One of the best parts of UMR is the ease of becoming involved in a vast range of opportunities. I was lucky enough to be asked to join a research group my sophomore year at UMR exploring the group learning capabilities within zebrafish with Dr. Dunbar and Dr. Petzold. Over the last three years, I have learned more than I could've hoped, from zebrafish maintenance, to research methodology, to statistics and poster creation and presentation. As a culmination of my research time at UMR, Dr. Dunbar decided to allow Courtnee Heyduk and myself to travel to San Diego to present our research at the annual Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference this month.
Prior to the conference, we worked hard to complete our posters and finalize the data. I was preparing to present the results of the long-term memory testing of the trained groups of zebrafish. After a few drawbacks with data collection, we finally gathered enough data to present and none too soon. The posters were off to print somewhere in Asia and miraculously arrived only two days after we had placed the order. After packing some clothes for warmer weather and we were off!
We decided to enjoy San Diego for a few days before jumping into the conference and were able to see almost the entire San Diego Zoo. I understand why people say it is one of the best zoos in the world, it was incredible! Plus it was warm! Walking around the whole day in the sun without a jacket on was fabulous.
Come Monday it was off to the conference! We had heard it would be a large gathering of people, upwards of 40,000 people, however, it is hard to grasp what that exactly meant. In a convention center that spanned 4-5 city blocks, it took a bit to walk from one end to the other and take everything in. We began with a talk on journal publishing that gave us great insight into what would be necessary to complete the paper that we are currently working on. After, we dove into the poster session where literally hundreds if not thousands of posters were begin presented simultaneously. We stopped at the ones that we could understand at least part of the title. That night we got to present our posters for the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) social. It was fun to meet other undergrads and hear what their research focused on.
After a few more days of perusing the posters and parsing through talks that sparked curiosity in their methods and findings, we finally reached Wednesday when I was able to present at the full meeting. Because it was the last day of the conference, it wasn't quite as busy as the other days, but there were still plenty of people that were interested in what we were doing. Many of them were also conducting research on zebrafish so it was interesting to learn what their methodologies and talk about the capabilities of zebrafish. It was a great experience and the four hour poster session went quickly. We packed up our poster, headed back to our hotel and prepared for our return to the cold Minnesota.
Many of the individuals that I talked with at SfN were surprised that we were undergraduates completing this research and there to present. It is a rare experience for individuals at our age, but it is one of the benefits of attending UMR. We had a great time, learned a lot and are better prepared for our futures in the scientific field!