As I write this article on behalf of the International Affairs Committee (IAC), I cannot help but remember my first scientific meeting, the ASCB Annual Meeting in Houston, TX, years ago. I was a second-year graduate student from China, with broken English, at the Ohio State University. When I flew to Texas from dry and cold Ohio, all the panels on my poster board became wrinkled. I was scared by the sheer size of the meeting and worried sick about presenting my wrinkled poster in broken English to scientists I had never met.
With current high-tech printing, the kind of poster mishaps I had are unlikely now, but the overwhelming feeling of attending a large international meeting is the same for our first-time international attendees. They may find themselves at a meeting in a foreign country, alone, not knowing anyone, and feeling lost among the sea of people, posters, and talks. The IAC plans to recruit student and postdoc ambassadors to help connect newcomers with old timers in their respective fields at the Annual Meeting. We hope this effort will allow new and/or young attendees to make long-lasting connections and friendships with their fellow scientists around the world.
The IAC offered travel awards to international graduate students and postdocs to attend the Annual Meeting in both 2014 and 2015 and will continue offering international travel awards of $500–700 each. We hope that this seed money will help students and postdocs to obtain additional funding from their home institutions to attend the meeting.
IAC members are also active in organizing scientific exchange activities year round. I will highlight two examples. First, IAC member Celia Garcia is spearheading an effort to raise funds for a two-week course on the frontiers of cell biology in Brazil. Although there were some initial setbacks in fund raising, we have identified funding agencies interested in offering support. We plan to apply for additional funding in 2016 to hold the Brazil course in 2017. Second, IAC member James Ntambi has initiated a joint effort with DrosAfrica, a not-for-profit organization that trains African scientists to do research using Drosophila as a model system, to raise funds for a two-day workshop on cell biology in central Africa. This two-day workshop will be held either right before or after the Drosophila workshop organized by DrosAfrica.
I want to end by thanking the enthusiastic members of the IAC and ASCB Scientific Program Manager Desirée Salazar. The IAC has renewed energy to help promote scientific exchange on behalf of ASCB in the coming year. If you are interested in organizing new activities and events, please contact us via the IAC webpage (http://bit.ly/22YriXT). As you can see, after my first “wrinkled poster” experience at the ASCB meeting, I have found my scientific home. I hope that by actively engaging in ASCB’s activities, you will make this wonderful Society your scientific home too.
-Yixian Zheng, Chair, International Affairs Committee