Making the Most of Your Time at a Scientific Meeting

Posted by: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant, ASHG; Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG 

This is the third and final installment of our three-part blog series with tips on attending a scientific meeting like ASHG 2018. Check out part one about budgeting, and part two about attending a meeting without colleagues!

There are many reasons to attend a scientific meeting, but the top three we hear are for education, networking, and travel. Here’s how to accomplish those goals.


ASHG Annual Meetings are a great opportunity to learn about new technology and research spanning a wide breadth of genetics topics. So how can you possibly absorb all this new information? Plan it out! Use our online planner to browse, search, and filter out the subject matter that most interests you. The app is another great planning tool, and you can take notes on the app for the sessions you attend. Find and download it at:

Need more tips on getting the most out of attending? Watch this quick video:


Whether you’re attending as a mentor or to be mentored, you can always use opportunities to connect with people in your field. A hot spot to network is the Exhibit and Poster Hall: Your Solutions Hub. With over 250 exhibitors, it can be overwhelming, but you’re in luck! This year, ASHG is offering custom itineraries that follow a variety of career tracks, directing you to exhibitors that will best fit your interests. Check the 2018 meeting site soon for details.

While networking with people in senior positions is valuable, Emily Davenport, member of the ASHG Training & Development Committee, reminds us that peer networking matters, too. “People often think they should network ‘up,’ but it’s really valuable to meet other trainees from different institutions who are in the same position you are, or similar. These are the people who could one day be your new lab mates or eventually PIs themselves,” she said.

Finally, social events are part of the Meeting for a reason! We are one genetics community, and we love to talk shop, but we also want to unwind together. Check out events like the TweetUp, or any of the ancillary and exhibitor events! The Welcome Networking Reception is also a great opportunity to connect with fellow attendees. You never know what shared hobbies could bond you to a fellow colleague.

ASHG 2017 TweetUp, Orlando, Florida

Enjoy the City

Coronado, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center)

A scientific meeting is more than just a chance to expand your knowledge and career; it’s time in a different city and should be used as a chance to explore. Check out our blog post on fun San Diego neighborhoods that are close to the Convention Center, or read the ASHG 2018 travel page. Add networking to the mix by using #ASHG18 and #ASHGTrainee on social media to find fellow attendees looking to explore!

We hope you’re as excited for ASHG 2018 as we are, and we wish you luck achieving all your meeting goals!

Neighborhoods to Discover in San Diego

Posted by: Amanda Olsen, ASHG Meetings Assistant

There are so are many places to explore in San Diego, host city to the ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting this October, that we cannot cover them all. Learn more about exciting San Diego and all it has to offer.

Gaslamp Quarter—adjacent to the Convention Center; a short walk

Conveniently located across the street from the San Diego Convention Center, the Gaslamp Quarter is a lively downtown neighborhood that offers great food, premier entertainment, and rich history. The area features diverse cultural offerings including performance art, historic architecture, and many museums. To explore the district’s 150-year story, you can take a guided walking tour, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a nighttime Ghosts of Gaslamp walk. Foodies will delight in the myriad exciting dining options around every corner. Often called the “historic heartbeat of San Diego,” this neighborhood is a must-see.

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Café 21: Farm-freshy, healthy food and a popular happy hour.
  • Barleymash: Extensive beer list and great pub fare.
  • La Puerta: The best spot for Mexican food in Gaslamp.
  • Werewolf: A place for good burgers, beer, and scrumptious weekend breakfast.

Coronado—3 miles from Convention Center; 15 minutes by taxi or ferry

The Coronado coastline offers beautiful sandy beaches and a beachfront boardwalk filled with oceanfront dining, unique shops, and breathtaking views. The area is best known for the Victorian Hotel de Coronado, a 19th century-era grand resort that has hosted some of the biggest names in U.S. history. Soak up the sun on the beach or soak in the culture at the Coronado Museum of History & Art. Beyond beach lounging, you can sail, paddle, surf, kayak, and even ride on a gondola, Venetian-style. Coronado is a relaxing 15-minute ferry ride from the Convention Center.

Coronado, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Nado Gelato: Ranked by TripAdvisor as the #1 place to eat in Coronado, this spot offers authentic Italian gelato, a dessert to die for.
  • Poehe: A top-rated fine-dining restaurant offering fresh seafood and beautiful bay views.
  • Miguel’s Cocina: Where you’ll find the best Tex-Mex in Coronado.
  • Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge: A local gem with an eclectic menu that satisfies every palate.
  • Clayton’s Coffee shop: A neighborhood institution with classic diner fare.

