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Please note that this event occurred prior to the current public health crisis. We recognize and are also disappointed by the fact that many conferences have been cancelled or postponed for this year. However, we look forward to hearing about your many travel experiences in the future!

By Madi Gamble, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from American Society of Naturalists Meeting in Monterey, California.

This January, I attended the American Society of Naturalists Meeting at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Monterey, California. This is a small meeting (about 200 people) that is held every two years and is open to scientists at every level of academic or professional careers. It brings together people who study ecology and evolution at every biological scale to think critically about how processes at each scale shape trends and patterns in the natural world. The small size of the conference and the breadth of fields allows for great conversation, and multiple successful working groups and new collaborations have emerged from past meetings.

One aspect of the success of this meeting is that the Society has a code of conduct for the meeting and also designates point persons that can be notified of code of conduct violations. This made the meeting feel welcoming and safe.

The keynote address was delivered by Anurag Agrawal, who talked about interactions between milkweed plants and their insect predators. He addressed broad questions such as “is evolution predictable?” and “how important is contingency in evolution?”

I presented the first chapter of my dissertation, titled “Restricted heritability of a key life history trait between sexes and tactics mitigates conflict”. The talk was about how length at maturity, an important trait related to fitness that is sexually and tactically dimorphic in salmon, is only heritable between mothers and daughters and between large morph dads and large morph sons. The conference gave me an excellent opportunity to get feedback on my ideas and results, and the order in which I present them, before submitting them to a journal for publication.

Following my presentation I was able to talk to a prospective post doc mentor, and we discussed fellowships and grants that might support me as a post doc in her lab. We also discussed project ideas and possibilities for collaboration with other scientists and institutions.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

Please note that this event occurred prior to the current public health crisis. We recognize and are also disappointed by the fact that many conferences have been cancelled or postponed for this year. However, we look forward to hearing about your many travel experiences in the future!

By Niveditta Ramkumar, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions is the annual conference for cardiovascular scientists. For three days, researchers from around the world meet to share and discuss the latest findings in cardiovascular science. From educational sessions to networking opportunities, basic science to epidemiology, and every combination in between, this meeting has something for anyone interested in cardiovascular research.

This year, I had the privilege of presenting my dissertation work at this conference. My projects focus on the differences between men and women undergoing vascular surgery. I presented two posters, “Worse Patency in Women After Endovascular Peripheral Vascular Intervention” and “Women Experience Higher Rates of Surgical Repair and Mortality for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm” at the Best in Specialty Conferences poster session. I also delivered an oral presentation titled “Women Have a Higher 5-year Risk of Stroke After Intervention for Carotid Stenosis Than Men”.

Attending a meeting of this scale can seem overwhelming at first. With hundreds of sessions to choose from (and choose you must, because they run concurrently), where do you start? The fear of missing out is a real occupational hazard. It can also be intimidating to present your work to a crowd of internationally-renowned giants in your field. Yet, after three days of learning, mentorship, networking, and thoughtful discussions, I left the conference feeling inspired, rather than overwhelmed or intimidated.

It is easy to get lost in the drudgery of research. Interacting with the larger scientific community serves as an excellent way to reset and refocus. Who knows, it could give the push you needed to make a breakthrough on that one project (or even graduate). I am truly grateful for my rewarding experience at the AHA Scientific Sessions, and for the financial support provided by the Graduate Student Council Conference Travel Grant that made it possible.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By Jin Hyun Cheong, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship West Coast Experience, Seattle WA and San Francisco CA
Photo from Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship West Coast Experience, Seattle WA and San Francisco CA

I took a 9-day trip to Seattle and San Francisco to meet west coast venture capitalists and founders of big and small startup companies. I spoke with the founders/executives of startups such as College Pulse, Remitly, Rover.com, Goodly, Kigo Kitchen, Armoire, AdaptiLab, Spruce Up, Far Niente Winery, and Amazon.com (because it's always day one) as well as venture capitalists/accelerators such as Y Combinator, Madrona Venture Group, Pioneer Square Labs, and Norwest Venture Partners. I learned a lot about what it means to be an entrepreneur, the experience of building a company, and general life lessons to live by, and here are the three key points I'll forever remember from the trip.

