Boston science tourism and conference tips

How to make the most of your trip to Boston, MA

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Trade shows are dynamic hubs where industries converge to showcase innovation, establish connections, and pave the way for future collaborations. 

The Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) shows (Europe and US) are always a highlight, and we had a great time in Boston for #SLAS24 this February. 

We consider ourselves SLAS show veterans, and, as Boston is the home of our office across the pond, we thought it’d be helpful to share our top tips for getting the most out of visiting conferences and exhibitions in the Boston area.

1) Check the schedule

This may sound like an obvious one, but even seasoned conference attendees have found themselves missing speakers due to losing track of time, looking at schedules for the wrong day, or because they haven’t planned anything beyond just getting there. 

Creating a plan for your time at the show in advance will also give you an opportunity to book networking and breaks and is especially useful if a vendor you want to connect with has pre-bookable meeting slots. 

2) Be a science tourist 

Boston is great for tourists and business visitors and offers a variety of attractions and experiences depending on what you’re looking for. 

To keep this on-theme, you could take the opportunity to check out some of the more scientifically inspirational museums to reconnect with the history of our field. Some of our favourites are below and on this handy Google Map of local life science companies, shared facilities, and attractions.

Museum of Science

Located a 30 – 40 minute public transport ride and walk from the Conference centre, Boston’s Museum of Science houses exhibitions across physics, chemistry and biology, plus related technologies. It’s one of the world’s largest science museums. Notable permanent exhibitions include Project Vaccine: Our Best Defense; Exploring AI: Making the Invisible Visible; and Hall of Human Life. There’s also a planetarium, insect zoo, animal care centre, dinosaur exhibitions and design engineering challenges for the whole family to enjoy, should you be combining business with vacation time. Admission is $29 per adult, with some shows charged extra.

Harvard University

Located in the major Greater Boston metropolitan area of Cambridge is the renowned Harvard University. The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located on campus, offering visitors the opportunity to learn and immerse themselves in the vibrant academic atmosphere of one of the world’s leading universities. Though not strictly science-led, the Museum is on this list because it provides a fascinating reminder of our evolutionary history and how the natural world continues to adapt in the face of environmental and ecological challenges. Included with the $15 admission fee is entry to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and The Harvard University Herbaria and Botanical Museum, which is connected to the Peabody Museum. The University itself welcomes visitors via the Harvard University Visitor Centre, where guided or self-led tours can also be arranged. The main campus is a 35-minute bus and subway ride from the Conference centre.

Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation

Located in the Massachusetts General Hospital, this museum offers nearly 8,000 sq ft of exhibits and programs on topics such as the evolution of healthcare, laboratory and clinical research, and patient and family support over the ages. You can also visit the Ether Dome when it’s not in use, the site of the first successful public surgery undertaken using ether as a surgical anaesthetic. Admission is free, and the museum is a 28-minute red line subway journey and walk from the Convention centre.

The MIT Museum

Finally, because we love technological innovation as much as scientific ones, we consider the MIT Museum a must-visit attraction if you also have an interest in technology-led scientific innovation. Ongoing exhibitions include AI: Mind the Gap, which explores the promise and impacts of AI, and Gene Cultures, which looks at technological advancements in the field of genetic discovery. They also have an excellent collection of objects documenting the history of scientific developments undertaken at MIT. The museum is a 25-minute Red Line subway journey from the Conference centre, and admission is $18.

3) Attend presentations and talks

It’s tempting to spend the day checking out potential suppliers and competitors, and catching up with your colleagues and contacts. However, there are usually excellent talks being delivered on the show floor, and training or pre-show activities happening in the days leading up to or after large events.  

#SLAS24 had nine scientific tracks, each chaired by experts from some of the leading biotechs in the world, such as GSK, AstraZeneca and Tetra Science.  

  • Advances in Bioanalytics and Biomarkers
  • Assay Development and Screening
  • Automation Technologies
  • Cellular Technologies
  • Data Science and AI
  • Micro- and Nano Technologies
  • New Modalities
  • Omics
  • Precision Medicine & Diagnostics

Even when these sessions are at an extra cost, it might be a time-effective way to boost your professional development if something looks useful.

4) Investigate competitors, suppliers and customers

More than 21m sq feet of lab space has been added to Massachusettes in the last decade, and as a result, Boston is a national leader in scientific research, medicine and engineering. The Milken Institute rates it as the top life sciences cluster in the country and a biotechnology hub, so you could do far worse than leveraging your network to access some of these inspirational facilities and high-value businesses. Some, especially science park property agents, also offer public tours of their facilities. 

A list of lab spaces offered by accelerators and incubators can be found here or on this handy Google Map of local life science companies, shared facilities, and attractions.

Boston Waterfront Innovation District, more commonly known as the Seaport District, is where the Conventre Centre is located, and it’s home to a number of biotechs, including LG Chem Life Sciences, healthcare giant Roviant and chemoproteomics experts Jnana Therapeutics to name a few, so you don’t have to go far to find inspiration from market leaders.

5) Make a post-event action list – on the day

As soon as you put that leaflet in your show bag, you risk doing nothing with it. How often have you returned to the office, only to never think about half of the people you met at a conference again?

It’s much more effective to spend some time over a coffee or lunch break looking at the materials you’ve picked up and noting any interesting companies, contacts, and speakers you’ve seen at the show. 

You’ll remember more on the day, save you time when you get back to the office, and, more importantly, help you form a post-show action plan. 

Most vendors and attendees know that shows like SLAS are conversation starters, not closers, so a solid post-show comms plan is the best way to ensure you maximise the opportunities you open up on the show floor. 

We can’t wait to showcase LINQ again in October at Future Labs Live, PA, and we’re looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

Author
Join Automata at SLAS 2024 in Boston. 3-7 February.
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