Tony Caldwell – This weekend, I attended the Experimental Biology Conference in Washington, DC, from April 29 through May 1, 2007 with my research advisor, Dr. Ann Taylor. At this meeting, which was a combination of anatomy, biochemistry, nutrition, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology societies, I was able to present my research project, Investigation of MAPKKK-alpha Kinase Interactions with Phosphatase Mutants Using a Yeast Two-Hybrid Approach, to this group of over 18,000 people from around the world.On Saturday, I took part in the 11th Annual Undergraduate Research Achievement Award Poster Competition, which featured 113 undergraduate projects similar to my work. This was a wonderful experience to not only showcase what I had been working on from my summer research and current credit-based research at Wabash this past school year, but also to see all of the amazing projects other students are taking part in. I was able to interact with a lot of my fellow presenters that I had met at this session during other talks and presentations, as well as during some "free" time spent exploring the city. This was a judged competition, and as such, two judges in the cell signaling division rigorously questioned me, as well as various other students and conference participants. After taking part in this experience, I felt like I was really able to effectively communicate the work I had spent many hundreds of hours on, and it was definitely a rewarding experience.
On Monday afternoon, I again presented my poster, this time during the general session on phosphatases. While this competition was not judged, I had many more people come question and speak with me about my work. What amazed me about both presentations was my ability to speak to graduate-level researchers. I felt like I had really accomplished something in developing my ideas, understanding my work, and talking with others in this field about similar experiences. I thought back to many of my Wabash chemistry classmates and knew that they too could carry on highly detailed and skilled conversations with many of these experts in their various fields.
Outside of my presentations, I had three major highlights to this trip. The first was meeting Dr. Tony Hunter, who discovered tyrosine kinases, at a reception following his keynote address on Sunday. This was a major breakthrough in the 1980s and eventually led to the creation of cancer drugs that can inhibit these pathways and has saved thousands of lives. Also during this reception, I was able to meet Donald and Judith Voet, authors of our biochemistry textbook, Fundamentals of Biochemistry. We later went out to dinner with these two well-known authors in the biochemistry world and it was great to be able to say that I had the opportunity to meet them and have conversations with such great people!
The second highlight of my trip was interacting with a number of other undergraduates who were presenting their work from across the U.S. We not only were able to attend presentations and sessions together, but at night we went out to explore the city. Having spent a month this past summer living in DC, I served as the tour guide for the Mall, Washington Monument, Lincoln, Korean, and Vietnam memorials, as well as the White House. On our last night out, we went to the Young Experimental Scientists (YES) Reception and had a great time. It was amazing to see all of the work that they had done and to recognize how many amazing undergraduates are doing such complicated and difficult research. It also made me appreciate the opportunities that I have had and I plan on keeping in contact with a number of these people into my career.
The final highlight was speaking with several expert diabetes researchers about their work in the field and getting to gain a better understanding for current research trends. As I will be starting my career with Eli Lilly and Company in Diabetes Sales in just two weeks, it was a great opportunity for me to directly interact with academics who are experts in this field. I was able to gain a lot of knowledge from these men and women and know I will be able to apply it to my future work.
In conclusion, I had a wonderful time at this event and am very grateful for the funding that I received from the Undergraduate Research Committee. I hope that this type of program can fund many more Wabash men in their research over a broad range of topics, but especially those interested in attending the ASBMB Conference. Following a great experience in working with Dr. Taylor, I must thank her for her help and support, and hope that I can pass on all that I have learned from her to help the future of Wabash Chemistry.