SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
21 May 2015
Volume 16 Issue 5
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YES 2015: More Than a Conference! Reflections on the 4th Young Environmental Scientists Meeting

Erica Brockmeier, SAC Associate Member, University of Liverpool; Dragan Jevtić, SAC Immediate Past Chair, Jagiellonian University; Tomica Mišljenović, SAC Chair, Petnica Science Centre

Yes meeting

This spring we were pleased to host over 100 young professionals to the Petnica Science Center in Valjevo, Serbia for the 4th SETAC YES meeting. Following the success of the past three YES meetings, we had quite a challenge ahead of us to maintain the collaborative spirit of this "for-students, by-students" event, while at the same time bringing new ideas and perspectives.

Ideas and plans for this YES meeting were first laid out at a Student Advisory Council meeting in August 2013, where we began to discuss what we could bring to the 4th YES meeting, thanks to the great facilities available at Petnica Science Center. Petnica Science Center is a unique place in the heart of Serbia, featuring a 30-year old science center for high school and undergraduate students to learn hands-on about science and the scientific method. As part of the facilities’s renovation, Petnica Science Center now has hotel and restaurant space for 150 attendees, as well as meeting space and a location in the beautiful hills of Central Serbia. Petnica Science Center is also the home to brand-new laboratory facilities, including confocal microscopy, HPLC, and atomic absorption spectrometry. These opportunities were not available in the previous YES meetings, and fueled by the "spirit of Petnica" during late-night discussions about the 2015 YES meeting, SAC Europe spent the next year and half working hard to bring these ideas to life and to truly make SETAC YES much more than a conference!

Yes meeting

After a lot of hard work with fundraising, reviewing abstracts, finding workshops, short course and career-talk speakers, and managing travel logistics, we were happy to finally welcome our participants, who came from 27 countries and five continents. We started the meeting with a movie screening and workshop by Jorge Cham, infamous author of the PhD comics series, to talk about the power of procrastination and to provide some light-hearted humorous perspectives to life in grad school and academia. The meeting was officially opened by the SAC Europe Chair, the YES 2015 Local Organizing Committee and Scientific Committee Chairs, SETAC Europe Executive Director and Incoming President, and a special visit from Srđan Verbić, the Serbian Minister of Education, Science, and Technological Development. Our participants enjoyed the Serbian spring sun (and some drinks as well) during an opening reception, followed by a workshop about SETAC and how being involved in the Society was beneficial for both your science as well as your career.

Yes meeting

We had a fantastic scientific program ranging from nanoparticles to molecular ecotoxicology, with all student participants giving either a platform or poster presentation. At this YES meeting we also introduced poster corners and poster spotlight presentations. We were very glad to have three wonderful career speakers, Marino Marinković (RIVM), Bart Bosveld (SETAC Europe), and Peter Campbell (Syngenta) who not only provided their experiences in their work but spent time chatting with students in a more ‘informal’ setting.

This YES meeting was also the first to have short courses that focused on both laboratory and professional development skills — all for free for every participant. We had chemistry labs busy with students learning HPLC and GC-MS, courses for GLP methods and presentation skills courses, and students learning about how to take high-quality nature and scientific photographs. These courses brought a new dimension to the YES meeting concept and we hope to keep this idea for future meetings.

While we could certainly talk about our excitement about the YES meeting, we’d prefer to let our participants and a few pictures say it better than we ever could:

 “I’m impressed by all the young scientists I’ve met here. I would love to come again!”

“This is the best conference I’ve ever been to! Everything was organized so well. I would definitely come again and tell my friends about it.”

“Great scientific quality and also a great opportunity to meet many interesting people”

“I want to be involved in the next one and will try to bring friends!”

“Petnica rocks!”

Yes meeting

What is the YES Meeting?
 In 2009, the first Young Environmental Scientist (YES) meeting was hosted by the Student Advisory Council of SETAC Europe (SAC Europe) at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Landau, Germany. This meeting was the first of its kind: an international scientific meeting exclusively organized and participated by and for students of SETAC. In addition to the opportunity for students to engage in a non-intimidating, all-student meeting environment, a key part of this meeting is that no conference fees were charged and travel grants were given to all students who were selected for presenting their work as a poster or a platform presentation. The North American SETAC Student Advisory Council is currently planning the 5th YES Meeting in Gainesville, Florida in 2016.

Impressions of the YES Meeting and Building on this Year’s Successes for 2016
Five members of NASAC were able to attend the meeting and interact with students from different global units of SETAC. Below are a few statements from NASAC members that attended the meeting. Key was that members of the Local Organizing Committee for next year’s YES meeting in Gainesville, FL (USA) were able to experience this year’s successful meeting.

David Drier- Member of the LOC for YES 2016
“As a new PhD student, the Young Environmental Scientists (YES) meeting was a unique opportunity for me to present early developments of my dissertation research to a diverse group of students. Not only did this provide great feedback for my own work, it was also a terrific way to meet students from all over the world.”

Cody Smith- Chair of the LOC for YES 2016
“Overall, the YES 2015 meeting was an excellent experience and attending it gave me first-person insight into how to organize a successful meeting, something invaluable to me as the chair of the Local Organizing Committee for YES 2016 in Gainesville, FL.”

Sarah Bowman- Out-Going Chair of NASAC
“One of the highlights of the YES meeting was the short course that I took. I learned how to use Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (Flame AAS) to measure water and tissue samples for metals. I thought that the scientific program at YES was top-notch and rivaled most of the platforms and posters at the SETAC NA annual meetings.”

Katie Albanese- NASAC Liaison to the CAG
“Even poster presenters were given a chance to speak to a crowd. Students presenting posters were either given a spotlight presentation, during which they presented their poster for five minutes during platform sessions, or were given a couple minutes during the evening poster socials to give a quick rundown of their poster to everyone at the social. There were three excellent career talks during the evenings, and it was very exciting to have Jorge Cham as guest speaker as well.”

With such high praise of the SETAC YES 2015 Meeting in Serbia, a lot of momentum has started surrounding next year’s meeting in Gainesville. Each NASAC member that attended the meeting is a part of the planning committee for the 2016 YES meeting in Gainesville, Florida. They are all very enthusiastic about it after attending the YES meeting this year in Serbia. We would also like to acknowledge the SETAC Europe SAC for a very professional and interactive meeting in Serbia. If there are any questions pertaining to the YES 2016 meeting please contact any of the authors or email nasac.setac@gmail.com.

Authors' contact information: e.k.brockmeier@liv.ac.uk, dragan.jevtic@uj.edu.pl, and tomica@petnica.rs

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