This past February I was able to assist to the Gordon Research Conference - Plant Herbivore Interactions. Now, for those of you who do not know what a Gordon Research Conference or GRC as it's normally referred to are, their website describes it as "an organization that organizes prestigious international scientific conferences dedicated to advancing the frontiers of scientific research in the biological, chemical, and physical sciences, and their related technologies." And as I went through their website right now, I found out there are about 365 different conferences organized by them O_o. That's a lot! Anyway, in simpler terms, GRCs are small conferences (about 200 people for ours) where new and unpublished research is presented, there are poster presentations as well as invited oral presentations. This one in particular happens each other year. You are not allowed to post anything on social media about the research that is being presented and it creates a great environment for discussion of new ideas and development of potential collaborations, etc. The meeting can feel a little expensive cause you make one payment of about $1000 dollars for registration, but this includes registration, hotel, food, and even a little of booze ;) So it might feel like a lot but if you consider all these separate payments when you go to a regular conference you end up paying about the same.
This particular meeting also had a GRS (Gordon Research Seminar) for the first time. The seminars are sort of a mini GRC where only post docs and grad students interact. It is a great way to ease into the meeting as there are fewer people and they are closer in your age and level of expertise. It can help you feel more comfortable before all the big wigs come for the GRC ;) I was able to be a discussion leader for one of the GRS sessions and it was a great experience as well, so I highly recommend you sign up for that if you plan to go to one (also, you get some money back :D ).
So before the meeting, I was pretty stressed about it because I was presenting a poster on a project that has been giving me a headache for a long time, and honestly, didn't have very good data. I came out of the session with great ideas from everyone and even a collaboration, which is basically the point of the meeting, so don't ever let that stop you from going. Science-wise it was a great investment. I got to meet people doing great science from many different parts of the world, make new friends, listen to some very interesting research, etc, etc, etc, everything good you can think of about a conference. Social-wise too, of course, and personal-wise, traveling is always a great investment, we even took a short break and went whale watching.
And because not everything is always perfect, some not so awesome things about the meeting: 1. The meeting is pretty intense, sessions begin at 9 am until noon, then you have afternoons off and start again around 4 pm with posters, a break for dinner and then go on for more talks until 9 pm. So be prepared! Coffee and black tea were my friends, as well as short naps in the afternoon. 2. The room for poster sessions was pretty small and we ended up having to yell a lot and my throat hurt quite a bit by the end of the sessions. Also, as an introvert, it was a lot of people in a small space so I would take short breaks outside the room to reenergize and come back :P This was something of this meeting in particular and as I understand venues change, so next time we might not have this problem. 3. We had a pretty bad storm the day we were leaving... like really bad - but unfortunately that's something we couldn't control and it still allowed for a great adventure.
In summary, GREAT meeting, highly recommend it. There are many different topics so there might be some that fit your research better. If there is one, do it! go! even if you have to pay for it yourself!! Here is a link to their website so you can check out what's available: https://www.grc.org/conferences.aspx
PS: I took a quick detour to LA and visited some aunts and cousins whom I hadn't seen in about TWENTY years! I know, I'm terrible. And they took me to this awesome Honduran restaurant #yum. It was a great way to end a great meeting.