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Conference questions

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Hi all, 

Firstly, I am thankful for the good support here when I was very upset last week. After discussing with my supervisors, we agreed not to do further experiments for technical issues. Now, I can devote 100% of my time writing my manuscript and thesis. Since they decided not to do more experiments, I didn't mention my stress and burnout issues.

Now, the only big thing before submission is a one-day national conference in June. I presented a poster in an international conference last year, so I know how it will be like. I ticked "poster only" this time, so I will not get stressed out by any chances of an oral presentation. My anxiety/stress is not about public speaking, which is good. But the conference will start quite early in the morning (8:30 a.m.) and I need to travel at least one hour to get there. My last conference required participants to hang up their posters by 9 a.m. Ever since my supervisors overloaded me with experiments, I had bouts of intense anxiety in the mornings. Sometimes, it could be a struggle to arrive at the lab and complete my work. My muscles were basically tightened and I struggled to move. I only need 10 min to walk upstairs to the lab from my college, but the time doubled because my throat was tightened and I needed to catch my breaths. Well, I managed to finish all I needed to do, so my counselor said I was just stressed out and I am not having any disorders. I am much better in the mornings now, but my greatest worry is I will have anxiety again on the day of conference

(1) In the event I cannot attend the conference, what should I do to avoid leaving a bad mark to the organisation? Should I send them a medical certificate or call them? Or both? 

(2) I know my abstract will be accepted. Could I still write that I submitted an abstract to the conference under "publications during candidature" in my thesis? 

(3) Would my examiners grade my thesis differently because I only presented in one conference? In my country, the standard is one international and one national conferences. 

I cannot find any information relating to that on the web. It is not the right time to ask the organisation, because they would think I plan to no show on the day or ask me to withdraw my application. I can't ask my labmates/colleagues for similar reasons. Worst thing is they may tell my supervisors and I will have a hard time explaining. 

I am betting that I will be okay on the day, but I wish to be prepared in case I am not. 

Many thanks for your advice! 

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I'm glad to hear that you were able to come to an understanding with your supervisors about what should be in your dissertation, but it's too bad you didn't take the opportunity to also set some boundaries around work/free time, so you can start also fixing your mental health issues. I hope you're seeking help from a professional. Sometimes this kind of anxiety situation can be handled with medication and/or therapy, but you should always do that in consultation with a doctor, and it would likely also need to come with some lifestyle changes, including creating some free time in your life so you can recover. This conference aside, I think that taking the time to try and heal would be extremely beneficial for you. 

That aside, to answer your questions (caveat: my responses are based on what is customary in my field!):

1. You'd simply email to apologize and say you've had a medical problem come up last minute, and you regret that it will prevent you from attending the conference. Nothing more is needed. 

2. This may depend on the field, but in mine people usually don't have conferences on their CVs if they did not attend. I have seen some "accepted but declined" remarks on CVs, so I suppose that may be an option. 

3. This is something that we can't possibly answer. You were accepted, and if a medical problem prevents you from actually attending, that doesn't diminish your accomplishment. I don't think anyone can promise you more than that. 

One thing you might look into, if mornings are hard, is getting a hotel room (airbnb, or similar) near the conference site. That way you won't have the extra stress associated with early morning travel, and you could take your time getting ready. I would also check the conference schedule because just because the poster session was in the morning at the one conference you attended means nothing for when it'll be scheduled for this time. Also keep in mind that if you're late, that's not the end of the world. The organizers may want you to have your poster up by time X to make for a smoother transition between talks and posters, but you could still show up late and put up your poster whenever you get there. In the event that anybody asks, you explain that you had a delay in the morning that made you late (and you don't need to give any details on what that was!), and you present your poster starting whenever you get there. 

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