How to prepare for conferences?

In about 4 days, MRS Meeting Fall 2017 will commence. As a young researcher, I often wonder what is the best way to prepare for conferences. It can be particularly nerve-wrecking as MRS is one of the largest materials conferences and like me, I am sure you will want to make the most out of your time there!

Here are some tips that you might find useful:

  • Check out the conference schedule beforehand.

Mark the talks you wish to attend. MRS has an app for those of you who are tech-savvy. For traditionalist like me, you can print the meeting schedule and mark it manually. However, do take note that due to unforeseen circumstances, some talks might be cancelled or re-scheduled. To avoid disappointment, I will advise you to check the most updated meeting information online daily.

  • Contact scientists you wish to meet

During MRS meeting, there will be many excellent scientists, making it an extremely useful platform for scientific exchange and collaborations. I find it useful to contact researchers that I wish to meet beforehand. If you are worried that your email might be missed, one other way is to attend the presentations in person, and interact with the presenters.

  • Rehearse for your presentation

What better way to leave a conference feeling accomplished than acing your presentation. Whether you are giving an oral or poster presentations, they are good avenues for you to showcase your hard work. Be proud of it and actively share it with other conference participants. Invite people to your presentations (like what I will do here shamelessly)!

**Come and support my oral presentation on 30th November, 3pm at Sheraton, 2nd Floor, Republic A if you free**

I hope that these 3 simple tips will be helpful especially for scientists who are attending their first conference!

You might want to check out a post I have written previously for Naturejobs Blog about networking skills.

Hello again MRS!

By Humaira Taz

It's that time of the year again when the area around Hynes Convention Center in Boston gets busy with intellect - MRS Fall Meeting! This will be my third MRS meeting and I am looking forward to it as excited as ever. Every year, for the past three years, it is as if my research progress from January till November culminates to an MRS presentation or poster. This will also be the second time I am blogging for the MRS Meeting Scene and I am super grateful to Judy Meiksin for giving me this opportunity again.

Before I proceed any further, let me introduce myself. I am a fifth-year PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. My research focus is on a novel amorphous iron-terbium-dysprosium oxide that could potentially find applications in electronic/memory devices. This year I have had the opportunity to work with one of the finest groups in the Materials Science and Engineering department at University of California-Berkeley as part of my dissertation research. The group at UCBerkeley focuses on multiferroic materials and devices, so my objective was to try to incorporate my material into a multiferroic device. In fact, I will be giving an oral presentation on this project on Tuesday, November 28th at 4PM in Hynes, Level 1, Room 107 (Paper #: EM02.05.06). Everyone is invited! I also have a poster on thermal cycling of my material Tuesday night (ES03.06.28), so stop by if you are interested in amorphous oxide semiconductors. IMG_2198

On the sidelines, I like to invest my time in writing, painting, and cooking. I am particularly interested in science writing for the general audience and would like to pursue a career in that someday. Thanks to Judy, I also got to contribute two articles for the MRS Bulletin and certainly hope to continue doing it. 

Last year during this time, I was hoping to graduate by December 2017. My objective for MRS Fall 2016 meeting was to find a career prospect in the industry in Toronto, Canada since my husband lives there and it is about time we move-in together (you can check out my previous blog on this here). However, the UCBerkeley opportunity came up and my thesis developed a whole new branch. My adviser recently assured me that I will graduate in May 2018 (fingers crossed, knock on wood), and so I am even more focused this time to network as much as I can towards a career in the industry in Toronto. I think this was the universe's way of allowing me to "practice-network" before the real deal. Aside from networking and attending interesting talks, my checklist consists of getting a professional photo taken (finally), getting critiques on my resume, attending the Women in Science Breakfast, and definitely checking out one of my favorite parts of MRS: Science as Art submissions. 

If you have any questions about my work (research and sidelines), or if you are interested in blogging for MRS Meeting Scene but not sure if it gets overwhelming, or if you want a pal to explore restaurants, feel free to send me a message through the MRS app. You are also welcome to connect with me on Twitter @TazHumaira (or LinkedIn) and reach out that way. Last piece of advice: come prepared for the Boston cold - layers are the key!


Hola from Irene

Hey y'all! I am Irene, I am a postdoc at Simon Fraser University in Canada although I did my PhD at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. My research focus is magnetic nanoparticles for biomedical applications but, honestly, I enjoy all things nano and materials.

How do you do

This will be my first MRS meeting and I can't wait for it! The program looks amazing and I don't think it will be easy to choose which talks to attend each day. I also like that there are plenty of professional development workshops. I am particularly interested in the Research Mentor Workshop where I hope to learn tips and tricks on how to better motivate the students under my supervision and help them achieve their career goals.

