As I write this entry it is mid-July and almost time for the 2013 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Houston, TX. The meeting brochure claims that the meeting is the largest of its kind in the world. I don't know if this is true but it certainly feels enormous. Between the wealth of programs on offer and the lab expo, it is easy to quickly become overwhelmed and exhausted. In order to make the most of the meeting, it is advisable to develop a strategy ahead of time.

For fellows there are a couple of events that should definitely make the list:

  1. SYCL workshop and mixer (Saturday, 5:30 - 7:30 pm)
  2. AACC-SYCL Fellow Fellow's Organization mixer (Saturday, 7:30 pm - ?)
  3. Student Oral Presentation Contest (Monday, 2:00 - 3:00 pm)
  4. Student Poster Contest (Monday, 3:00 - 4:30 pm)
  5. ABCC-SYCL reception (Monday, 5:30 - 7:00 pm)
  6. Roundtable session by Laura Parnas on getting your first job (Tuesday, 7:30 - 8:30 am and 12:30 - 1:30 pm)

These are all great opportunities to mingle with your peers and, at the same time, learn about topics that are of particular relevance to young laboratorians. If you plan to look for a job in the near future, I also strongly recommend Laura's roundtable session. It is similar to her NACB blog entry and provides many useful tips on preparing for the search, interview, and bargaining processes.

If this is your first meeting, you should also set aside at least a day for browsing the lab expo. This is a useful forum for seeing what technology is currently available to clinical labs. It is also an excellent way to learn about what's in development and what still needs to be addressed by the in vitro diagnostics industry. An easy way to browse the expo is to start at one end and slowly explore each isle. If you are sufficiently thorough, you might even run into hidden treasures such as a small booth manned by James Westgard and his son Sten (definitely one of my highlights from last year). Keep in mind that even though the meeting is from Sunday through Thursday, the lab expo will only be open on the last three days (Tuesday and Wednesday 9:30 am - 5 pm; Thursday 9:30 am - 2 pm).

An additional event that should find its way onto your schedule is the general poster session. This year posters will be exhibited on Tuesday and Wednesday; you should budget 1-2 hours of viewing time for each day. Keep in mind that this is in addition to the time you have to stand by your poster if you chose to present one at the meeting. Like the clinical lab expo, the poster session is a great way to see what others are currently working on and to identify areas of future research. Moreover, the poster session is a great way to mingle with your peers and to introduce yourself to prospective employers. If you make an effort to follow up with the latter, you might just end up interviewing with them for openings in their laboratories.

To fill up the remainder of your schedule, you have a number of options including short courses, roundtable sessions, symposia, and plenary sessions. It's hard to give specific tips on how to choose from among these options because the choice will ultimately depend on your background and current interests. Rest assured, however, that regardless of what you end up selecting you will meet many new people and will learn a lot.

I would like to finish this entry with one last bit of advice. When creating your schedule, make sure to leave some free time between individual events. This will not only provide you with some physical rest but will also allow all of the new information to sink in. And what better way to spend this free time than to explore Houston? Perhaps you'll discover a fantastic food truck close to the convention center or amble into a French patisserie on your way back to your hotel. The possibilities are endless .........