Imagine the intimidation: You’re a young graduate student with interesting work to present at a professional conference – where you come face-to-face with hundreds of researchers who know as much or more about your topic than you. After practicing for hours in front of your hotel-room mirror, you head to your session at your allotted time and give one of your first-ever professional talks.
Horrifyingly, hands shoot up in the air. A room full of senior researchers wants to ask you questions.
Gulp.
 
Conference in June
So it was a few years ago that Randal Ching, a University of Washington faculty member in the field of biomechanics, began an effort to provide a less intimidating, smaller, student-oriented introduction to professional conferences.
This year’s Northwest Biomechanics Conference will be held at WSU on June 5-6. Approximately 60-70 graduate students and 15-20 faculty members in biomechanics will attend from universities throughout the Northwest. The event is free for students.
 
The deadline to submit submissions is April 30.
At the conference, only students give presentations, said David Lin, associate professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, who with associate professor Anita Vasavada is organizing this year’s conference.
 
Students, faculty benefit
The students range from undergraduates to those finishing their Ph.D.s. Topics range from basic biology to highly applied research of students from bioengineering, mechanical engineering, physical therapy and kinesiology.
“The level of research and the communication skills vary quite a bit,” Lin said.
Faculty members in attendance can give students, particularly those early in their career, basic advice on how to present their work or set up research questions. More advanced students get a chance to answer in-depth questions about their work. Two awards are given annually for top presentations.
Unlike other professional conferences, students get an opportunity to see imperfect works in progress.
“Students can see and experience successes and errors,” Lin said. “And they often learn more from the errors.”
Faculty members benefit from the mentoring opportunity for their students. With the smaller conference, they also have the opportunity to interact and discuss research informally and more intensely than they might at a larger gathering.
 
Participants invited
The conference is sponsored by the American Society of Biomechanics, industrial sponsors, and the host institution, which this year includes WSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture, the Voiland School, the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology, and the Bioengineering Research Center. James Ashton-Miller, research professor and distinguished research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, will give the keynote address.
For more information, see www.chebe.wsu.edu/NWBS2009. Anyone whose research integrates any aspect of biology with mechanics is invited to participate.