Written by Christopher Skipwith
As part of our year-long programming, ABRCMS will periodically publish blog posts of interest to students, faculty, and other individuals associated with ABRCMS.
Written by Christopher Skipwith
Written by ABRCMS
Communicating your research is an important part of being a scientist. While submitting an abstract to a national conference can seem overwhelming, it is one of the best ways to communicate your science and get your research in front of a large audience.
ASM education specialist, Dr. Christopher Skipwith, will provide students with tips on writing an abstract during the “Writing a Competitive Abstract” webinar from Aug. 5-8, 2019. Here are a few of his best practices to prepare your first abstract for a scientific conference.
Read the Instructions
Although this may be obvious, many times, abstracts are rejected because they are missing key components. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the submission requirements before starting your abstract.
Understand the Target Audience
Who will be reading your abstract? Whether you are submitting to a field-specific or general conference, make sure the language you use can be easily understood by your target audience. Field-specific language may be appropriate for specialized conferences, however plain language must be used for conferences that cover a wide range of fields.
When using acronyms, remember to always provide the full phrase on the first mention accompanied by the acronym in parenthesis.
Clearly State the Hypothesis/Statement of Purpose
Not every project has a hypothesis, but all projects have a purpose. Figure out the research questions you are trying to answer and include the hypothesis or purpose of your research in the abstract. It is imperative to communicate your hypothesis/statement of purpose clearly so the reader can get a better context of your research goals and understand the importance of your research.
Tie Results and Conclusions Back to the Hypothesis/Statement of Purpose
After you have written your results and conclusions, go back to your hypothesis/statement of purpose. Do the results and conclusions clearly support your research purpose? What did the results say about your hypothesis? Make sure the links between these components are obvious to the reader.
Review, Then Review Again
Reread your abstract against a print out of the abstract guidelines. As you go through, check off each guideline to ensure your abstract is complete. Remember that even if it has all the requirements, a poorly written abstract will not be accepted. Then have multiple people, including your Principal Investigator, read it over. Incorporate their feedback to ensure a strong submission.
Written by Caressa Morris
In 2008 as an undergraduate senior, Dr. Victor Ocasio Ramirez, won a presentation award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Ten years later he attended ABRCMS again to provide valuable mentorship to students through the Judge Travel Award. Dr. Ocasio Ramirez explains how he became interested in science as an undergraduate, his current research as a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University, and why attending ABRCMS was a gratifying experience.
Tell me about your background.
I am originally from a small town in Puerto Rico, where I studied Industrial Biotechnology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. I developed an interest in basic science, specifically microbiology. In 2014, I obtained my Ph.D. in molecular microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University working in host pathogen interactions.
What first made you interested in science?
As a second-year undergraduate student, I had the rare opportunity to conduct research with Dr. Joseph Bonaventura from Duke University studying the antimicrobial properties of the plantain plant. I got to travel to different parts of Puerto Rico to collect diverse plantain samples for my experiments. A year later, I joined a plant biotechnology laboratory where I studied gene expression profiles in transgenic Cassava plants using emerging qRT-PCR technology. Both of these experiences were fundamental in cementing my passion for science.
What is your current research about?
My research involves the study of host microbe interactions. More specifically, how pathogenic bacteria have evolved to evade the immune response and grow in what it seems to be a hostile environment. Chlamydia trachomatis is a sexually transmitted pathogen that contains more than a hundred proteins predicted to be secreted to the host. These effector proteins help Chlamydia establish its intracellular lifestyle, elude the immune response and take control of many host cellular processes. I employ a combination of genetics, biochemistry and cell biology methods to characterize the function of these secreted effectors.
How were your experiences with ABRCMS both as a student and judge?
Both of these experiences were different for me because I had very different perspectives each time I went. As an attendee in 2008, I was an eager senior undergraduate student looking for the next step in my academic career, graduate school. I remember walking up and down tirelessly through the aisles looking at the booths of different universities. At this point, I was trying to decide which institution would make me feel welcomed as an underrepresented minority, but also be a great fit for me academically. In 2018 as a judge, I was able to share the experiences of what it is like to earn a Ph.D. I walked tirelessly up and down the aisles of posters talking to students, giving advice and encouraging them to do the same thing I did ten years ago.
Why should someone consider being a judge at ABRCMS?
Being a judge at ABRCMS is much more than scoring presentations. You get to meet a myriad of students from different backgrounds that are excited and passionate about science. But some of them lack the experience or don’t know what to do next. As a judge, you have the opportunity to interact with all of these students and to learn about their background and give them advice based on your personal experiences. This was one of the most gratifying experiences I had in 2018.
What advice do you have for students considering submitting an abstract to the conference?
Have a clear hypothesis of your project or model and share the abstract with your peers and mentor. If they can understand your research project from the abstract alone, then you’ve written an abstract where the points come across clearly.
How has your ASM membership impacted your career?
As an ASM member, I’ve attended various conferences like ABRCMS and ASM Microbe where I presented my research and networked with colleagues. Also, in 2018 I participated in the Best Practices in Curriculum Design, Teaching and Assessment webinar, which showed me a different aspect of academia and made me an attractive candidate for the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program at Duke in 2018-2019. I taught as an adjunct professor at Elon University for one semester and put into practice many of the concepts I learned in the ASM webinar. Overall, since becoming an ASM member, I’ve had many opportunities to improve my career, get access to a wide network of scientists and see the impact of the work I am doing.
ABRCMS 2019 will be held November 13-16 in Anaheim, California. Apply for funds to attend the conference as a judge.
Written by Christopher Skipwith
Research in the biomedical sciences has become increasingly reliant on large data sets to provide meaningful experimental validation. However, dealing with large data sets presents challenges that are distinct from those experienced by most biomedical researchers doing data evaluation, processing, and presentation. How do we begin to make sense of these expansive data sets while ensuring statistical quality and experimental validity?