Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) 2023 Recap

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I attended the 2023 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) that was held this year in Downtown Phoenix, AZ from Nov 14-18, 2023 at the Phoenix Convention Center. It is one of the leading STEM events bringing together researchers that are historically underrepresented across academia and medicine. There were numerous sessions related to professional development, career development, and advocacy. Networking lunches and dinners were provided each day. Poster competitions and judging occurred in the exhibitor hall. I will also say that the ABRCMS app worked great for the meeting. I will just highlight some takeaways from this year’s meeting.

ABRCMS Graduate Student Symposium

ABRCMS historically has been focused on undergraduate students. In recent years, it has expanded the content to cover graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. This was the 2nd year of the graduate student symposium, and there was a significant increase in participants. Last year there were 100, but this year there were 300. The main difference that I observed was that most of the attendees last year were postdoctoral fellows and senior graduate students. This year’s cohort seemed to have more Master’s students and earlier stage graduate students. As part of the symposium, I moderated one of the Cancer Biology Oral Presentation sessions. The speakers did a great job presenting their work, fielding questions, and staying on time. I also sat in one a great session on Branding that was hosted by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

ABRCMS Grad Student Symposium

Career Pathways & Opportunities In STEM Disciplines Discussions

One the opening day of the main conference there were 12 different concurrent sessions based on the 12 core competencies at ABRCMS related to STEM careers. Our panel had 3 speakers and we spoke about Cancer Biology Career Pathways. Dr. Rae Hunter is a Technical Specialist at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP. Katherine Petersen, MS, RDN, CS is an Oncology Registered Dietician at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. I represented the SCHEQ Foundation as the Founder & CEO. We each spent 3 minutes doing a general intro, and then we each had slides for 5-10 minutes. We all talked about our degrees, career transitions, professional development, and finding your niche. We spent the remainder of the time answering great questions from the audience. In essence, what you get your degree in does not dictate what you can or have to do for the rest of your career.

Poster Competition Judging

This year I was asked to judge posters in Engineering, Physics, and Math. I had 9 posters to judge in 3 different sessions. I think they were trying to test if I really am a hybrid scientist. Just kidding. Some posters covered biomaterials, nanoparticles, 3D tissue environments, and applications in cancer. The students did a great job on the presentations. This year we had about 75 minutes to judge posters in each session, which was better than the 60 minutes we had last year. If you were efficient, you could get through your reviews. Sometimes, it makes me miss being in the lab. But I don’t miss it enough when I remember about ordering reagents, supplies, antibodies, and kits again.

Downtown Phoenix

I had not been to Phoenix probably since 1999 when I was considering ASU in Tempe for a MS in Biomedical Engineering. I will say that Downtown Phoenix was nice and walkable, but you would definitely need a vehicle if you lived in the city. They also have a tram/rail system, but I did not have a chance to ride it. We also saw these driverless cars, that I think are run or owned by Waymo. At first, we thought it was the police, and then we thought it was driverless food delivery. We finally learned that these are driverless cars that can go around the downtown area and beyond, and people will order them to go to places or do errands. Since I did not get into one, I can not tell you what the cost is versus Uber or Lyft.

The stadiums are also downtown. We learned this on the 2nd day as there was a Phoenix Suns game. Every single bar downtown was packed before the game, and I got roasted by friends because when I walked past those restaurants earlier in the day, I could have made a dinner reservation. I presumed that they would not be packed in the evening, and then we promptly had to wait 50 minutes to get seated.

I also learned that the closer you are to the convention center, the price of food jumps enormously. I stayed at the Hyatt Place and routinely ate at Adam’s Table or Dust Cutter in the Renaissance, and the prices were not bad. One day we ate in the Sheraton Phoenix, and I thought I was back in NYC with those prices. So next year when I come back for SACNAS, I will still stay at the Hyatt Place. The weather was also comfortable. However, it was also mid-November, so the summer heat was gone. That being said, dry skin does not do well in Arizona.

Overall, it was a great meeting. I saw great presentations, made new connections, and it was great to help people along on their journey. I am looking forward to next year’s ABRCMS which will be in Pittsburgh.