Old Town—5.5 miles; 15-minute taxi ride

History is waiting for you in the “birthplace of California:” Old Town San Diego. Experience the past at one of the dozens of historic sites, reflect in the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, marvel at the 19th-century architecture, or attend any of the festivals and showcases that are planned for nearly every weekend. Round out your day with the fantastic authentic Mexican food that Old Town restaurants offer, reminiscent of California’s long history with its southern neighbor.

Old Town San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Fiesta de Reyes: Live music and affordable Mexican food with festive décor.
  • Sushi Tadokoro: Traditional sashimi, nagiri, and saki.
  • Casa Guadalajara: Large portions of authentic Mexican cuisine.
  • Café Coyote: In a town with countless Mexican dining options, Café Coyote sets itself apart with beautiful décor, fresh food, and great drink specials.


Balboa Park—2.7 miles; 7-minute taxi ride

Though not technically a neighborhood, Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres offer enough to rival many nearby California enclaves. Just three miles from the Convention Center, the park boasts more than 15 diverse gardens, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the famous San Diego Zoo. If that’s not enough to pique your interest (and how could it not be?!), Balboa Park also houses more than ten museums and over a dozen dining options. Performance art entertainment is also an option: go back in time and to the other side of the world by visiting The Old Globe Theater, modeled after Shakespeare’s playhouse in London. You can even get a round of golf in on the Park grounds. Whatever your interests, Balboa Park is an enticing destination.

Balboa Park, California (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • The Prado: Full-service American eatery in the heart of the park.
  • Panama 66: Inner-park laid-back spot for brews and bites.
  • Hash House A Go Go: a short walk from Balboa Park, serving market-fresh brunch and dinner with their signature Bloody Marys
  • Evolution: A casual vegan and vegetarian restaurant adjacent to Balboa.

La Jolla—16 miles; 20-minute taxi ride

This beachside getaway is known as the “jewel” of San Diego, and with its beautiful shoreline, famous Torrey Pines golf course, and endless water sport options, one doesn’t have to wonder why. If you’re coming with family, lounge on La Jolla Shores, which features wide sandy beaches and a calm surf perfect for kid-friendly fun. If it’s wildlife you’re after, visit The Children’s Pool, a tiny cove that serves as a haven for California sea lions. Swimmers, kayakers, divers, and snorkelers can find paradise in La Jolla Cove, the perfect spot for sport. After a long hard day of beach adventure, picnic on the grassy expanse of oceanfront Scripps Park, or dine beachfront at one of the area’s many fine-dining establishments.

La Jolla, California (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • George’s at the Cove: Contemporary American/seafood spot with expansive outdoor seating for a gorgeous ocean view.
  • The Taco Stand: local fast-food tacos with a great reputation.
  • Whisknladle: French, Spanish, and Italian inspired seasonal meals featuring farm-to-table ingredients
  • El Pescador Fish Market: Fresh fish at a counter-service market and restaurant.

Mission Bay—10 miles; 15- to 20- minute taxi ride

Mission Bay Aquatic Park is a 4,600-acre manmade water park, the largest of its kind in the world. Popular activities include surfing, jet-skiing, skateboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and biking. Learn how to sail at the Aquatic Center, bike along the beach boardwalks, ride roller coasters at Belmont Park, or even take a moonlight cruise around the bay. With such an exhaustive list of activities to choose from, anyone can find something to do here. Mission Bay is also home to world-famous the park Sea World San Diego.

Mission Bay, San Diego (credit: San Diego Convention Center) 

Where to Eat

  • Luce Bar & Kitchen: Warehouse-chic bar serving pub grub & Sunday brunch.
  • Oceana Coastal Kitchen: Sushi bar, seafood, and a great view.
  • Phil’s BBQ: Hailed as the best barbecue in San Diego.
  • Coin-Op Game Room: Bites, cocktails, and craft brews in a spacious “barcade” with lots of games.


We look forward to seeing you in San Diego!

Navigating a Scientific Meeting Alone

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant, ASHG; Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG; and Emily Davenport, Member, ASHG Training & Development Committee

You’re reading part two of our three-part blog series on attending the ASHG Annual Meeting. If you want to check out part one about budgeting, click here.

The ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting is getting closer each day, and advance registration is only open until October 15.

This month, we’re going to talk about best practices for navigating a meeting or conference alone, and how to enjoy the process.

Know What to Expect

If you’ve never attended an ASHG Meeting before, it might help you to look at materials from previous meetings such as blogs, videos, or tweets. Visualizing your setting is likely to relax some nerves.

