On April 14, 2012, Alfredo Gonzalez ’15 and I attended the 66th Eastern Colleges Science Conference held this year at the William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. We were chosen by our classmates to represent them at the meeting. Practicing and practicing our spiels for may have prepared us for our presentation of our lab’s work, but it did not prepare us for the conference itself. As college freshmen in the Friar Phage Hunters lab, we had already performed experiments and analyzed data fit for upperclassmen. However, the minute we stepped inside the conference with our posters, we realized just how young and naïve we actually are. With four poster sessions of about thiry posters each, multiple podium presentations, manuscript submissions, and a keynote speaker who had started two biotech companies by the age of 40, the entire conference was simultaneously intimidating and inspiring.
People are brilliant. People our age, people in our school, people working on the same project as us. Even when we were presenting the genome of our phage, Job42, the work of our own hands and minds, we were still learning from people around us. One man, possibly an undercover judge, spent ten minutes with us discussing possible reasons for comet plaques, using his own research with antibacterial drugs to teach us about our own results. Indeed, as prepared as we thought we were, we left the conference knowing more about our phages than we did upon arrival.
Such an experience was priceless. I have never been so out of my league, yet so inspired to reach the level of those around me. I made memories with the upperclassmen at PC who I can share lab experiences with in the future. I met professors whose experience and knowledge I know will be an invaluable resource for me as I continue to become a biologist. But most importantly, I realized how far we as a lab have come in a year, and also how far I still have to go. At this point in my bio career, as a rising sophomore, this conference only solidified my interest to pursue biological research.
Torie Schwartz ‘15