Besides wanting to attend ALL THE TALKS AND WORKSHOPS, I have two posters and two talks so I am going to be quite busy. I will be presenting on my core research, nanoparticles for biomedical applications (of course), but also on safety of engineered nanomaterials (one of my main concerns as a person handling nanomaterials on a daily basis) and optimization of water electrolyzers (sustainable energy sources are other of my personal interests as, you know, a person that lives on planet Earth). You can expect me to babble about any of these topics, but also about diversity in STEM, food or any general thoughts that come to my mind about MRS and Boston.

Shoot me up any questions on the comments below or connect with me on Twitter @IAndreuNano. Let's roll!


Yohoo from Andy!

Hi everyone,

I am Andy, a postdoc fellow in Stanford University. My research area is in material-neural interface and I have created several neuro-modulatory technologies during my PhD.

I will be attending MRS Fall Meeting 2017 and there are a few reasons why I am particularly excited about it:

1) This is my first time in Boston! During my visit, I plan to meet my friends studying in the city and try the famous lobster rolls (any recommendation is greatly appreciated).

2) I will be giving an oral presentation on magnetic hydrogels. Come and support me on 30th November, 3pm at Sheraton, 2nd Floor, Republic A if you free.

3) I am also very honored to be the recipient of the inaugural MRS Bulletin Postdoc Publication Prize. Feel free to ask me what this prize is about and how to prepare for this application if you are interested to learn more!

4) Lastly, I am glad to be given an opportunity to be a MRS blogger. I hope that my blogs will provide you insightful information about the meeting. I also hope that my articles will serve as a platform for me to converse with you on things such as the importance of evidence-based science communications.

Hope to see you at MRS =)



Making the most out of MRS Meetings

Written by Rahim Munir and Ahmed E. Mansour

The Materials Research Society (MRS) meetings are organized twice a year, one in spring and one in fall. MRS Meetings are fully packed with top-notch scientists discussing their current research and its prospects. It represents a great platform to connect with other research groups and promote interdisciplinary and international collaborations. The 2017 MRS Fall Meeting is just around the corner, and if you are attending it, then this article will help you to make the most out of your visit to MRS, whether you are there to publicize your work, seek answers to standing questions in your research, communicate with research equipment representatives for potential upgrades, or seeking for an opportunity for the next step in your career.

MRS Meeting application

The MRS Meeting app is intuitively designed to list all events happening at the meeting, with the ability to search by presenter’s name or institute, keywords, symposium or topic, and to filter the search by day or time. You have to log in with your MRS username and password in order to access the details of the Meeting. The app lists all the talks and posters in each symposium along with abstracts, venue, and timing. It will also list other events such as exhibition, career fair, etc. You can bookmark the events that resonate with your interest from the plethora of talks and networking events, and the app will generate a timeline based on your selection. The app also lists key exhibitors with their booth numbers; it becomes easy for you to search the company of your interest. Many researchers do not know about its personal messaging capabilities. It acts like a mini Whatsapp or WeChat. You may message the person of interest through MRS app to schedule a meeting or share comments about their presentation. The MRS team sends beacons (notifications) based on your current location. It is your choice to either activate this feature or not. Our advice is to activate this feature as if you are in the vicinity of the session; you will get a notification.

The MRS Meeting app is available on both Android and iPhone platforms.



It is better to stay at the hotels which are recommended by MRS because of the low rates and plentitude of networking opportunities. These hotels are quite respectful of your presence and are in close vicinity to the conference venue allowing participants to easily take a rest in their room till the next session of interest starts. Munir has met one of the professors, coincidently, with whom he wanted to discuss his research, in an elevator of the hotel while going to the conference. He took this as an opportunity to introduce himself and expressed his research interest. It was a quality time as no one else was there. Moreover, the MRS channel is often embedded in the TV channels list of these hotels, thus allowing attendees to watch key interviews and summaries of meeting events during the evening in your room. MRS-sponsored coffee is usually available in the lobby of these hotels, in which a hot cup of coffee can be an icebreaker with other peers attending the meeting.


The first day of the MRS Meeting – Tutorial Sessions

MRS Meetings have been in the habit of having various tutorial sessions related to some key symposia that will be presented during the week. Such an opportunity is key to fill out knowledge gaps and may act as a live literature review that will help you make out the most of the sessions to come during the week. Usually, these tutorial sessions are run in parallel, so make sure to choose the one most relevant to your plans and stick to it. With these sessions running on the first day of the MRS Meeting, where research presentations and companies exhibition have not yet started, it allows for a relaxed environment where you can stay focused in addition to making new friendships and connections.


