Local and National Conferences – How We Prepare Our Scholars for Success in Research Presentations

San Diego State University’s (SDSU’s) Initiatives for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program is proud of the level at which we develop our undergraduate students. Aside from the professional development and academic assistance we provide to our scholars, one of the best way we equip our Aztecs for success is by preparing them to present their research and sending them to conferences around the United States.

The IMSD Program proudly collaborates with SDSU’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program for many events throughout the academic year. Both the IMSD and MARC programs are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and have similar goals to diversify academia and the sciences by increasing diverse student representation at the graduate level. Every year the IMSD and MARC Programs put together an event called the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). In October of 2016, the programs held their 9th annual URS, where each student presents their research to a group of peers, mentors, and judges. The purpose of the URS is to prepare our students for national conferences in the comfort of their own university surrounded by the support of their peers and mentors. It is a priority of ours to send our undergrads off successfully to conferences, prepared to present their research under specific time constraints, knowing their audience, and trained to answer questions. This year we had 29 undergraduates present their research to 18 judges in their field.

SDSU’s URS is always strategically scheduled before two national conferences that we encourage our students to apply to every year: The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Our students complete their URS experience just in time to participate in either SACNAS or ABRCMS.

This year SACNAS was held in Long Beach, California in late October. Its theme surrounded issues of diversity and public understanding with the ultimate goal of motivating, inspiring and engaging researchers-in-training to achieve their academic and occupational goals. Between the IMSD and MARC Programs 16 scholars attended and presented their research on subjects that ranged from neural oscillations in young adult binge drinkers to new methods to synthesize azaspirene for new cancer treatments. SACNAS is one of our favorite conferences to send our scholars to because of the support the organization gives to undergrads and graduate students. This year, almost all of our scholars were provided a partial or complete travel scholarship, which included registration, travel and lodging. For those of you who are interested in attending a national conference that is geared towards STEM fields and embraces diversity, SACNAS is for you (https://sacnas.org/). Although our Aztecs didn’t take home any awards this year at SACNAS, they certainly walked away with additional research, networking, and mentorship experiences. We are looking forward to sending more of our scholars to Salt Lake City, Utah where the conference will be held in 2017.

SACNAS 2016 student group

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Every year, shortly after the SACNAS Conference is over, it is time for ABRCMS. This year the conference was held in early November in Tampa, Florida. ABRCMS allows our students the opportunity to present their research via a poster or oral presentation. Our students come from diverse backgrounds and conduct research in the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, psychology, among others. ABRCMS is a huge conference for our STEM students: over 2,000 undergraduates travel from all over the United States to present their research, network, and celebrate diversity. Between the IMSD and MARC Programs, 15 scholars attended and presented their research in Tampa. Our students were particularly inspired by the sessions ABRCMS held by scholars and experts in STEM fields, such as Dr. Juan Gilbert from the University of Florida. The IMSD and MARC Programs proudly boast of the six Outstanding Presentation Awards our students were awarded:

Tess Condeff, IMSD, graduating senior, biology major, Outstanding Poster Presentation Award
Seraphina Solders, IMSD, graduating senior, biology psychology double major, Outstanding Oral               Presentation Award
Norhan Alhajjar, IMSD, graduating senior, biology major, Outstanding Poster Presentation Award
Kyle Logan, IMSD, junior, chemistry major, Outstanding Oral Presentation Award
Eric Gonzales, MARC, graduating senior, chemistry major, Outstanding Poster Presentation Award
Alexandra Mallory, MARC, graduating senior, aerospace engineering major, Outstanding Poster Presentation Award




We believe our preparation strategies for our students works. Our Programs look forward to joining ABRCMS next year in Arizona (http://www.abrcms.org/index.php/abrcms) to continue to prioritize and highlight diversity in STEM fields.

Outside of the URS, SACNAS, and ABRCMS Conferences, the IMSD Program encourages our students to participate in other field-specific conferences to further develop their presentation skills and exposure to research. Check out some of these field-specific conferences if you are interested in presenting research! It’s always a good idea to talk to faculty members or do a Google search of your own to find opportunities to present your research locally or nationally!