Conference season is here (so are the Ontario 3MT finals… and we have a Dr. in the house)

Conferences happen throughout the year, but summer is a big season for conferences. Here at Gradifying, we want to start spring off right, and talk about all things conference-related. But first…

A huge congratulations goes out to Master’s student Chenman (Cara) Yin for winning first place at the Queen’s 3 Minute Thesis competition this past week with her presentation “Seeing the world at the tip of a laser beam”. She was closely followed by runner-up Nicolle Dominik, a PhD student in Physiology, who talked about her research on the cardiopulmonary system. Changhai Zhu, a colleague of mine and Master’s student in Biology, won the People’s Choice Award talking about his fisheries-related research. All participants did an outstanding job this year and we wanted to wish good luck to Chenman in the Ontario finals at Western University on April 23, 2015.

We would also like to extend our most sincere congratulations, a huge *double* thumbs up, many pats on the back, fist pumps, hugs and also send a few virtual cupcakes to former Gradifying blogger, Atif Kukaswadia, who successfully defended his PhD last week. We miss you, Dr. Kukaswadia!

To start off our month long conference series, I’m going to start with something that, well, obviously comes first: getting there. It’s no secret that conferences are expensive and for the most part, as students, we can’t afford to pay out of pocket for them.

The first place to look for funding is internally through Queen’s. The SGS offers a lump sum of money as Conference Travel Awards to its programs at Queen’s. The program then allocates those awards to their students who meet the award terms and conditions. There is some flexibility in the amount, so it can vary. Look into this if you haven’t! It is the best place to start.

Once you have investigated the opportunities at Queen’s look to the conference you are attending and the Societies that are sponsoring it. Often there are a certain number of travel awards, some are just assigned randomly to those who apply and others are awards for certain types of research. You also might have some that have requirements (i.e. must be travelling from a certain distance, or be a member of a certain society) so look into the details. If you’re eligible for something, why not apply?

The next step is to look for volunteer opportunities at the conference. A few conferences I have attended have offered discounted or even free registration, meals, etc. for students who volunteer a few hours of time at the registration desk, helping with tech support, or even moderating a session. If this isn’t advertised on the conference website, try contacting one of the organizers to see if this is a possibility. It never hurts to just ask!

Look for volunteer opportunities within the societies you are a member of. For example, I volunteer with PlantingScience, an outreach program funded in part by the National Science Foundation. As a volunteer, I get a free membership to the Botanical Society of America, and a huge discount on their annual Botany conference fee. It’s a great way to get young scientists involved in outreach, and saves us some money at the same time! I know there are similar opportunities within other societies so look into it!

Talk to your Supervisor once you have exhausted all of your travel award options, and see what options they have for funding your trip through grant money or some other source. Often grants have a certain amount of money designated to funding these types of expenses, so discuss what your options are!

It’s important to plan your conference attendance out well in advance so that you don’t miss out on some of these important award deadlines. Investigate your funding options early (at least 6 months before) and thoroughly – it will pay off in the end by saving you some money!

Did I miss anything? If so, please comment as I am sure we would all love to know even more ways to fund our conference adventures!

Posted in Finances, New Students, Student Perspective, Thesis Tagged with: , , ,

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