Student Session Aide Blog

Meet world-renowned scientists, help communicate scientific research to the mass media, and watch little kids learn to love science—all in one weekend.

Contributed by: Jingfei Cai, Science Video Editor, Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), and former graduate student in biochemistry at Boston College

I volunteered as a student session aide at the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting, a global science gathering that brings thousands of leading scientists and engineers together. In return for helping out at the meeting in Boston, I received free registration, free Science, and full access to all the symposia, career development workshops, and special lectures.

Session aides choose their own sessions, so you can be sure that wherever you’re volunteering, the topic will be relevant to your studies and very interesting. When I wasn’t volunteering, I had full access to the entire meeting which was pretty fantastic.

Writing about Science for the Public Crowd
It was a full house for "Writing about Science for the Public" [Photo Credit: Jingfei Cai]

Scientific symposia are the heart of the AAAS Annual Meeting and where you’ll probably spend most of your time (you may also volunteer at Family Science Days or the AAAS Newsroom). Before each symposium, session aides meet with the session organizer, which was a great opportunity to connect with organizers and speakers and very useful at a large conference like the AAAS Annual Meeting. During symposia, we were asked to count attendees, take notes, and be the timekeeper. Most organizers and speakers were very grateful for my help, even if it was just raising a “2 minute” warning sign. Session aides really are a big part of making sure the AAAS Annual Meeting runs smoothly.

Volunteering for the AAAS Annual Meeting was a great experience. I had the opportunity to meet leading scientists and media personalities; I was exposed to new ideas in science research, education, and communication; and I saw first-hand how to engage the public with science and technology.

For someone who occasionally felt stuck in the lab (and I’m sure I wasn’t alone!), it was a breath of fresh air to see the bigger picture, think about how different fields of sciences connect and interact, and see the impact science has on society. The AAAS Annual Meeting is uniquely positioned to provide such an experience because it brings all walks of the sciences together.

Did I mention that I received free registration for the meeting and a year-long subscription to Science?