1. "Build something people want."
"Build something people want" is the motto of Y Combinator, a seed accelerator that has successfully nurtured companies such as Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Reddit, Twitch, and Docker, but we heard this in many flavors throughout the trip. For example, Amazon prides themselves in customer obsession and have structured their product development framework to start with the customers and work backward to define the product. It begins with questions like "Who is your customer?", "What problems are they facing and what are the opportunities?", "What would benefit the customers the most?", "How do you know what they need and want?", and "What does the experience look like?" After sketching out answers to these questions they draft a mock press release that includes details on what the product is, what problems it solves, quotes from developers and customers, ways to get started, and a call to action describing what to do next, in addition to FAQs and visuals anticipating and guiding the users for the optimal experience. Sometimes it seems too many projects start with a vague "Wouldn't it be cool if XXX existed?" although that may not be something that is needed nor wanted by people. This customer obsession framework for building the product can be a great way to avoid such pitfalls.

Pioneer Square Labs (PSL) also abides by this principle and have designed their curriculum to quickly iterate different ideas to figure out what works (speed over perfection). Greg Gottesman, Managing Director of PSL and founder of Rover.com, gave us really important advice to always be testing your market and knowing what your customers are looking for. This could be as simple as looking at Google Trends search words or keyword tools that suggest associated search terms, or running a short survey on the web. Some of these services may cost you a hundred bucks or so but if you are serious about starting a company, then knowing the demand for the thing you are about to build for a hundred bucks could save you months from building a product that turns out nobody is interested in.

All of this boils down to the importance of understanding the customers' needs, wants, and experiences with current products. Once you have that, then many other things such as finding investors and expanding are bound to fall into place. In short, I think YC definitely nailed the importance of this point succinctly with "Build something people want".

2. Invest in people, not products.
When a few us were preparing to pitch to Geoff Ralston at Y Combinator, he suddenly mentioned that he prefers to rather not look at the slides because he is more interested in "you", the founders, than the slides. While many of us were bewildered that we won't have our visuals guiding our presentations, it actually made sense after hearing different versions of this phrase throughout the trip.

YC attributes its success to not having the shrewdness for picking good products but for picking good founders. Take Airbnb for example, which was funded by YC although they initially thought it was a bad idea. Nevertheless, they liked the founders enough to support them for their character, dedication, and grit, which is well demonstrated in their story of how they raised funds in their early days by selling boxes of breakfast cereal.

Surprisingly, this idea that choosing the right people to work with can be more important than choosing the right product to work on applies beyond the startup world. For example, a senior executive we met at Amazon.com attributed his prolonged love for the company to the joy and intellectual stimulation he gets from working with and being surrounded by intelligent, smart, and motivated individuals. Surrounding yourself with smart people motivates you to be a better person and work hard because you don't want to let your peers down and ultimately leads to a better you and better outcomes.

Also, we've heard stories about how 7 out of 10 startups are likely to fail and how they often fail not because of bad products but because of hiring the wrong people. An unmotivated founder or a team leader can lead even the best team of engineers to inaction, bad decisions, and failure, while motivated and dedicated people can overcome those hardships. Moreover, people with different values and missions can also lead to the demise of companies. For example, a co-founder optimizing for profit will always be in contention with a co-founder who cares more about employee wages which can be difficult to resolve unlike decisions on whether to include feature A or B in a product. Products can be rebuilt and companies can pivot but differences in personal values and vision between individuals can lead even the most productive partnerships to eventually fall apart.

Lastly, great products are often built by great people. If you have a chance to visit the beautiful Far Niente Winery, you will see the impeccably aligned barrels of Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays in their wine caves. Although whether they are perfectly aligned or not may not have the slightest effect on the taste and chemical processes inside the barrels, it speaks to the values and principles upheld by the winemakers who believe that this attention to detail all adds up to crafting the perfect bottle of wine that can be shared with great people.

