Sunday, November 20, 2011

Conferences, Conferences

One of the hardest parts of being a distance student is a sense of disconnectedness from your peers and mentors. This disconnectedness can lead to a loss of momentum and motivation in the program. So what is a student to do?? This fall, I've been attending a few research conferences. The first was the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science's Special Topics in DC. And now, I'm currently at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston, MA. I actually submitted a late-breaker abstract this year, but it wasn't accepted. Alas. Regardless, I thought going to the conference would be a good idea anyways. And I was right!

Going to these research conferences is like a burst of inspiration and motivation. Seriously. Here I am rubbing elbows with some of the best researchers in my area of interest. I actually did a 4 mile run with one of them this morning!  We had a nice conversation about our research interests and what opportunities there may be for a PhD graduate a few years from now. Wow. Not only that, I get to talk to other PhD students in various stages of obtaining their degrees during the poster sessions, and network with universities that may be offering post-doc opportunities. I've found myself volunteering to participate in interest groups and task forces. Plus, walking through the poster sessions and listening to the symposia and paper sessions gets me thinking about different ways of studying my area of interest. Even better, I'm starting to see the benefits of that first year of course work! Even my statistics classes, if you can believe it.

I went to the same conferences last year and I can definitely tell a difference in my understanding of the research presentations this year. So all that hard work was productive after all….imagine that. I actually know what it means to "adjust for covariates" and to "use the Bonferroni correction." Not only that, I'm starting to critically appraise other researchers' methods. Not that I would openly question them at this point. I usually reserve that discussion for some of the familiar faculty who are also at the conference. That's another thing, I really get to interact with faculty from the university here. I am able to listen to their research presentations and see them in a different light other than solely an educator. I get to pick their brain about life after graduation, such as what to expect when thinking about/going up for tenure or what to look for in jobs afterwards.

So all in all, it's been a great few days here in Boston. And I'm going to be leaving here feeling all jazzed up about research and nursing and whatnot. Plus, the wheels are already turning as I ponder what other conferences I can get to so I can keep the motivation train going…