July 15th, 2019

The GRC Magic

Recently, I had the privilege to attend the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) at Waterville Valley, NH. For those who are unfamiliar with GRCs, GRC is considered very prestigious with admissions contingent upon acceptance of an application. These meetings are typically attended by world renowned experts from leading institutions and industries. The conference has a ‘unique format’ where you can interact freely with the experts.

When I came across the GRC on Preclinical Form and Formulation for Drug Discovery in late March, I realized that I had missed the deadline to submit the abstract for an oral presentation. Fortunately, the poster abstract submissions were still open. In filling out the application form, one has to justify conference attendance and contribution to the meeting. My advisor mentioned that many people apply to these conferences but not all are accepted and asked me to come up with a thoughtful answer. I still remember I struggled in formulating the best answer, with my inner critic dragging me down at each response. I was turning down my own application as I was afraid of not getting selected. After wrestling with my thoughts, I finally put together my reasons for attending the conference. However, I was still not satisfied; I had become a prisoner of my own mind, striving for perfection. After receiving feedback and reassurance from my mentor, I was finally set free from my own self-doubt. Besides discussing the aspects of my work and its impact on human health, I also included how attending GRC would expand and improve my future experimental/scientific approaches, and most importantly the value of gaining feedback from experts in the field that together make such work possible. I finalized everything and submitted the application.

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Surprisingly, the next morning I received an email saying “Congratulations! You have been accepted to attend the GRC”. I was happy to secure the invitation and elated to attend the GRC.

When I attended the conference, I was pleased to receive positive feedback on my poster, but I never thought that I could make it all the way to the ‘Top 25 Posters’ and then further to ‘The Best Four’. This honor meant more to me than my other poster awards, considering that I was selected by a jury of my peers.

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Winning this award has confirmed that the work we have been doing is worth the effort. I want to send a big shout out to the members of Montclare lab/Liu lab, and of course, thanks to the conference organizers/attendees who voted for me. It was my first time attending the GRC and it was definitely one to remember.

The experience at GRC has made me realize that doubting your abilities is normal (we all do), but I shouldn’t let that stop me from pursuing my dreams. I have long considered the GRC to be my dream conference, one that is attended only by the elite of the elite. I feel everyone should believe in the magic of their dreams, and don’t be afraid to push yourself. And if you are, don’t be afraid to seek advice. The results might amaze you, too!

-Priya Katyal