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3. Ideas are cheap.
This phrase came up all the time in almost every meeting. Ideas are cheap. Anybody can come up with a cool sounding idea but not everyone can build it. and not everyone who can build it are able to pursue that idea and build a company. Building something good is difficult and you need the right people working on the right problem and it takes time and persistence. This phrase also emphasizes the importance of the entrepreneurial drive over entrepreneurial thoughts. As we all know from stories of Facebook and Microsoft, some people can be determined enough to drop out of prestigious schools to pursue their projects. Although this doesn't mean everyone should drop out of school to build a great company, it really speaks to their entrepreneurial drive and the obsessions and determination towards solving a certain problem and building a certain product to justify taking such big risks.
As a graduate student who still has one foot in academia, I was particularly surprised to hear this because I've often heard that you want to be the idea person to be successful. I've heard people say programmers or technicians can be hired or replaced while people with novel and important ideas are the ones who win the grants and funding. However, just as the industry realizes the importance of not just the ideas but the ability to make ideas into a reality, I think more and more emphasis should be and will be placed in their capabilities, whether it's the actual ability to build something oneself or the ability to gather a team that can make the idea a reality.

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Conclusions
Once again, the three core lessons I took away from my trip is that it is important to be mindful of building what people want, investing in people, not products, and realizing that actions are more important than ideas. I think these principles apply not just to building great products and companies but also to life in general and being mindful of these principles can lead you to be successful in many aspects of your entrepreneurial endeavors.

One last piece of advice, read Paul Graham's essays.
I'm sure many of you may already know who Paul Graham is and may have already read his essays but I only learned about him from our trip to YC. When I read a few of his essays, my mind was blown. He had so many ideas that deeply resonated with me in so many ways. For example, "The Lesson to Unlearn" on how school exams are teaching students to hack knowledge rather than truly understanding materials has led me to think about and understand why I felt dissatisfied after completing my undergraduate degree and why I wanted to attend graduate school to study psychology in more depth. Moreover, "The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius" also led me to think about my colleagues who have exactly the obsessive character towards random topics and projects which may not seem particularly productive but may pay off at the end.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By Eva Childers, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from Society for Neuroscience Conference 2019 in Chicago, Illinois

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference is one of the largest neuroscience conferences that takes place every year. There are over 25,000 attendees composing of distinguished neuroscientists, post-doctorates, graduate students and undergraduates. With every second of every day, there was at least one or more lecture, symposium or poster session occurring where scientists shared their cutting-edge research.

As a third year Ph.D student attending their first conference, all of this was intimidating and overwhelming. During the first lecture I attended, when the talk had ended, the speaker encouraged the audience to ask questions, whether they were about research or her life’s journey. Slowly, people stood up to ask questions about her data and research. I could ask her about what led her down this path to becoming a professor, I thought to myself, but after listening to all the other questions, I quickly dismissed my question as silly.

The following day, I attended a professional development workshop called “Imposter Syndrome: Confronting the Career Development Monster Hiding Under the Bed”. Imposter syndrome is defined as a specific form of intellectual self-doubt, with anxiety, burnout and depression as associated hallmarks. The moderator asked us to raise our hands if we agreed with a question:

“Have you ever looked around and felt that everyone else seems smart and capable, but not you?”

I raised my hand hesitantly, did anyone else raise their hand? When I looked around, I saw that my neighbor had raised their hand, so had everyone in my row, everyone in my section, almost everybody in the room. In this room were graduate students, post-doctorates, established professors and scientists, and they all shared similar feelings to my own: shame, anxiety, self-doubt, discounting praise and feeling guilt about success. With the wide sea of raised hands, came an amazing realization:

I am not alone.

