APS Networking 101

At this year’s APS meeting, I was asked to give a flash presentation on networking to first time attendees at the meeting. I also shared these with one of our graduate student attendees. In hopes that they might be useful for your next meeting, I want to share some of the ideas here and will add the post to our facebook page where you can add to the ideas.

I plan my best networking well in advance of the meetings. It is essential that I look through the program and abstracts in advance for work related to my favorite research topics. For example, at the APS meeting this year I met Wenling Deng from Tiawan because of her paper on Xanthomonas campestris pv. vitians. It turns out that we have a lot of research interests in common and she is a good friend one of our faculty members so she might come to visit us in Pennsylvania. If you can plan in advance to meet with people, you will be sure to not miss the opportunity. Searching the attendee list will be even more important for the international congress next year because this may be your chance to meet international researchers in your field.

Another thing to do well in advance of the meeting is to plan to take a workshop or go on a field trip. This is a great investment because you will get to know a small group of people relatively well during the course of the workshop or field trip. Some of my most important contacts were made sitting on a bus with someone I didn’t know. The small group is much less intimidating than a room full of scientists at a social.

Attend the first-timers orientation the first time you go to the meeting and go again if you feel like it is a good way for you to start the meeting. If you have been around the block, you can help some of the new members find their way. Often we think about networking with people that can benefit our careers and it can be as or more important to network with people who are not as far along in their careers.

There are many types of sessions at the APS meeting that are great for networking. At other scientific meetings these have different names. The key is to find some of these to attend in order to feel connected to others and the meeting. As an introvert, these sessions can bring you into a smaller group where you can contribute as you are comfortable or hang out and listen. For APS the most interactive sessions include: Idea Cafes (round table discussions on a given topic), 1:1 Conversations with experts, Poster Huddles (4 or 5 posters presented to a small group), and Phytoviews (a panel leading a facilitated conversations on a particular topic). Visiting with individual presenters at their posters an ideal way to network with those in your field or people you have met at the meeting.

Committee meetings are a good way to hear and contribute to the impact of your discipline on the meeting and the field. Some committees like the APS Committee on Diversity and Equality is very interactive with lots of discussion and ways to impact change. Other committees are transactional and are mainly concerned with sessions for the next meeting, requests from APS leadership, and election of the committee vice chair.

Socials are great places to network. I met Maria Jimenez-Gasco at an APS social (like the Diversity and Equality Social Pictured here from this year’s meeting). Through that contact, I was invited to visit PPEM and later invited to apply for Diversity soicalmy current job. You never know where the contacts you make will lead! Although, meeting socials seem like the ideal place to network,  they can be intimidating to many of us. Here are my top tips for networking at socials and other events at the meeting.

Don’t run with the pack – Often people choose which session to attend based on what who else from their group is going. Going on a field trip by yourself is the best way to get to know lots of new people. If going with a friend, don’t sit together. When you walk into a room, sit near someone new.

Join another pack – Meetings are a great way to bond with your team and a great way to get to know other teams. If you know someone from another university, hang out with them one evening. I saw our graduate students join with another pack for at least part of the APS meeting this year.

When you are introduced, be curious about those you have met If you have a difficult time knowing what to say when you meet someone new, remember that most people come to the meetings to find a place they can talk about their work without having to apologize. Asking about their research and career path is one way to keep others talking when you don’t want to have to carry the conversation.

Find someone who is sitting alone – This is something that I do in our department as well as at other meetings. In addition to sitting next to someone I haven’t met yet, I often scan the room and choose to sit next to someone who doesn’t appear to be with others or interacting with others yet. Even if they don’t want to interact much, sitting next to someone who is alone in a crowded room can be a gesture of goodwill that may get you a new and good colleague.

Volunteer for something – The APS foundation is a wonderful organization and you can volunteer to work at the foundation booth. You will meet people as they come by to donate to help bring students to the meeting and other worthwhile causes.

Hang out with a long time APS member – Those who have been around the block a few times generally have larger networks than newer meeting goers. You are likely to be introduced to the people that the senior members visit with if you are hanging out near them.

Make sure to introduce yourself again – although I have been around APS for over 30 years, I introduce myself again and again. We all have difficulty remembering each other from year to year or putting faces with names on papers we read. In not assuming that others know who I am, I invite them to give me their name again and remind me of where they are from. This prevents me from having a long conversation with someone whose name I can’t remember after the conversation.

Introduce the people you have just met to those from your department – As mentioned earlier, sharing something you know with others is helpful and is often remembered.

Now it is time for us to help our newest graduate students to network. I hope you will join us for a potluck this coming Friday after 6 pm to welcome them to PPEM. We will have the games out if you want to bring your families!

Have a great 2017-2018 academic year.




  1. Hi Carolee,

    We met at Penn State College of Medicine during your presentation on being your own best mentor. This is a great post on networking with some applicable and ‘easy-to-follow’ strategies. Would I be able to share some of your suggestions with students here? I will give you credit and reference your article.



    • Jessica,
      Please use anything you find on the blog for you students. I put things on the blog that I hope people can use. I would be thrilled to have folks comment and give additional strategies. Hearing from introverted scientists and how they approach networking would be particularly useful.
      Have a great semester!


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