An Inside Perspective on Events for Young Scientists at CRS 2022
As I registered for the CRS 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo just a couple weeks ago, I scrolled through a menu of events that brought back memories of Annual Meetings past. Short elevator pitches from dozens of young scientists filled the Valencia convention center during the “YSC Professional Development Workshop” in 2019. During the pandemic, virtual renditions of “Chats with a Luminary” had me waking up early and staying up late to get career advice from brilliant scientists. This year– after two years of virtual meetings, and amidst uncertainty around the end of the pandemic– the Young Scientist Committee (YSC) has organized in-person programming for the Annual Meeting in Montréal. I was curious to hear about the challenges and successes of planning this year’s events, so I sat down with the current chair of the Young Scientist Committee (YSC), Chelsea Thorn.
Chelsea is currently a Senior Scientist at Pfizer after completing her PhD at the University of South Australia in August 2021. As chair of the YSC, she leads a team of 29 members in addition to 18 ambassadors around the world. About planning for this year overall, she notes, “We’ve been really excited to plan for an in-person meeting– it’s been challenging but we just hope everything goes well!” This year’s series of events may look familiar to those that have attended past Meetings. The Professional Development workshop (Monday 7/11, 11:30-1pm) targets skill development in early career scientists, and this year focuses on crafting a professional CV. This year’s event is sponsored by longtime supporter CureVac. Other familiar events include the “Get Up and Get Educated” workshops (7/12 and 7/13, 8-9am) and “CV on a Poster” during the poster session (7/13, 9-10pm) for young scientists interested in networking or job-seeking.
Chelsea herself is most excited for the YSC Networking event (7/11, 9-10pm), a mostly social affair that will take place on the rooftop of the convention center this year. “I’d say this is the biggest event that suffered with the online meetings, just having fun with people in person!” This year’s event will be co-hosted with the Focus Groups on opening night, likely making it one of the largest events of the conference.
On Tuesday, young scientists can start and end their day with luminaries in the drug delivery field. The “Start with the Luminaries” event (7/12, 8-9am) will allow attendees to rotate through roundtables featuring established scientists from academia and industry. “This event was really successful in virtual format,” said Chelsea, due to the high capacity of Zoom breakout rooms and the ability to host morning and evening events, better accommodating luminaries and attendees from different time zones. Given the historically high attendance of this event, Chelsea continued, “the challenge has been to make sure attendees will have personable interactions with the luminaries.” Those that wake up early are sure to enjoy this ticketed event. At the end of the day, the YSC will present a “Meet and Greet with a Luminary” session (7/12, 9-10pm) featuring Clare Hoskins, Reader at the University of Strathclyde and Chair of the Annual Meeting Program Committee. As Chelsea said, this is a great opportunity to hear from someone who has had “an amazing career and has an inside view on planning the conference.”
Some events have a fresh twist this year, like the Industry Session (7/12, 1-2:30pm) which will feature a panel on the transition from academia to industry with speakers Marianne Ashford (AstraZeneca), Maria-Teresa Peracchia (Sanofi), Mark Prausnitz (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Petra Schreiner (Genevant Sciences Corporation). Genevant is a first-time sponsor of the YSC. The Scientific Workshop (7/14, 2-3pm) will feature a hybrid-style pre-conference element: interested young scientists are invited to compete in a “5-minute thesis” video competition. “This was a really challenging event to bring back to the in-person format because during the virtual meetings, we had 4 hours to hear from a whole range of young scientists, but now we are limited to just 1 hour,” Chelsea commented. The pre-conference competition will allow participation from young scientists who may not be able to attend the Annual Meeting in person but still want to connect with others in the community.
That has been the largest challenge around planning this year’s events: the uncertainty around COVID-19, travel restrictions, visas, and affordability. “International travel is still not going to be possible for every YSC member this year,” Chelsea told me, due to travel restriction policies from some companies or universities. “We’ve grown so large over the past couple years and created a worldwide YSC network, which makes it hard to know we’re not going to see everyone in person this year.” The CRS event website maintains updated visa & travel information and offers reduced registration rates to attendees from low and middle income countries (more information here).
For those that can attend, the 2022 Annual Meeting is on track to be fun, busy, and full of great science. To any first-timers and early career attendees, Chelsea has the following advice: “Don’t sleep, go to every event possible, and do as much as you can!” More seriously, she recommends attending the YSC events to meet lots of people at a similar career stage, and to enjoy the ability to see people in person. It is a welcome change and one we will never again take for granted.