There were a panel of 5 speakers from different stages of life ranging from professor to graduate student. Each panelist shared their own experiences with imposter syndrome and their advice on how to overcome it. This workshop was the first time in my career as a Ph.D student where I saw groups of scientists acknowledge their struggles with imposter syndrome. The result of that for me has been a feeling of acceptance and connectedness to a broader academic community. I’m thankful for the opportunity provided by the Student Professional Development Fund to attend the SfN conference.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By Qian Han, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from Cyber Week 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel

Cyber Week is a large annual international cybersecurity event, hosted each year at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Over the past eight years, Cyber Week has become internationally acclaimed as one of the top cyber-security events in the world. Cyber Week offers a unique gathering of cyber-security experts, industry leaders, startups, investors, academics, diplomats, and government officials. With more than 8,000 attendees from more than 80 countries, this conference offers a thought-provoking exchange of knowledge, methods, and ideas. This year, I was lucky enough to present Dartmouth College to attend the conference and present my idea.

My poster was titled "Disclose or Exploit? A Game-Theoretic Approach to Strategic Decision Making in Cyber Warfare". Our work provides a novel algorithm which formulates the cyber competition between countries as a repeated cyber warfare game. We define the equilibrium state of the repeated cyber warfare game as a pure strategy Nash equilibrium. Furthermore, our DiscX prototype system that can help support government decision-makers in their decision about whether to disclose or exploit a vulnerability that they find immediately.

Attending Cyber Week 2019 was a valuable and memorable experience for the development of my graduate career, as it was my first time to present my work at Dartmouth in such a mainstream conference. I explored a lot about the real world cybersecurity research status and progress outside my field, exchanged exciting ideas with world-well-known experts, and obtained feedbacks that may guide the future direction of our project. I am extremely delighted for the financial support provided by the Graduate Student Council Student Support Fund.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By the 2018-2019 GSC Student Life Committee

Dear Graduate Student,

The Graduate Student Resource Guide is a document compiled by a group of current graduate student representatives on the Graduate Student Council. Our goal for the guide is to provide graduate students with a single accessible document that covers the resources available to them for various situations that may arise during their time at Dartmouth. We include concise information on each resource listed as well as a "roadmap" that shows the paths a student can choose from when seeking help from a resource. It is our hope that these roadmaps will allow students to choose the path most comfortable to them and supportive to their case. Although we worked to be as thorough as possible, the guide is not a comprehensive list of all of the obstacles faced in graduate student life. We encourage feedback on this document so we can make it more inclusive for our fellow graduate students.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Student Life Committee (Graduate.Student.Council.Student.Life@dartmouth.edu)!

Sep2019_ResourceGuide_final

By Jin Hyun Cheong, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from 2019 Affective Computing and Intelligent Interactions in Cambridge, United Kingdom

From September 3rd to 6th, 2019, I attended the 8th International Conference on Affective Computing & Intelligent Interactions (ACII 2019) in Cambridge, United Kingdom with the generous support from the Dartmouth Graduate Student Council. I am accustomed to attending psychology or neuroscience conferences but this was my first time attending ACII 2019 which is primarily an engineering and computer science oriented conference. Nevertheless, topics in affective computing span multiple disciplines including psychology, neuroscience, human computer interactions (HCI), and computer science, and I was delighted to be able to offer a perspective from social psychology and present my poster on "Shared experiences increase social connection".

Before I elaborate on the exciting research presented at the conference, I would like to mention a couple of organizational and structural differences I found exciting between ACII and other psychology/neuroscience conferences. First of all, I was pleasantly surprised by the openness of the organizational committee and the open discussion processes during the town hall meeting. The town hall covered many topics including co-location (organizing the conference near the date of another conference in the same city to reduce environmental costs), diversity, inclusivity, and budgeting (popularity of allocating increased budget for open-access publications). I don't know if other engineering conferences are alike, but I was fascinated by the openness of the organizers and the participation by the attendees to help steer the conference community in a better direction and would love to see more similar discussions held at psychology and neuroscience conferences.

