As a PhD student at UC Berkeley, I have had the privilege of attending various conferences in the fields of public health, toxicology, and cancer biology. I have, however, yet to attend a conference that focuses entirely on my research interest of endocrine disruptors. The Society of Toxicology (SOT) Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award provided me with the opportunity to attend the 11th Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Environmental Endocrine Disruptors (EEDs) in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, from June 3–8, 2018. This year’s conference marked the 20th anniversary of the first GRC on EEDs and brought together leading experts on endocrine disruptors from around the world. I am deeply appreciative of this award as it allowed me to partake in a notable conference in a picturesque country known for academic scientific inquiry, all while advancing my laboratory pursuits and future career as a research scientist.
Sylvia Sanchez at the Gordon Research Conference
Although my research projects are well aligned with the GRC conference, the oral presentations and posters encompassed a broad range of topics in toxicology that were new to me. These topics ranged from EED effects on wildlife and animal models to mixtures and low dose effects, along with strategies on how to incorporate various study results into risk assessment. In this regard, I was able to learn about topics with which I am unfamiliar and broaden my understanding about this field. Moreover, the unique informal setting facilitated valuable discussion among renowned scientists and junior colleagues, like myself. The discussions and friendships were formed both in the conference setting as well as during outdoor activities including hikes, three-course meals, and castle and glacier visits. The conference fostered numerous opportunities for interaction among all attendees through oral and poster presentations. Furthermore, it shaped my current understanding of how researchers globally are applying diverse methods and techniques, with the shared desire to help mitigate the same issues.
Group trip to Glacier 3000 during a free afternoon
The key skills gained from this experience include increased knowledge of topics with which I was unfamiliar, the ability to provide others with feedback based on my own laboratory expertise, insight on my own poster presentation and research, and networking with scientific experts and trainees. These skills will improve not only the quality of my work but also make me a more effective researcher.
With respect to professional development, I attended the conference to reinforce my interest in the field as well as raise my own awareness of areas where I can contribute. As a result, over the course of the next 12 months, this conference has inspired me to provide better mentorship and guidance to my undergraduate student as she begins her thesis, formulate new ideas and collaborations with experts in other areas of endocrine disruptor research (possibly Dr. Monica Lind and Dr. Marieta Fernandez) to incorporate into my dissertation, continue a discussion on the possibility of careers not in academia with attendees I met (especially with Nicole Acevedo and Katie Pelch), and complete a mandatory trainee assignment of reading Our Stolen Future. Thanks to this SOT award, I am one step closer to these goals.
A daily view on the walk to the conference site in Les Diablerets