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Even Mayflies Need a Confidence Boost

I started doing research when I was a sophomore in college. Scared and uneasy, I reluctantly agreed to a project I knew nothing about but had a strong interest in. As I’ve progressed as a researcher, I realize that’s what science is: embarking on projects that you don’t always understand but have a passion for. Despite realizing that the driving force behind science is the quest for new knowledge, I have always struggled to feel adequate or feel as though I am qualified to do the work I am interested in. Therefore when I was given the opportunity to present my research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology conference in Austin, TX, I immediately questioned my qualifications to be there. Would I be able to answer questions? Would I know enough about my project? Would I be smart enough? I decided that I wouldn’t let my fear ruin the opportunity to have a new opportunity and meet people who are in a field of research that I am incredibly passionate about. 

After months of planning, finally it was time for the conference. After attending the plenary session and initial meet-and-greet I instantly knew I was wrong. Though this was a professional conference full of many big names in the field, everyone was incredibly supportive and provided great feedback to my project. After days attending different sessions and lectures about great topics that ranged from impacts of climate change to neuroanatomy to evolution, suddenly it was my turn to present. I was incredibly nervous. Though I knew the people I had already met were very kind, I was afraid that I would forget something about my project or get a question I wouldn’t be able to answer or otherwise embarrass myself. Before the session even started, I was peppered with questions by someone who had camped out beside my poster and waited for me to arrive. The rest of the poster session went about the same, with people occasionally lining up to hear me talk about the validity of the Pcrit in the mayfly Neocloeon triangulifer. In the two hours that the poster session was on, I didn’t have a single second alone at my poster. This filled me with so much inspiration as I realized that the work that I am doing is interesting to people other than myself. Further, in the time that I was speaking I did occasionally forget what I was saying or not know the answer to a question, but I soon realized- that’s okay! No one knows everything and I can use the questions and comments that I received to further my research. Overall, I am incredibly thankful that I received funding from the Enrichment Fund to allow me to go on this trip. I feel as though I now believe in myself and my ability as a presenter, researcher and scientist.