There were numerous inspiring and cutting edge research presented at the conference but here are a few that I'd like to share in brief. Lisa Feldman Barret (Northeaster Univ) presented her keynote titled "Can Machines perceive Emotion?" and sparked interesting discussions on how visual emotion recognition systems are recognizing stereotypic displays of emotions but not how the subject is actually feeling. I think it is good that she is raising awareness of this issue, especially since the public may not be immediately aware that results from affective computing algorithms must be considered with the concept of probability. Just because someone smiles, triggering a facial emotion detection algorithm to spit out that the person seems happy, does not necessarily mean that the person is truly happy albeit there might be a good possibility that she is. What's important is that the context also needs to be considered to improve the detection of how one is truly feeling. Rosalind Picard (MIT) also led a panel discussion regarding ethics related to affective computing to talk about what scientists can do to perhaps make sure that their tools and algorithms do not fall into the wrong hands while still advocating open science. I learned about License AI (https://www.licenses.ai/) by Daniel McDuff (Microsoft Research) for the first time which empowers developers with more control over how their code is used restricting domains such as surveillance or criminal justice. It was great to know that these types of discussions accompany the research done in this community.

I really enjoyed the workshop on emotions and emergent states in groups, which hosted many research from Hayley Hung's group at Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. I learned about new concepts such as f-formations (Kendon, 1990, http://profs.sci.univr.it/~cristanm/ssp/) which can be used to detect groups of interacting individuals in an open interaction environment and how they can be used to predict social relationship development. Moreover, she presented results from measuring team cohesion over time using longitudinal paradigms and mobile wearable sensors and how they can be predicted by turn taking and mimicry. Work by Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock (U of Hamburg) also extended these results by looking at how humor dynamics (how it is presented, received, and reciprocated) during real company meetings affect the performance of groups. On the other hand, there were also interesting talks from the neuroscience community including Desmond Ong's (Singapore Univ) talk about how verbal, vocal, and visual cues differentially contribute to predicting emotion in storytelling and by Phil Kragel (U of Colorado Boulder) who showed emotion categories can be decoded by the visual cortex of the brain in response to images suggesting that there are sensory features in image stimuli that allow some decoding into what the emotional experience might be in response to the image.

Lastly, there were demo sessions which included EEG-triggered camera apps, online tool for annotating videos (http://pagan.institutedigitalgames.com), a human-like robot programmed with social signals inspired by psychology research (https://www.furhatrobotics.com/), and Kinect depth cameras to visualize poses which turns out to be presented by my personal affective computing hero Tadas Baltrusaitis who developed OpenFace (https://github.com/TadasBaltrusaitis/OpenFace).

All in all, I had a great time at ACII 2019 and am already looking forward to attending again in 2021 in Nara, Japan. I was deeply inspired by so many things at ACII including the research, the people, and the community that I hope to share with the psychology and neuroscience community. I hope this post can be helpful to those who may not have been able to attend or to others who might have not known about ACII. Once again, I am thankful that the Graduate Student Council at Dartmouth supported this trip.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By Ashley Lang, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from 2019 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Louisville, Kentucky.

This August, I had the opportunity to give my first research talk at a conference in my field at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Louisville, KY. As a PhD candidate entering my last year at Dartmouth, I saw this meeting as a chance not only to practice effectively presenting my research, but to make contact with potential post-doctoral advisors. The meeting was large, with about 2,000 presentations spread out over five days. Despite the breadth of these topics, I was able to find sessions filled with talks related to my research on soil microbial ecology and biogeochemistry, and learned some exciting new things about the functional ecology of my study system. Some of the most interesting presentations focused on understanding how microbial diversity and function affect important carbon cycling processes, a topic that has been the center of many research programs in recent years. I presented a project on this topic—relating the community of mycorrhizal fungi in forest soils with leaf litter decomposition—at a morning session on the fourth day of the conference which was focused on “linking community structure and ecosystem function.”

I also met with a potential post-doctoral advisor to discuss a grant proposal we are preparing for a NSF post-doctoral fellowship. It was great to touch base in person and iron out specifics of a project that we are actively designing to move my studies forward into the next wave of critical topics in soil carbon research. I also had the opportunity to attend a session on the last morning of the conference that has stimulated a new interest in using publically available ecological data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The session described various projects other researchers are doing with NEON data, and I subsequently have decided to use these data for my post-doctoral fellowship proposal as well. They provide an excellent jumping-off point for some really interesting questions in soil and microbial ecology that are made much more tractable by the spatially broad NEON data set.

