The Art and Science of Navigating the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting

By Latrice G. Landry

ASHG Annual MeetingThe American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) hosts the largest human genetics and genomics meeting and exposition in the world. After two years of remote conferencing, ASHG anticipates over 6000 attendees this year. The 2022 Annual Meeting will be at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California from October 25-29th. The meeting provides 4 days of scientific content, 334 platform and 18 plenary talks, 3000+ posters presented in two poster sessions, networking events, a career fair, professional development sessions, an expo, society skill building with diversity, equity and inclusion programming, as well as the presidential address and presidential symposium. The sheer size of the meeting combined with the cutting-edge research and researchers can easily be overwhelming. Therefore, whether this is your first ASHG Annual Meeting or just the first meeting in two years, I’d like to share my conference P R I O R I T Y [PRESENT, RESEARCH, INSPIRE, OBSERVE, RELAX, INTERACT, TRAIN and say YES.]


Present- Thinking about presenting for the conference occurs before the actual conference with the submission of an abstract or a proposal for plenary session or workshop. Therefore, this is the first PRIORITY. Pay attention to the deadlines and set reasonable timetables for completion. Plenary and Workshop proposals deadlines are early in the year typically between January and March. The abstract deadline for this year was June 9, 2022. If you missed it, there may be an opportunity for late-breaking abstracts, which is decided later by the committee. If you’re interested in late-breaking abstracts be sure to check the website frequently so you don’t miss the deadline. If your research is in too early a stage to present, the abstract submission is generally in June so set a calendar invite to yourself for April 2023 to begin next year’s abstract submission.


Research- It’s a research conference, so many attendees are very familiar with the idea of research. However, this PRIORITY is about researching the actual meeting. Prior to the meeting, ASHG will release an agenda and an interactive planner for you to see the titles, descriptions and presenters of all talks and posters, as well as the professional development, networking and ancillary activities. Taking time to do your research on the meeting can help you make the most of it. Which scientists or scientific ideas are you most interested in? When are those events happening? You can use the mobile and online planner to help you visualize the schedule and keep it all organized.


Inspire/Be Inspired- There’s a lot of information to take in. Just remember committing to the annual conference (meeting people and being exposed to the cutting edge work of others) is a part of the long game in science— aim to be inspired. I’ve heard others refer to large academic conferences as the “Woodstock” of a field. They are intended to be inspiring, from the exhibit halls, the people, and the science. Don’t forget to inspire and be inspired. It’s all a part of the fun of attending.


Observe- If this is your first conference, your first in a few years, or you just want to try to get the most out of it, you may just want to observe others. Everyone approaches the Annual Meeting differently. There’s a lot you can learn about how different people spend their time at conference. This may expose you to things you hadn’t considered doing. Remember, there’s a lot to the annual meeting and you can’t possibly do it all even with careful planning. Therefore, the experience of others may provide insight to your next meeting ‘MUST DO’.


Relax- Conferences are designed for many things – relaxation is one of them. Typically, there are chairs in the corridors, gathering spots in the exhibit hall and time in the schedule for breaks. While you may be tempted to grab a corner and grab a bite to eat, while working through breakfast, lunch and dinner on your laptop, please don’t.  Doing so will cause you to miss one of the key functions of conference—bringing people together, enjoying the experience, and getting a good nights’ rest for once.


Interact– If you do not meet a single new person at the annual meeting, you have done yourself a disservice. We are all different. It is understood that some of us are really good at putting ourselves out there and meeting new people, and for some of us, these interactions are a real effort. However, the long game in science requires networking. Networking requires meeting new people and there is no better place for geneticists to network with other geneticists than the ASHG annual meeting. So, think about a strategy or observe someone else’s (See Letter “O”) and make this your networking event.


Train- Whether it is resume writing, CV review, interviewing help, finding jobs, starting a lab, or climbing the ladder in industry, the career fair and Career Development programming provide a variety of opportunities to train. So, what are the skills, resources, connections you need to take your next step? Once you know what you need you can do your research (See first “R”) and plan accordingly.


When in doubt say “YES”- There are likely to be some new things at this year’s Annual Meeting. There will be talks you are interested in but aren’t exactly in your area, networking events you aren’t sure about, or a chance encounter with a colleague who says “Do you want to come with me(us) to this”. Conferences are an opportunity to open your horizons, experience new areas of research, meet new people, re-invent your passion for science. So, when in doubt, say “YES”.

Feel free to share your ASHG Annual Meeting 2022 #PRIORITY with me @lmglandry.

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