April 12, 2023, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Realising that I am an expert

Hannah Morgan shares her experience of attending an international meeting with support from the Researcher Academy.

Photo by Daniel Case, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Main_Street,_Aspen,_CO.jpg

Aspen, CO

I used the Researcher Academy Conference, Travel and Training Fund to travel to Aspen, CO in the USA to give my first invited speaker presentation at an international meeting. It was a lot of firsts. First time attending this meeting, first as an invited speaker, first time giving such a long talk (45 minutes) and first time I’d been at such high altitude!

The American Society for Animal Sciences Perinatal Biology Symposium took place in a very fancy hotel in Downton Aspen (2,438m above sea-level, and in comparisons to Nottingham’s 46m that was quite a change). The 3 days were bursting with amazing science presentations and a healthy dose of networking. I am usually exhausted by the intense scheduling of research conferences, that pack so much into such little space, but whilst this meeting was still full of research findings the schedule allowed a large break in the afternoon! This may not sound like much but when you travel all the way across the Pacific for a conference it is brilliant to have time to actually explore your new surroundings instead of just seeing the inside of a lecture theatre. All I knew about Aspen before I went was that it is a ski resort that was featured in the 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber. I went mid August so no skiing, but the views were spectacular. The many trails, with possible sightings of wild animals like elk and bears, and vibrant downtown area made this one of the prettiest conference venues I’ve been to.

“The more I chatted about different areas of the field and my own research to a whole range of scientists, I realised that I am an expert. An absolute revelation to me!”

As for the meeting itself, I was in full on imposter syndrome mode on the first day. It being my first invited speaker role, people were approaching me (daunting in itself) with the assumption I actually knew what I was doing and belonged there. I found it immediately interesting viewing this meeting ‘from the other side’ talking to other invited speakers opened my eyes to something I never considered before. Most invited speakers come to conferences on their own, knowing very few others at that meeting. Which I’m going to remember for future, approach an invited speaker, they probably will appreciate the company. The more I chatted about different areas of the field and my own research to a whole range of scientists, I realised that I am an expert. An absolute revelation to me! And I presented my invited talk the next day, and was bolstered by the attention and questions it received. First day over and done, and it went swimmingly. A lot of people were interested in a relatively niche topic of the father’s role in directly placental and fetal development.

Looking back at this experience I realise how essential it was to my own professional growth as an academic researcher. I am a post-doc at the stage where presenting 10-15 minute research talks has become comfortable, yet putting myself out there for nearly an hour alone was so daunting. Going to this meeting (and constantly reminding myself that I was invited) has truly increased my confidence in areas I will need to succeed down this career pathway, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to develop.

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