Overall, my experiences at ESA this year were rewarding and fulfilling. I feel much more confident in presenting my research, and I learned so many new things that have influenced my thinking about my current work and ideas for future research I’d love to do. I am extremely grateful to the Graduate Student Council for funding this trip through the GSC travel grant.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By Jin Hyun Cheong, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Photo from 2019 Kavli Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of California at Santa Barbara

With the generous support from the Dartmouth Graduate Student Council (GSC), I was able to attend the 2019 Kavli Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience (a.k.a. Brain Camp) hosted at University of California at Santa Barbara. The summer program lasted for two weeks with each week focusing on different themes. The first week was directed by Dani Bassett (U Penn) and Jörn Diedrichsen (U of Western Ontario) and focused on "Intersections Between Neural Representations and Network Models." The second week was directed by Leah Somerville (Harvard U) and Luke Chang (Dartmouth College) and focused on the "Computational Social Neuroscience: Advances, Challenges, and New Directions." Approximately 70 or so fellows attended the conference from around the world.

Amongst the numerous talks, the very first experience that stood out were the human neuroanatomy labs and the neuropathology video sessions led by Robert (Bob) Knight (UC Berkeley) and Robert (Bob) Rafal (U Delaware). I've been through multiple Neuroanatomy and Psychology classes but these duo put up a class that was far more informative and interesting than any other. Especially with their long careers in Neurology, the descriptions of the pathology really came to life while they showed videos of patients showing various symptom that they themselves tested to localize the neuroanatomical sites responsible for the problems. In addition to the neuropathology lectures, talks on representations generally hovered around the notion of studying visual representations in the brain by comparing them to layers in the deep convolutional neural networks using encoding models, decoding models, and representational similarity analyses. Talks with network models discussed the application of network and topology theories on analyzing functional and anatomical connectivity of brain regions and their insights into the organization and functioning of the brain.

The second week, notable talks included those from Read Montague (Virginia Tech), Daniela Schiller (Mt Sinai), Steve Chang (Yale U), Molly Crocket (Yale), and Matthew Apps (U Oxford). I particularly enjoyed the moral neuroscience talks that tried to model how we make decisions about whether to help others. For example, Molly Crockett shared with us a paradigm in which participants had to decide between two options which had different ratios between an electric shock and a monetary gain. The basic finding was that most people would require a greater ratio or shock to dollars than for the self ($2/shock for self but $4/shock for other). These behavior were accompanied by neural activity such that the striatum activity increased more for selfish choices while the lateral prefrontal activity encoded the conflict of a moral choice such that it was most activated when inflicting pain yielded minimal profit. Moreover, the connectivity between the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral striatum was modulated by whether the individual was making selfish or kind decisions. The correlation between the two regions increased when participants were making harmful or nonsocial choices. I thought that research like these could be developed further in the future by looking at more naturalistic moral decisions which would provide a more ecologically valid and comprehensive model of moral decisions.

In addition to the academic lectures, I engaged in multiple conversations about inclusivity, diversity, and creating a safe and sustainable work environment in academia. Learning about policies implemented in other institutions such as having a graduate student in hiring committees, mandatory secondary advisors, graduate student unions, and health & dental insurances seemed to give a sense that there are modular burgeoning movements in the right direction although we are far from a global change. We talked about how misconducts in both academic and in advisor-advisee relations should be considered in grant and faculty tenure decisions such that faculty who exploit graduate students for their private gains or personal careers should be exposed and criticized. As a personal endeavor to contribute to this movement, I began working on a website through which graduate students both current and former can write about and review their advisors. Although institutional level implementations would be most effective and ideal, it is unclear when, if ever, such measures would be implemented especially when there are no real benefits for the institutions. Therefore, I think that the notion of being socially evaluated could be a beginning to start motivating faculty to improve how they are not just as scientists but also as good advisors.