Plan each day of the conference

The plentitude of talks and posters will leave you in a mess if you do not plan. Our advice is to plan each day before you reach the conference but be flexible for any changes. Mark all the important talks you are interested in attending. Attend the multidisciplinary talks; e.g., if you are working with biomaterials, attend key talks of organic transistors and solar cells—it might provide new out-of-the-box opportunities and ideas for your own work and might lead to a potential collaboration. Plan the posters you are interested in looking and discussing with the presenter. The poster exhibition hall is quite huge, and you might get lost if you do not plan well in advance. The beauty of MRS is that it is not only a research conference. They offer a variety of socializing events, competitions, soft skills seminars, career fair, etc. Make a list of the events which are most relevant to you and plan your day accordingly. We strongly recommend attending at least one of the “non-research” events according to your interest.



MRS cultures a friendly and scientific environment for a person to present their work either through oral or poster presentation. If you are a student or postdoctoral fellow, then presenting at MRS is a crucial way to show your research capabilities and your communication skills at once. It is a great platform to create an impact on your future employer about your critical thinking in research while presenting it in a simple way to make the audience understand your perspective. We would recommend to start from a generalized introduction and narrow it down to your specific work in your oral presentation. It is difficult to discuss the plethora of your research work in a 12-minute presentation; however, with smart planning of your presentation time, you will be able to convey key messages to the audience successfully. Remember do not use more than the allotted time. Take special care while designing your figures for the presentation, what may appear readable on the computer screen might not be clear on the projected screen. Learn image optimization for oral presentations by Tim Miller. He has also explained the effective use of each slide in your presentation.

While practicing your presentation, make sure to give a mock presentation in front of your colleagues to get the constructive criticism. It is better to be criticized by your friends than project a negative impression of yourself in front of the large audience. Bring your own laptop for the presentation and keep a backup in the USB or an external drive. We personally upload our presentation to our dropbox accounts also, just to be protected from any technical issues. It is important (read: a must-do) to test your presentation, especially if you have any videos embedded, during the coffee or lunch break prior to your assigned session. MRS has a strict prohibition for recording or taking pictures during the presentation; however, if you are interested to get photographed or recorded, you may email the MRS team before the conference. They may allow you to appoint someone to record your presentation.

In a poster presentation, you should skip the generalized introduction part. The poster design should be an eye-catching one in order to stand out in the sea of posters. Take special care for the font size and do not load it up with a ton of text. Keep it simple and elegant. Watch the poster presentation tips by Dr. Husam Alshareef of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). It is always better to have your poster, printed beforehand, accompany you during your flight. However, if you feel the need of making changes or don’t want to have the burden of carrying your poster with over-long flights and connections, you may print in any of the FedEx Kiosks typically available close to the MRS venue.



We cannot write about a conference without including its networking aspect. Each scientific conference brings up an opportunity for networking with great minds in the field. Through networking at conferences, people may land on their dream jobs, make lifelong friends, start new collaborations or discover a nearby awesome place to dine in. Numerous outcomes can be projected from the networking at the conference. During the 2017 MRS Spring Meeting, a seminar by Alaina G. Levine titled “Networking for Nerds” took place during the conference. She has authored a book of the same name which is quite useful if you are new to the conference environment. She is a wonderful speaker and an auspicious author.

In our view, if you are in your initial years of Ph.D. then you should focus more towards networking with other students and discuss the innovative ideas in science and where it is heading. You should attend the talks which are not directly related to your research in order to get a larger perspective of science. You may change your research area in the future, and these talks might prove to be helpful. If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the Ph.D., meaning you are in your last year or so, then use the conference networking primarily for landing the dream job. Make a wish list of the professors you would like to work with during your postdoctoral years. Invite them to attend your talk and get feedback. Do the same with them, attend their presentations and give them your honest feedback. Schedule a lunch or dinner with them. Usually, professors are heavily occupied by their commitments for meals, but you still have coffee breaks to catch them and pitch your application. Make sure you register for the student mixer, it is a great opportunity to mingle and have informal conversations. If you are a postdoctoral fellow and would like to continue in academia, then keep an eye on professors announcing open positions in their universities. Talk to people from different universities and inquire about the opportunities. You may find out about positions that will open in the near future. Numerous publishers exhibit their journals and books at their booth during the exhibit. Inquire about the editorial or writing opportunities.


