by Angela Saulsbery
In May, my labmate Rose and I won awards from University at Albany’s Initiatives for Women to present research posters in Long Beach, CA at the annual meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (SBN). SBN held the meeting in June at Hotel Maya, a cluster of violet and burgundy buildings that overlooks Queensway Bay. On the opening night of the conference, Rose and I joined the welcome reception and introduced ourselves to a group of students. Only one of them had attended an SBN meeting before, and I was glad to meet other newcomers to the conference.
Dr. Workman described SBN as “very trainee-centered,” and I agree. Faculty were welcoming and friendly, and the organizers planned several trainee-specific events. I attended a Meet the Professor lunch, a workshop on impostor syndrome, and a meeting with an NSF program officer that was attended entirely by graduate students, postdocs, and new assistant professors. I also appreciated the conference’s gender inclusivity: As Jessica Tollkuhn pointed out on Twitter, nineteen of the twenty-eight speakers (65%) were women. Attendance also seemed roughly gender-balanced. This balance is encouraging: I am confident that, as my career progresses, I’ll be able to find female role models and mentors, as well as men who regard women as intellectual equals.
Speakers at SBN 2017 work with a diverse array of model organisms, including manakins, prairie voles, beta fish, and (my personal favorite) rats. Kimberly D’Anna at Cal State San Marcos even works with humans, and I was excited to see my own species represented, as well as fascinated to learn that researchers can examine chronic stress by extracting cortisol from human hair. The talks, along with feedback and questions about my poster, helped me mold my ideas about my results into a coherent narrative.
On my last morning in California, I walked to the beach and dipped my feet in the Pacific Ocean. I felt content. The conference had energized me, and I was eager to return to the bench and finish my experiment. As the waves rolled over my toes, rough ideas for future experiments rolled through my mind. For this extrovert, a conference was the perfect antidote to solo cell counting, manuscript writing, and behavioral testing. Thank you to the organizers for putting together such an amazing experience. I’m already looking forward to next year!