Graduate students attend multiple conferences during their educational careers. But after his first successful trip to the Microscopy Society of America (MSA) conference, Joseph Kim decided to get more involved and was recently named Communications Chair for MSA’s Student Council.
Kim, a physical chemistry graduate student in the lab of biochemistry professor Elizabeth Wright, is focused on using cryo-electron microscopy technology to get detailed images of neurons. By perturbing them to a neurodegenerative state, he will be able to gain insights into what changes occur during disease states.
MSA is an academic organization for scientists interested in the field of microscopy at a variety of resolution and scales. By focusing on a technique rather than a scientific discipline, the organization attracts a massive array of researchers working in everything from cellular and molecular biology to materials science and engineering — even food science.
“I was totally unfamiliar with the microscopy community during my undergraduate years but during my first MSA meeting in my first year, I got to learn about it and engage with students and other researchers with my same interests,” he explains. “It was a really gratifying experience and seeing how student involvement in MSA impacted me, I wanted to give that same experience back to other students.”
The MSA Student Council plans and leads efforts to recruit students to join MSA, as well as personal and professional development for student members. Largest among these efforts is the Pre-Meeting Congress (PMCx60) event at the Microscopy & Microanalysis annual meeting. The PMCx60 is a premier day-long conference before the regular meeting, exclusively tailored to students, postdocs, and early-career professionals. The next annual meeting is set for August 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisc. Esther Bullitt, the president of MSA and a professor at Boston University, congratulates the student council on their continued success.
“These enthusiastic scientists are increasing student participation in the Microscopy Society and providing new programming to educate and engage our members,” she says. “We welcome their initiative and celebrate their successes, which include an expanded role in the society by hosting webinars on ‘How to publish,’ ‘PhD career paths,’ and ‘How to prepare for, and attend, the Microscopy & Microanalysis meeting.’ I look forward to working with their new leadership for another great year.”
In his leadership position, Kim is responsible for building interest in this student-focused conference and promoting student members of MSA on various communication channels, such as social media.
“I’m excited to get involved in our communication efforts like social media because it is a very effective way of reaching out to not only current members but prospective ones as well,” he says. “This is also a great opportunity to gain new skills as I learn more about marketing, communication, event planning, and more. They will definitely complement my scientific knowledge.”
In the Wright Lab, Kim is currently working to successfully freeze neurons and observe them in their native state, to confirm that when using cryo-EM he will get reliable data. He is collaborating with the lab of biochemistry professor Jill Wildonger and neuroscience professor Erik Dent. He says that meeting scientists from different research areas at the MSA conference has broadened his perspective on his research, and he encourages others to get involved as well.
“I am a firm believer in that learning things that are outside your field will strengthen your own work,” he says. “It can give you an idea that you never have had or help you be more creative in how you apply your research question. I believe MSA and being part of student leadership are very good outlets for that.”