This summer, the ASP will host a virtual symposium series July 16, 23, and 30 entitled “Vanguards of Natural Product Research 2021.” These events will highlight the work and creativity of students and postdocs in the natural products community (aspmeetings. pharmacognosy.us/), and the abstract deadline is June 1.
Events highlighting developments at the front lines of natural products research will include podium talks and poster presentations, as well as meet-and-greet sessions for all participants. The organizing committee is comprised of PhD candidate Joe Egan, Drs. C. Benjamin Naman, Karen VanderMolen, Robert Cichewicz II, Cindy Angerhofer, and ASP Business Manager Ms. Laura Stoll
The Vanguards Symposium will use a virtual meeting platform that allows attendees to navigate the conference center, browse posters, and communicate in one-on-one and small group sessions akin to traditional real-life interactions. Even brief passing-in-the-hallway cordiality is facilitated! Some ASP members will already be familiar with the Virtual Chair platform, while the organizing committee are confident that others will find the web browser interface to be very intuitive and easy to use with the arrow keys on any computer keyboard. An informational video about Virtual Chair is available for easy viewing at the event page (aspmeetings.pharmacognosy.us/virtual-chair/).
The Vanguards event will use a virtual meeting platform that allows attendees to navigate the conference center, browse posters, and communicate in one-on-one and small group sessions akin to traditional real-life interactions.
The almost video game-like setting of this platform seems amusing at first, but it quickly becomes a fun and engaging way to interact digitally with colleagues across any distance. The organizing committee faced much less online fatigue when doing a demo of this software, and a screenshot (Figure 1) shows how the virtual conference center might look come July.
In it, several members of the organizing committee are shown at the intersection of the conference presentation room (these will still launch externally in Zoom), the poster session (which accommodates videos or fixed image posters), and social areas (yes, there is a bar – bring your own drinks of choice and enjoy not searching for spare drink tickets this year). Tables set in the system create private interactions where only seated individuals can hear, see or participate in the conversation.
FIGURE 1: Several of the event coordinators interacting in Virtual Chair online. From top-left to bottom-right: Joe Egan from Simon Fraser University; Laura Stoll from the ASP; Jaclyn Winter from University of Utah; Karen VanderMolen from The Procter & Gamble Company; Robert Cichewicz from The University of Oklahoma; Benjamin Naman from Ningbo University. Screenshot produced by C.B.N.
Posters have more broad space for fostering small group standing discussions, and the hallways, bar, and other open spaces are available for public dialogue. If you find yourself looking for a particular attendee, there is a function to facilitate finding them wherever they are in the space. Imagine having that ability at an in-person event! After extensive testing, the organizing committee felt confident that this new platform will be even better for social interactions than what was offered previously, and it still links out to Zoom for the well-established webinar-style oral presentations that everyone has become very familiar with in the last year or more.
In addition to the many challenges and unfortunate outcomes of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there have emerged new opportunities and technologies for staying connected. When the ASP Annual Meeting of 2020 was canceled, the ASP Younger Members Virtual Symposium was hastily organized and executed using the Zoom platform. The event ran as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for and was later reviewed in summary for our membership. [The ASP Newsletter. 2020, 56 (3): 21-23.] The virtual platform fostered increased participation from international community members, improving our outreach, diversity, and inclusion. Furthermore, presenters had the chance to disseminate their work to that broader-than-usual international audience and have (virtual) podium experiences at earlier stages in their careers than most in-person meetings facilitate.
The virtual platform fostered increased participation from international community members, improving our outreach, diversity, and inclusion.
While we all hoped that it would be possible to hold the next ASP annual meeting or later interim meeting in a “post-pandemic” 2021, it was also recognized that the digital platform could still be useful in the future to build on the positive aspects experienced in 2020. When it became clear that in-person events would be further delayed, the return of an online meeting found increased demand. It remains an utmost priority of the ASP to highlight the work of younger members, rising stars through the Vanguards of Natural Product Research. The executive committee rallied behind the need to facilitate student-to-postdoc transitions via the interactions of ASP younger members with more-seasoned faculty who are seeking new talent, as well as offering enhanced exposure for any members in early-career ranks who desire to move into industry. In addition, a jobs fair and career event is being planned, and this is detailed in another article within this issue of the ASP Newsletter.
It remains an utmost priority of the ASP to highlight the work of younger members, rising stars through the Vanguards of Natural Product Research.
Whether you are new to the field or a seasoned veteran, we hope that you will join us for these opportunities to interact with the students and postdocs who are on the frontlines of natural products research and learn about cutting-edge science being developed around the world. Consider the potential benefit to the society from broad participation and engagement at this event, and alternatively contrast the harm that we could face if one or more years’ worth of annual meetings and the according poster and podium presentations are skipped. We are counting on you, every member of the ASP, to participate if you can, and help to advertise the event by word-of-mouth to colleagues near and far. Cost will not be an issue, travel is not going to be necessary, and the organizing committee really expects this to be a fun way to spread ASP-relevant science around the world. The organizing committee thanks you in advance for your participation, and looks forward to seeing you in the online virtual world for the Vanguards of Natural Product Research 2021!
Whether you are new to the field or a seasoned veteran, we hope that you will join us for these opportunities to interact with the students and postdocs who are on the frontlines of natural products research and learn about cutting-edge science being developed around the world.