Professor Joan Stevenson, of the School of Kinesiology and Health studies, says there are plenty of benefits to hosting conferences, but she says one definitely stands out: "it showcases our university and our strengths right across Canada", she says enthusiastically. After all, when it comes to the study of biomechanics (essentially the study of the mechanics of human movement), Queen's is one of the top three schools in the country -- with a well-noted participation rate when it comes to presenting at conferences and publishing in respected journals.
That's why it is was fitting that, from June 9-12, 2010, Queen's hosted the 16th biannual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biomechanics (http://csb-scb-2010.ca/oc.html). The conference, which was jointly hosted by the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, the Department of Mechanical and Material Engineering, and the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, was organized by an enthusiastic team of students and professors. The lead, however, was taken up by three graduate students: Alison Novak (School of Rehabilitation Therapy), Scott Brandon (Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering) and Samantha Reid (School of Kinesiology & Health Studies).
"It was a huge contribution," says Stevenson of the efforts put in by the team of students leading the organizing committee. The conference, which was attended by about 250 scientists from across Canada and around the world (attendees came from as far away as Iran and Australia), ran smoothly thanks to the dedicated contributions of volunteer graduate students. "They started two years in advance," says Stevenson, "doing everything from making reservations, to coming up with a schedule. There are so many moving parts to organizing a conference -- and with a budget of about $80,000, you can't make a mistake, because it will come back to haunt you."
But, says Stevenson, everything ran smoothly. Queen's students did everything from running the daily sessions and overseeing the speaker preparation areas, to running special programs for students, giving campus tours and managing the conference website. "It was a strong, reliable team," she says.
A grant from the School of Graduate Studies helped reduce costs so that all graduate students from the three participating faculties could attend the conference. "It's really beneficial for students to go to conferences," says Stevenson, "because you get to see lots of different kinds of research -- and maybe it's people using the same kind of equipment as you, but in a different way. You also get a chance to see all kind of different exhibitors, so you can see what's coming, and where people are going next."
Stevenson also says that conferences are vital for establishing contacts - both social and professional - both for future jobs and collaborative research. "If you don't know someone at another university, how do you get that ball rolling?" Ultimately, though, Stevenson says conferences are all about learning: "it's like a whole year's course in one place," she says. "You learn a lot."