Planning your days helps you focus your attention on networking instead of worrying about where to go next. The printed Program-at-a-Glance includes a schedule overview, scientific session information, and maps of the convention center. Check the schedule online, and learn about the app in advance.

Emily Davenport, TDC member, shares that the ASHG meeting is an introvert-friendly environment: “I was nervous, but there were a lot of people at meal times willing to eat together, and you’d be surprised how often you can find a friend-of-a-friend. Science is a smaller community than we think!”

Do What Makes You Comfortable and Confident

Know your limits! If you feel like you’re overextending yourself, then go to a relaxing place to unwind for an hour. You’ll get more value out of the rest of the day if you take that time. Think about where that relaxing space is for you, whether it’s your hotel room, your car, a coffee shop around the corner, or the inspiration lounges. ASHG also has a Prayer & Meditation Room at the meeting each year.

Wear clothes that you feel confident in. When you feel confident, you’ll act more confident, and you’ll be ready to mingle. Think sensibly when it comes to footwear.

Talk about subject matter that interests you, and chances are you’ll find someone who has similar interests. Posters are organized by scientific topic, so if you’re presenting a poster, you’ll be surrounded by people with similar interests.

Realize You’re Not Alone

Many attendees don’t come with colleagues, so you’re not actually alone. You’re surrounded by friends you’ve yet to meet! Think about where people are likely to be looking for some conversation filler: in line for an event or food, or waiting for a session to start.

There are many social events built into the meeting, such as: the opening reception; ancillary, satellite, exhibitor events; and inspiration lounges. Use the online schedule filter to see ancillary events, or ask exhibitors directly if they will be hosting something. Trainees should check the trainee events page and watch the video below.

Use twitter to find fellow attendees by using the social media badges, the meeting hashtag #ASHG18, and the trainee hashtag #ASHGTrainee. People are often on Twitter looking for exercise partners and sightseeing buddies. You can also attend the Tweetup social event.

The most important thing to remember when attending alone? Everyone is in it together! If you’ve never attended a meeting or you’ve attended a dozen times, there are new people all around you just as interested in mingling as you are. Come meet our friendly staff at ASHG Central throughout the entire meeting. We can’t wait to see you there!

Attending Scientific Meetings on a Budget

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant; and Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG

The ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting will be here before you know it! Sessions are being crafted, workshops organized, exhibits developed, and people from the around the world are preparing to gather in San Diego from October 16 –20 to discuss the newest, most exciting research in human genetics. In this three-part blog series, we’re hoping to answer some of the many questions that come up while planning to attend a conference.

This month, we’ll tackle how to make the trip affordable. Look out for future posts on how to navigate a meeting alone and how to make the most of your time there.

Ask Your Institution

Some institutions build professional development into their annual budget, so don’t be afraid to ask. Before going to your department head, do a little research and prepare reasons why this meeting will benefit you and your institution. Use our Return on Investment (ROI) Toolkit to aid your pitch. Think about which sessions you would attend, the value of networking, and the opportunity to learn about new products. The Toolkit is also useful for tracking the sessions you attended to help retain information and act on it when you return.

Start Early

According to a recent Forbes article, 70 days prior to travel is the best time to purchase an airline ticket – during this window, fares average within 5% of their lowest price. As of today, we are 83 days away from the meeting, so now is the time to look. ASHG provides reduced hotel rates through our official housing partner, onPeak. Make your reservation early, as the hotels with lower rates fill up quickly. Check with colleagues if they will be attending and consider sharing a room to cut down costs.

Limit Personal Spending

Know what food might be complimentary: get a hotel that offers breakfast, drink the coffee at the meeting. The Convention Center is in a walkable area with many shops and restaurants, so we encourage you to explore on foot and use mass transportation to keep local travel costs low.

Awards & Membership

ASHG offers awards that can help defer meeting costs, such as the Developing Country Awards, and the ASHG/FASEB Mentored Travel Awards Program for Underrepresented Trainees. To be considered for these awards, you must submit an abstract in early June. Missed out this year? Add a reminder to your calendar if you’re considering attending ASHG 2019. You also get a discount on registration if you register before October 15 and if you’re a current member, so join or renew before registering.

Hope to see you in San Diego!

Ann Klinck is Communications & Marketing Assistant and Amanda Olsen is Meetings Assistant at ASHG. For more information on ASHG 2018, check out the 2018 meeting website.

Elevate Your ASHG 2018 Abstract – Here’s How

Posted By: Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, Chair, ASHG 2018 Program Committee

Every year, I look forward to getting an early look at all the exciting developments presented in ASHG abstracts. As an abstract scorer, I am even more enthusiastic when the abstract is easy to read and evaluate. Read on for tips to elevate your abstract during scoring and get started writing.

