The best perks we get as researchers are not actually pens that are shaped like micropipettes. Nor is it syringe-shaped highlighters, sticky-note paper, or any of the other pretty awesome free stuff that I’ve scored from various lab equipment suppliers over the years. It is the chance to attend international conferences.
This notion was brought to my attention very early in my honours degree. If I do really good work, not only might I save the world and get a Nobel Prize but I would also be PAID to present my work overseas somewhere. And, better than that, people might actually want to hear what I have to say and I could travel around lecturing to various universities.
That was the dream. That dream lead me to a PhD and, eventually, to reality. I am becoming increasingly suspicious that my research may not directly save the world and, unless serendipity steps up sometime, a Nobel Prize may not be heading my way anytime soon. But I might contact the committee again anyway, just in case they lost my number.
One thing reality has shown me is that I do have is the real chance to present at a conference. At this time of year many of us start to peruse the conference alert websites and prepare abstracts for faraway places with relevant topics.
Conferences are where ideas are shared and networks and collaborations are formed. It’s also just cool to get paid to travel regardless of the reams of paperwork that inevitably ensues.
And in meeting other researchers, there is always the possibility that a new idea will spark a stream of thought that leads to a Nobel prize-winning breakthrough, or that a new collaboration will lead to a discovery that will ultimately lead to the world being saved. Hope springs eternal.
At the very least, if all else fails, attending the conference will invariably bring me more lab-supplier-stamped free stuff. And it’s almost worth it just for that.