As a graduate student working under a new PI, a GSA travel award allowed me to attend the 2013 Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS) when the trip would have otherwise
been unaffordable to our lab. The EAS was held November 18-20 in Somerset New Jersey and
featured oral and poster presentations from PIs, postdocs and students that spanned a range
of topics related to analytical chemistry and spectroscopy. Although I am a PhD candidate in
the Biomedical Engineering department, I work in the lab of Dominique Frueh, an assistant
professor in the Biophysics department. Our lab studies protein structure and dynamics in
solution using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. During the conference
I presented a poster displaying my recent work: development of user-friendly data analysis
software for quantifying protein dynamics. In addition to the benefits afforded to me, my poster
also helped to promote our lab in anticipation of our first peer-reviewed publication.
I attended the conference with my PI, who gave an oral presentation on the second day of
the conference. His presentation featured my work along with data that another graduate student
in our lab collected. A question asked by a colleague after his talk spawned a fruitful discussion
on the validity of the error analysis methods implemented in my software. The conversation
continued into the subsequent poster session where I was able to more completely explain our
method and promote my work. We also received a request for the software, which we agreed to
fulfill once we had finalized our publication in the following few weeks.
Visiting the EAS also exposed me to the topics currently under research by premier
scientists in my field, many of whom I had not yet seen in person before. The oral presentations
spanned theoretical topics, such as signal-to-noise ratio enhancements stemming from biased
sampling schemes when using non-uniform sampling NMR techniques, to more applied work,
such as the observation of extremely low-population protein conformations with solution NMR.
The conference also exposed me to solid-state NMR for the first time. I found these talks to be
interesting, as solid-state NMR uses the same mathematical theory as solution NMR but applies
it from a completely different perspective. The oral presentations culminated in the presentation
of an award to Dennis Torchia for his outstanding achievements in both solution and solid-
state NMR over the course of his career. He gave an excellent talk summarizing the impressive
advancements made in the field of NMR over the last three decades.
All told the trip was a wonderful experience. It gave me experience promoting and
defending my research to experts in my field and allowed me to develop additional skills that I
will need in any future career. Additionally, I extended my knowledge of NMR both within my
direct field and to new areas I had never explored. I was even able to enjoy dinner with my PI
and an old friend of his. It was intriguing to hear them recount their graduate and postdoctoral
careers while contrasting them with my own experience. My trip to the EAS would not have
been possible without the GSA, and I thank it again for its support.