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Experience at ABRCMS 2017: Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students

By: Nisan Hubbard, PhD Candidate, Mayo Lab, and Maxwell Edmonds, MD/PhD Candidate, Woodruff Lab, December 18, 2017

Overall: As part of Northwestern University’s diversity initiative, Northwestern sends out members of The Graduate School to the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) each year, representing multiple biomedical departments from both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Managed by the American Society for Microbiology, ABRCMS is the largest undergraduate national conference for underrepresented students in biomedical research and across the STEM disciplines.  ABRCMS has been scheduled annually since 2001, and has been constantly growing since its’ inception. This platform provides a perfect haven for students to present their research projects, receive feedback on their accomplishments, participate in professional development workshops, network with current leaders in the biomedical world and graduate/medical school programs, and meet hundreds of other undergraduates from across the U.S. and territories (future science leaders of tomorrow!).  

Students attending ABRCMS

What we did: A large objective of why we attend ABRCMS is to recruit the next talented class of graduate students (MS, PhD, MD/PhD, etc.) and brand ourselves as a leading university for graduate training and research in the country. We use several different forums in order to maximize our time with the many students who attend ABRCMS. This includes judging posters presentations, providing feedback personally to students, networking with current undergrads during conference breaks, visiting oral presentation sessions, and hosting a Northwestern information booth in a career fair throughout the four days of the conference. These multiple avenues provide an opportunity to get to know the student personally, gauge their talent and current position in the training pipeline, and most importantly, engage them one-on-one to discuss their future plans in science or medicine, and explore how Northwestern can fit into those plans.

Who we saw: The students, hundreds of them! Programs from across the country take their students to ABRCMS, as an effort to peak their interest in graduate school, medical school, and other programs. Specifically, ABRCMS is an amazing catalyst in creating opportunities for current students, by connecting them with pipeline programs and other career programs that enhance their ability to pursue enrollment in continued higher learning and STEM field employment.

Students presenting a poster ar ABRCMS

“ABRCMS always holds a special place in my heart because this was one of the first conferences in which I presented my research as an undergrad. I remember at the time how nervous I was, wondering how the presentation went, and how overwhelmed I was. I also remember the support and feedback I got, how I felt like I belonged in research, as well as understanding that there are a number of different ways and fields in which I can participate in science. It was also the place I learned more about Northwestern and how we fit into each other’s vision. I found it amazing that it comes full circle when I go back to recruit at ABCRMS, the place that I started to find my scientific backbone and worth to pursue a PhD. That is that same feeling I want to try to give other folks when I encounter them, and talk to about Northwestern and what it has to offer. Especially those who are interested in the Reproductive Sciences.” - Nisan Hubbard, IBiS Program Representative

“ABRCMS was the first national conference in which I presented my personal research as a post-baccalaureate research fellow. At the time, I was still deciding on whether I should apply to medical school or graduate school, and learning to define myself as a biomedical scientist. Attending ABRCMS was incredibly empowering in my personal journey into medicine, one, because it was the first time I met current medical/research professionals from diverse and underrepresented cultural backgrounds, and second, it was the first time I was surrounded by peers similar to myself, who were also exploring medicine and research for the first time. My attendance at ABRCMS 2012 highlighted one of the strongest aspects of academic life: community and mentorship.  Now that I am returning to ABRCMS as a current MSTP candidate, with the sole objective of helping and advising the next generation, I feel privileged and proud to be a part of similar moments of inspiration for students on the path into professional school, just as I had experienced five years ago.” - Maxwell Edmonds, MSTP Representative

Students networking at ABRCMS

Learn more about ABRCMS 2018, which will take place November 14-17th in Indianapolis!