become more efficient in, and beyond, the lab. By the way, the daily posts on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are a great way to stay up to date and engage with people with similar interests. ASPB is made by and for the plant community and I believe that it will continue to inspire members to join the organization. Opportunities are available for all who enjoy outreach activities.
So dear scientists, put your pipette down for a sec and get involved with ASPB by following the updates on the Plantae platform and social media.
Author: Lucas Vanhaelewyn, PhD candidate, Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology, Ghent University. Connect with Lucas on Twitter: @Lucas_Muzungu_