If you are interested in a career in industry, keep an eye on the sponsors of each symposium, which is typically overlooked by most of us. This information can assist you in identifying key companies that are interested in a specific research field, and a speaker of which may be attending and presenting recent progress in the R&D industry. Make sure to talk to these people, and discuss the alignment of your research with theirs, then openly ask if they have positions that match your expertise.


Job seekers in Academia

MRS meetings being carried out in both Boston and Phoenix give the opportunity to be in a forest of well-reputed universities and research institutes that are within walking distance or as close as your finger is to book an Uber. Spend an hour identifying research groups in these universities, and write an email for PIs requesting a meeting or a chance for a short presentation of your research in their group meetings. Moreover, if you have the time and resources, you may expand your search to nearby states and travel to visit research groups of relevance to yours and which you may be interested in acquiring a post-doctoral opportunity. If you are a postdoctoral fellow and would like to continue in academia, then get to know upcoming opportunities in different universities for the faculty position. There might be new departments, centres, or even universities in the making. Being a faculty not only means to be on the top of your area of expertise and publish, but it is also an opportunity to build a long-term mentor-mentee relationship. We suggest taking a look at the articles by Wendy C. Crone and Peter J. Feibelman. They have explained the ever evolving nature of the mentor-mentee relationship in an immaculate manner. These articles expound the art of balancing your time allocation for writing and helping your mentees.  


Professional development events

As mentioned earlier, MRS is no regular science conference, it provides ample opportunities to develop soft skills. The events they usually organize are

  1. CV critic

Bring your CV to them in order to get it evaluated. You can register for the time slot of your own convenience. You will get a chance to discuss your CV in detail with the professionals in order to improve your CV architecture and turn on and turn offs. Watch the interview of Dr. Prashant Kamat from Notre Dame University and Dr. Jillian Buriak from the University of Alberta talk about CV writing.

  1. Photography service

You can register for a time slot to be photographed by a professional. If you have not been through a photo shoot, then this is your chance to get highly professional photos. You will receive these photos, electronically, in a few weeks after the MRS meeting and you may use it for LinkedIn, Google Scholar, Research Gate, etc.

  1. Career Fair

Keep your CV with you because numerous companies and universities visit MRS with the intention of hiring the cream of scientific minds. Check out the list of potential employers beforehand in order to prioritize your time.

  1. Workshops and Tutorials

You will receive emails from MRS about different workshops and tutorials. Do not ignore those emails. These events are organized and selected carefully in order to develop your specific skill set. Check out the relevance and make sure to attend as many workshops as possible. They organize workshops for networking, CV writing, use of social media, etc. Moreover, a session for green card application is also organized for the researchers interested in getting a permanent residency in the US.

  1. Journal launch or promotion

Social events by publishers are organized either to launch or to promote their journals and books. Make sure to register and attend these events. You will get a good chance to meet the editors and understand their expectations of research quality for the research papers they publish. You may also consider to publish your work in prestigious MRS journals. Take advantage of the presence of the whole MRS editorial team at the meeting and discuss your research or editorial ideas with them. You may also discuss your publication issues (rejection, revision, duplication, etc.) with them in an informal setting. Watch the presentations and panel discussion on “Essentials of Getting Your Work Published” to learn more about the publication process.

Things to keep with you all the time

Here is a small list of items you should keep with you all the time during the MRS Meeting

  • Updated CV
  • Business Cards
  • Your phone with MRS Meeting app installed
  • Your laptop loaded with your oral or poster presentation
  • Your MRS badge

and of course

  • Trust us, you will be walking a lot, so why not count your steps while you are at it.

We hope this article will help you to make the most of your upcoming trip to the MRS Meeting. We are sure you will have a great time in learning the state of the art research while having fun with the conference events. If you are particularly interested in science communication, then you should attend a science communication panel discussion on 28 November (8 – 11 am) at Hynes, Level 2, The Hub Stage—Hall D.

Here are the links to some useful resources which will help you to prepare for the conference:

  1. Prashant Kamat and Prof. Jillian Buriak talking about CV writing
  2. Husam Alshareef talking about oral and poster presentation
  3. Networking for Nerds
  4. Mentoring a postdoc–the basics
  5. Mentoring Today and into the future
  6. Essentials of Getting Your Work Published
  7. Science communication panel discussion

Student and post-doc reporters and bloggers for the 2017 MRS Fall Meeting—Applications now being accepted


Graduate students and post-docs who are interested in contributing to the Meeting Scene® newsletter and the Meeting Blog for the 2017 MRS Fall Meeting are encouraged to apply. Reporters will be required to attend talks in a variety of symposia and write brief summaries (100-250 words) of four talks each day; bloggers will be required to post at least five items per day and also tweet about their experiences at the meeting. For completing these daily assignments, reporters and bloggers will receive reimbursement up to the student registration rate and a $50 stipend.