Overall, I had a really exciting time at the Brain Camp 2019. I was not only able to get to know the fellows and the faculty at the academic level but also at a personal level by hanging out with them and talking about both science and not science related topics on the beach. I feel like I have made great connections and colleagues that will last throughout my career. I am once again deeply thankful to the Dartmouth GSC Student Professional Development Support Fund to help me attend the institute.

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.

By Emily Sullivan, Student Professional Development Support Fund Recipient

Emily with her poster at the 2019 OSSD meeting in Washington, D.C.

Warm, sunny Washington D.C. was the backdrop as scientists, clinicians, and policymakers from around the world gathered for four action-packed days of sharing science and networking at the 2019 meeting for the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences (OSSD). Originally founded through the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) in 2006, OSSD is now an independent non-profit educational organization which aims to facilitate interdisciplinary research and promote the field of sex/gender differences research through education, mentoring, and outreach.

The opening Sunday morning session was hosted by representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), who described key policies and programs overseen by the office. After illustrating the actions that ORWH has taken in terms of strengthening research on health conditions that affect women and the organization’s work in developing opportunities for women in biomedical careers, there was time for participant questions and discussion. Dr. Janine Clayton, Director of ORWH, set the tone for the 2019 OSSD meeting by stating - “Society needs science. Science needs women”. The mornings and the afternoons of OSSD were filled with parallel sessions in which the organizers had lined up a diverse set of talks ranging from transplacental signals to sex differences in clinical treatment of opioid use disorders. The evenings of the first two days were filled with poster sessions held in two conference rooms with many rows of posters – eager graduate students (myself included), postdoctoral students, and professors gathered, excited to share with colleagues our findings.

What I found remarkable about OSSD was the multiple trainee events. For instance, the Trainee-Mentor Lunch held on the third day of the conference sought to bring together doctoral students and postdocs with experts to discuss a number of timely subjects. Trainees had the opportunity to choose from 11 different tables and six different topics including “Dealing with toxic environments and harassment in the early career”, “A career in Academia as a woman in science”, and “Writing sex differences without sexism”. Having the occasion to ask experts their opinion, hearing them share stories, and learning how they navigated difficult situations, was an invaluable experience. The Trainee-Mentor lunch was followed by an optional educational event entitled “Ally Skills: How to Stand up and Step In” which was hosted by the charismatic Dr. Sherry Marts, President and CEO of S*Marts Consulting LLC. Dr. Marts defined and discussed diversity and inclusion and led the attendees in an activity in which we had to deliberate how to handle the problematic scenario we were provided. Since this was an optional event, I was utterly amazed by the number of people who attended and participated in the workshop (especially given the beautiful weather and the proximity of the conference center to many of the D.C. monuments and museums!).

The final awards reception began with a capstone lecture by the renowned Dr. Joan Roughgarden. In her captivating talk, “The Gender Binary in Nature, Across Human Cultures, and in the Bible”, Dr. Roughgarden provided evidence of the extensive variation in gender expression and sexuality found in the animal kingdom. She presented examples of how nature provides support neither for universal distinction between male and female categories nor universal existence of two fixed genders within species. Thus, these examples challenge the traditional Darwinian biological explanations of animal behavior. Dr. Roughgarden delved into human gender expression and sexual orientation among people in all cultures throughout the world. She concluded her riveting talk with specific examples located in the Bible containing references to variation in gender expression and sexuality to promote full inclusion of gender-variant people. Following Dr. Roughgarden’s talk and the presentation of awards, the night continued with a jazz band and delicious food.

In a field that has been traditionally dominated by men, it was wonderfully refreshing to attend a conference held by incredibly intelligent and successful women. Meeting these women who can make such a profound impact on academia, industry, and policy was thoroughly inspirational. I highly recommend attending the annual OSSD conference to any person who researches sex/gender differences, and I honestly cannot wait for the 2020 OSSD meeting which will be held in the charming Marina del Rey, CA!

Interested in learning more about how to get your travel expenses covered? Check out our student professional development support fund and our conference travel grant here.