The organizers of this year’s AACC student poster contest are getting creative to take full advantage of this year’s virtual format. The competition, which has been a part of the AACC Annual Scientific meeting for more than 30 years, will continue to provide excellent content for conference attendees and opportunities for trainees to present cutting edge research. From 65 submitted abstracts, this year’s competition will feature 61 posters and 4 oral presentations from young, up and coming clinical laboratorians.

How will a virtual poster contest work? Instead of 4-foot by 6-foot posters lining a convention hall floor, all posters for the 2020 contest will be featured as PDFs viewable on demand to all attendees. Complementing the posters will be 5-minute recordings from each author describing their work. Three independent reviewers will judge each one. The oral presentations, selected as the top-rated abstracts, will occur as a series of recorded talks available on the virtual meeting platform and are evaluated by a panel of four expert judges.

Attendees can expect to see and hear some of the best and brightest that AACC has to offer as they present new and exciting research topics during the trainee sessions. “The student poster competition provides trainees the opportunity to present novel and cutting-edge research,” says Ann Gronowski, PhD, who led the poster competition from 1997-2019. “The student presentations are always an opportunity to see and judge some of the top new science in our field.”

The dedication by numerous volunteers and continued focus on trainees underscores AACC’s commitment to trainee development. “For many of us, this is one of the highlights of our annual meeting,” says Robert Nerenz, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Dartmouth Hitchcock school of medicine and director of this year’s program. “It is incredibly rewarding to interact with aspiring chemists and the program truly offers the opportunity for students to be front and center.”

Gronowski shares the same sentiment. “This is the part of the meeting that I always got the most pleasure out of,” she says. “The reason so many of us come back to volunteer with this program every year is that we love to see trainees have continued opportunities.”

The first poster competition on record was hosted by the Commission on Accreditation in Clinical Chemistry and the AACC Education Committee during the 1988 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans. According to Alan Wu, PhD, chairmen of the 1988 competition, there were about 20 posters at the first event. Thanks to these early efforts, this number has swelled to more than 60 in recent years.

While the format has certainly changed for this year’s competition, the excitement and the quality of the science certainly has not. For those that want to watch up and coming luminaries in the field of clinical chemistry explore innovative science, the student poster competition is a can’t-miss event.