To apply, please send an email to stating your qualifications and your reasons for wanting to report or blog for us. We need only four reporters and four bloggers, so we will not be able to accept everyone who applies. We look forward to hearing from you! #F17MRS 

ES13: Interfaces and Interphases in Electrochemical Energy Storage and Conversion

David Prendergast, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Understanding the Nature of Chemical and Electrochemical Stability of Electrolytes at Mg Anode Surfaces

Written by Aashutosh Mistry

With depleting reserves for lithium, there has been an active interest in making successful secondary batteries using other alkali and alkaline metals. Magnesium is one of the competitors, given reasonably smaller size and high but not extreme reactivity (making it safer). In addition, experimentally no dendrites are observed on magnesium surfaces, in contrast to lithium metal where dendrite-free electrodeposition is more of a dream than reality.

There are two long-standing problems with Mg—unavailability of a good cathode host and search of a suitable electrolyte that would lead to desired Mg/electrolyte interface. David Prendergast of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and his colleagues have been investigating the science of the Mg/electrolyte interface using a three-pronged approach that involves Ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations, x-ray spectral interpretation of in situ chemical/electrochemical tests and condensed phase interfacial modeling. The research question addressed in this talk was whether a combination of good electrode (Mg) and good electrolyte would lead to a good interface, and possibly an interphase as well. They experimented with Mg symmetric cells using Mg(AlCl2BuEt)2 salt in tetrahydrofuran (THF) electrolyte. They found out that even under no electrochemical bias (i.e., open circuit situation), there is a formation of different magnesium compounds on the electrode surface—for example, oxides MgO, hydroxides Mg(OH)2, and carbonate MgCO3. From molecular simulations, the researchers revealed that such reactions are only possible given surface defects on the electrode and which can subsequently lead to electrolyte decomposition. At this stage, they are involved in further electrochemical testing and equivalent modeling. The overall study is of extreme importance and should help identify suitable materials for Mg battery.

SM4: A Soft Future—From Electronic Skin to Robotics and Energy Harvesting

Andres Vasquez Quintero, Ghent University

Fabrication of Fixed-Shape Soft Smart Objects by Thermoplastic Forming of Flat Stretchable Circuits

Written by Akshay Phadnis

An increasing interest in stretchable, controlled shape polymer has inspired Andres Vasquez Quintero of Ghent University to develop shape-retaining electronic circuits. These circuits are based on elastic circuits with substitution by thermoplastic polymer carrier. Most importantly, these circuit systems are supposed to take a predetermined shape in the absence of any external force, for example, smart lenses (to replace the bi-focal glasses) or shoe in-soles. A flexible electronic circuit capable of stretching and deforming is first developed and then molded into the desired shape using a thermoforming process using suitable molds. Smart lenses developed using this methodology were demonstrated. Various challenges faced in the development of these lenses such as wrinkling were discussed in detail. These dynamic lenses can be tuned to be adaptable to environmental condition using LCD monitors to develop tunable lenses. 

SM8: Advanced Polymers

Kenneth C. Manning, Arizona State University

Super-absorbing Polymers for Breathable and Self-Sealing Smart Hazmat Suits

Written by Akshay Phadnis

Superabsorbent polymers are a special class of stimuli-sensitive polymers that undergo multifold swelling upon contact with the suitable solvents. Kenneth C. Manning of Arizona State University proposes to use such polymers in developing breathable, self-cleaning hazmat suits for use in chemically hazardous environments. If the polymer is tuned to be swelling when in contact with these chemicals, the swelling property of the polymers can be utilized to reduce the permeability of the chemicals. Since the suits will be “breathable” at all other times, there is no need of separate cooling mechanics to regulate the body temperature, which otherwise is needed in the case of current hazmat suits. The swelling phenomenon of the polymer is characterized experimentally in terms of swelling ratio, swelling time, and repeatability for selected choice of solvents. A finite element-based mathematical model is also implemented to represent the swelling. Using this model, various configurational studies can be done to design the shape and size of the polymer matrix. Also, since these polymers need to be combined with the wearable suits, an optimized method to develop a polymer-fiber matrix can be designed using this model. Use of this selective, self-breathable hazmat suit will bring a new future to the hazmat suits in chemical warfare.