Recently a colleague asked me what to write in a personal statement for a travel grant application to attend a conference. As a junior scientist (PhD student or young postdoc) it’s good to go to conferences (more about conferences another time) and it looks great when you can raise some funds to go there by way of travel grants or presenter bursaries. Most societies or universities or funding bodies have calls for applications all year ’round. If you have a great abstract and your supervisor’s support, the only other thing you might need is a convincing personal statement!
Here are my tips on how to construct one:
What are you presenting? Are you presenting a poster or a giving a talk? Provide a short summary of the work. Keep it short as you’re probably including an abstract of your work with the application anyway.
What’s new or exciting or important about it? This should highlight how novel your work is and should persuade them that your work needs to be seen!
Which conference are you going to? Why is it important you present there? No, saying that the conference is in Hawaii and you’re in desperate need of a holiday as you’re up to your eyebrows in your PhD would not do! Is this the right audience for your work? Will they provide you with invaluable feedback you need to help write up your work in your thesis or into a paper?
Will the conference help with your professional development? Will networking at the conference be important for your choice of your next lab (for a new job or a collaboration)? Think about the development of your transferable skills, including networking, presenting and analytical thinking (when asking other presenters questions).
If you’re working on the extracellular matrix and haven’t done so already, join the British Society for Matrix Biology (from £10 pa for students) and the International Society for Matrix Biology (from €20 for junior members)! Both offer great bursaries for attending their own meetings and other international meetings including the prestigious Gordon Research Conferences (as well as their junior researcher-organised Gordon Research Seminars) that showcase cutting-edge, unpublished work in your field.