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JUNE 30, 2013


On Organizing the AMC

There are few things more harrowing than doing something for the first time. In this case I came up with the crazy idea of organizing a meeting in the style of the "Alternative Muscle Club" meetings I came to know and like when I was back in the UK. While it has taken me several years to start in ernest, the call for applications for the organization of 'local meetings' from the ASCB gave it the final push forward. And sure enough, after writing about 6 pages with the co-organizers explaining the aims of the meeting, coming up with a budget, timeline, meeting emphasis and topics to cover; and sending it off to ASCB ONE WEEK before the deadline, it took them less than 2 working days to approve the funding. And they even gave ALL the money we asked for (actually a little more than the maximum they said you can ask for!). NIH and AHA - take a lesson from that unbureaucratic application and approval process!

And then there was the stroke of luck that people from a local NIH funded research center (the SDMRC) heard about the idea and were happy to provide matching funds to help support the meeting. GREAT. Now we are talking - as a little funding helps you to get started, but a little more funding gets things really rolling! And things were rolling alright. Now we have the money but no participants. So out came the spam-emails I sent off to PI's from San Diego, to LA, Riverside, Irvine, as far north as the Bay Area, and as far east as Tucson. Well - some PI's thought it was spam. I actually got an "-unsubscribe" message back from one PI in Berkeley. But I understand it, given that there are indeed a lot of 'spammy' conference announcement emails in my inbox every day.

After that the wait started. For a couple of weeks there was NO one registering. Then it turned May and registrations started flowing in - little by little. Sending out emails helped. The big boom in registrations came actually 10 days before the registration deadline at the end of May. We were hoping for 50 people. In the end we got about 70 - including some that just showed up without registering.

One of the few luxuries - custom lanyards!

So we have the people, and even a LOT of abstracts - thanks to the trick of requiring registrants to submit a title and an abstracts when they register! Now comes the next tough part - getting the rooms organized, the program written, the catering ordered. Dave, Gretchen and Indro helped a lot in doing that. And - despite more people attending then we anticipated, everything worked out without much of a problem.

Action shot - people engaging in science talk in front of a poster.

Reflecting back on it - on the day itself everything went by in a blur. I cannot remember much of the science - particularly when I was not chairing a session, because there were so many things to oversee - from getting in fresh coffee, making sure that the posters do not fly off (poster session outside in a windy courtyard), to telling the catering guys how to get to the building (ongoing construction mess).
I only was really starting to relax once we were in the LOFT for the networking event following the scientific part of the meeting.


A big thanks again to my co-organizers Gretchen, David and Indro, and everyone from the ASCB, SDMRC and Life Technologies for their support. We could not have done it without you guys!

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