2018 Program Committee Chair Heather Mefford, MD, PhD (courtesy Dr. Mefford)

→ Ready to submit? Visit the abstract submission site.

Start Early and Get Organized

When scoring an abstract, I generally do a quick read through the abstract to get an overall feel for the study being presented. During this first pass, I also try to get a sense for how organized/well-written the abstract is as well as a sense for how ‘excited’ I am about the content.

I then do a more careful read to determine: (a) is the aim (hypothesis) of the study clear? (b) are the methods clearly outlined? (c) are there results presented – not just promised – in the abstract? Do the results seem valid?

These may seem like simple things, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a well-organized abstract that is easy to follow. If the reviewer has to work too hard to figure out what the abstract is about, it will be difficult to score it well.

Give Your Work Context

Although reviewers are all ASHG members, and we try to select reviewers with sub-topic expertise, remember that your reviewers may not be experts in your specific area. Your abstract should be clearly written with enough background to put your research into context and highlight the importance of your data. Don’t put it off until the last minute – give yourself time to draft the abstract and to get input from others before you submit!

Submit Exciting and Mature Work

The highest-scoring 10 percent of >3000 submitted abstracts are awarded speaking slots, and only twelve of those are chosen for plenary talks. Abstracts that make good plenary talks address all of the points above. In addition, they present results that are novel and that represent a significant advance in the field. Often, the work presented is fairly ‘mature’, but this doesn’t mean the project has been going on a long time. The work presented has a clear hypothesis, approach, and results that represent a new finding.

Did You Know?

Abstract reviewers dedicate 4-6 hours to score approximately 150 abstracts in just one week. I always learn a lot when reviewing abstracts! I think you really get a feel for what is up-and-coming in the field, and it’s a good experience that is helpful for writing your own abstracts in the future. The hardest part is that it is time consuming. You want to make sure you are giving each abstract full consideration, and that just takes time.

ASHG’s double-blinded review process is important for scoring and selecting the best abstracts. It decreases bias in that the reviewer does not know from which lab or institution the abstract is coming, whether the first author is a student, fellow, junior faculty, or PI, or what the gender of the submitter is. I think that reviewers appreciate the blinding as much as the submitters.

Submit by June 7, 2018, to have your work considered for ASHG 2018. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, is Chair of the 2018 Program Committee. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Genetic Medicine, Director of the Mefford Lab at the University of Washington, and Deputy Director of the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine. She has been a member of ASHG since 2006.



How to Craft a Competitive Invited Session

Posted By: Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, 2018 Program Committee Chair

It may feel like we’ve just returned from ASHG 2017, but preparations are already underway for the 2018 meeting, taking place October 16-20 in San Diego. Invited session and workshop proposals are due on December 14, which is just under two weeks away. Here’s how to make your proposal competitive, and maximize its chances of acceptance by the Program Committee.

Heather Mefford, Chair, 2018 Program Committee

What are Invited Sessions?

Invited sessions address the state of the science on a specific topic, in a cohesive two-hour session constructed to include its most exciting subtopics and scientific leaders. In contrast, invited workshops focus on a tool, skill, approach, or software in an interactive format.

Tip: Choose the right topic.

Proposals that do well have a cohesive, overarching theme that hasn’t been presented at recent meetings. Topics should have broad appeal to ASHG members and meeting attendees. Note that there are designated slots for educational topics, ELSI topics, and a session organized by trainees.

Tip: Choose the right speakers.

Invited sessions traditionally include four speakers, each of whom present for about 30 minutes. Competitive proposals involve presenters who push the field forward, while offering unique perspectives on the topic of focus. Choose speakers who represent diverse institutes, career stages, and genders.

Tip: Consider varied formats.

While invited sessions are often a series of didactic talks followed by Q&A, the 2018 Program Committee is open to other formats for this year’s sessions. If you’d like to propose a panel discussion, debate, or other format, contact for guidance on how to submit your proposal.

Tip: Craft clear descriptions.

Successful invited session proposals have clear, detailed descriptions of each speaker’s talk. These should relate to the overall session theme and include recent data when possible. View sample proposals to see how your colleagues have introduced their speakers.

Tip: Contact the Program Committee.

The 2018 Program Committee is available to answer questions and provide advice as you think through your proposal – don’t be afraid to reach out to them!

Want more tips? Watch our video on how to craft a competitive proposal.

Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, 2018 Program Committee Chair, is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in the Division of Genetic Medicine. She is also an attending physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital in the Genetic Medicine Clinic.