Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.
It was a typical cold, gray, overcast Midwestern November day when I sat down to ponder my last “A Word From Your 2015 Program Co-Chair.” I trust the readers of this column will forgive a Minnesota boy for letting his mind wander to dreams of a meeting in Orlando just around the corner.
Like many of you, part of my practice is mentoring and training future forensic scientists—in my case, physicians training to become forensic pathologists. As I was writing, my fellow came into my office to talk about the AAFS. She had recently applied to the Academy and was eager for any advice on planning for her first ever AAFS meeting. So we talked about how the meeting week is laid out—the Workshops, the Plenary Session, business meetings, the Scientific Sessions, the Poster Sessions, the Special Sessions, the Evening Sessions, and the Breakfast and Luncheon Seminars. We talked about all the different sections and the extraordinary variety of new knowledge one might be exposed to. Did I mention all the after-hours socializing? The more we talked, the more it struck me that this must seem overwhelming to a first-timer—so many options, so little time. To be honest, even after some 16 AAFS meetings myself, I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the options. As we worked on my fellow’s game plan for the meeting, I explained that the variety of available learning and socializing opportunities is—by design—more than one can take in. That’s the beauty of the AAFS: the chance to branch out, liaise with colleagues from disciplines peripheral to your own, take in a workshop or a scientific session on a topic wholly new to you, or brainstorm with peers in another section on a future project or presentation.
By the time you read this, we will be into the New Year. The AAFS 2015 meeting is now just around the corner. Are you registered and ready? It’s not too late, but the pre-registration deadline of January 21 is rapidly approaching. This is the last date you can register for workshops, breakfasts, luncheons, and other special session that require pre-registration. And while you can wait to register for the annual meeting onsite, you will save a considerable amount of money by registering in advance. How do you register? You can easily go online and take care of the whole process at www.aafs.org. Or, you can scan and email your registration form to Tracie McCray (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you’re old school, you can still mail your registration form (with payment) to the AAFS.
As you plan your registration and meeting week, keep this in mind: there are 24 workshops, eight breakfasts, two luncheons, and multiple interdisciplinary sessions to choose from. In the scientific sessions alone—where members showcase new developments and findings across some 11 sections—more than 750 platform presentations will take place and more than 400 posters will be displayed. True to the Academy’s mission and President Martell’s vision, an exceptional number of multidisciplinary sessions will take place during the scientific sessions, including collaborations between Anthropology and Criminalistics, General and Questioned Documents, Pathology/Biology and Toxicology, Engineering Sciences and Jurisprudence, and Toxicology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Science. In fact, almost every section of the Academy is represented in at least one multidisciplinary session. Since you can’t take it all in, the AAFS has some useful tools to help. You can download the meeting Program and Proceedings from the AAFS website. A handy and comprehensive paper calendar of events will be in your registration packet when you arrive at the meeting. An especially handy tool you can download to your mobile device is the “Guidebook” App.
While you move through the week at the meeting, please make sure you attend your section’s business meeting and the subsequent AAFS-wide Annual Business Meeting on Wednesday afternoon. These meetings are essential in keeping your section and the AAFS running, and allow your voice to be heard on matters ranging from section finances to choosing the future leadership of the organization. Of special note this year: in the history of the AAFS, only 13 members have ever been bestowed the Academy’s highest honor—the R.B.H. Gradwohl Laureate Medallion. This year, at the Annual Business Meeting, the 14th member to receive this distinction, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, will be honored. Trust me, you do not want to miss this.
Many of you will recall last year’s AAFS presentation from the National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST) on the creation of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). This year, on either Monday or Tuesday of the AAFS meeting, each of the five Scientific Area Committees (SACs) within the OSAC will be holding its first public meeting. The meeting times are listed in your program. You can read more about the OSAC by following the links at www.nist.gov/forensics. The extensive involvement of the AAFS in the OSAC enterprise, and the valuable input from AAFS members, will be vital to the success of standards development in the forensic sciences. Seriously consider attending the SAC meeting(s) relevant to your discipline if you can.
At the meeting, please take the time to show a smile, extend a handshake, pass a note, or toss a salute of thanks to the AAFS staff. Though they make running a meeting of this magnitude appear easy, and they are always quick to provide answers and solutions, the meeting is but the culmination of twelve months of hard work on their part. After a couple of days to catch their breath at the end of the Orlando meeting, rest assured, they will be already hard at work putting together the 2016 meeting.
Finally, plan to have fun with your family—loved ones and fellow AAFS members alike—in Orlando. The spirit of camaraderie the meeting engenders is a big part of the glue that holds the AAFS together and is certainly a major reason I am a proud and happy AAFS member. Your Program Chair, Ken Williams, and I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.