How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed presenting at a conference?

Keely B.: Poster presentations before the pandemic typically were given hour-long time slots, in a large banquet hall sized room with many other presenters, with other conference attendees walking around and periodically stopping by to read your poster, listen to a short summary of the research, then ask questions. Online conferences have made this look very different to say the least. This year, a ‘Poster’ presentation at the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting (SBM) was actually a short PowerPoint presentation that could be 2 minutes in total. People could watch them at any time during the conference and message presenters with questions or comments. I have heard of other conferences using social media platforms like Twitter to facilitate discussion and involvement with other presenters. Essentially, the pandemic has changed not only the visual format of presentations but also how we are able to interact with one another’s presentations. 

Helen B.: Similar to most things in graduate school over the past year, the pandemic shifted how professional conferences are run. In 2020, many conferences were cancelled all together, but in 2021 most conferences went virtual. Keely and I submitted our abstract to something called a rapid spotlight, for which we were asked to create a two minute video condensing all of our findings. Like Keely mentioned, many conferences used social media platforms to facilitate conversation you might experience while standing by your poster in non-COVID times. SBM encouraged folks to submit questions via email to the presenters to facilitate communication.

What’s it like to break down research findings into two minutes?

KB: Tough. Prior to COVID, you could give a 2 or 3 minute presentation on your poster and allow people time to read it over to fill in any information you didn’t share or to ask any questions that may have come up. Some people may have just glanced at your poster while walking by, others may have hung around for 10 minutes discussing your work. Having only 2 minutes to present without a way to share the extra information that would be available to be read on a poster meant we had to really consider what mattered most to help viewers understand our goals, methods, and findings. This did force us to share our findings in a concise, simple, easy to understand way which I think may have made it more accessible regardless of viewer background. Personally, I also think that getting to look at a well designed PowerPoint is much less overwhelming than looking at a full poster. 

HB: So challenging! Condensing information in an easy to understand and concise manner is a skill I’m always trying to work on for research presentations. This conference was unique in asking for a two minute video, in which Keely and I decided to split going over the study and its findings. We ended up practicing a few different iterations and removed bullet points or even entire slides in the process. Originally, we wanted to present all the details of our study, however, we discovered that trimming our slides down helped create a better presentation that was easier to understand. This experience also taught me to include more visuals than text when presenting, which I hope to take with me in future presentations!

What is something you learned from presenting virtually that you plan to take with you when you go back to in person conferences? 

KB: I think that I will be more inclined to design posters that emphasize the key pieces of the research process and takeaways rather than posters that have tons of information. While all of the information we include on posters is important to the study, I think it can create an overwhelming visual that can take away from the research itself if the audience is more focused on reading through all the detail or avoids looking at the poster because there is so much detail. Finding the happy medium between a super-condensed 2 minute PowerPoint and an extremely detailed poster will be my goal in the future! 

HB: Similar to Keely, this experience highlighted how important it is to choose a few key findings from a research study and explain them concisely and clearly. It was a great opportunity not only to practice explaining our research, but also how to do it more effectively moving forward.

-KB & HB

Chronic pain: What is it? What do we know? What are we trying to find out?

Chronic pain can take many forms: arthritis, consequence of an injury, and migraines are a few. Here in the CHILL Pediatric Lab, chronic pain is one of our main research interests. So what exactly is chronic pain? What do we know about chronic pain? And what do we still need to find out?

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a type of pain that lasts for longer than a few months or longer than we would expect with a specific injury and impacts anywhere from 11 to 40% of the United States population (Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee. 2016). This pain can take many different forms and even within specific diagnosis can vary greatly, making it difficult to give a specific definition of what chronic pain is. Chronic pain is not just something that adults deal with, but also an issue for many youth. Some research in our lab focuses on pediatric chronic pain more generally, and some projects specifically focus on Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), a chronic condition that results in pain, fatigue, and a variety of other symptoms (Levy, 2002).

What do we know about chronic pain?

Chronic pain research broadly and research in our lab has given us a lot of information about these disorders. We know that those with chronic pain often experience other symptoms aside from their pain. For example, our hEDS research has supported previous findings for other disorders that there are other physical symptoms associated with the disorder. Those with hEDS also experience fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, and joint instability. Their chronic pain disorder is much more than just pain. Not only are there other physical symptoms, but there are also psychological consequences. We have found increased rates of anxiety and depression in hEDS patients, which has also been found in other chronic pain conditions. 

What do we still need to find out?

There are still so many questions left about chronic pain, and the questions are different for unique conditions. Can we cure chronic pain? What is the best way to manage each condition? How can we help people regain quality of life? What about mental health? These questions continue to fuel research, which is where the CHILL lab comes in! In the past the lab has analyzed sociodemographic and environmental risk factors for chronic pain in pediatric patients, a parent and child interpretations of their condition, and the relationship between pain, peer relationships, and mental health.  

One of the many projects we are currently working on analyzes responses of children with hEDS and their parents to the questions “What makes living with hEDS easier?” and “What is the hardest part about living with hEDS?”. Our hope with this research is to gain an understanding of the different ways that parents and children view a child’s chronic condition. My Master’s thesis will attempt to see what factors, if any, are associated with psychological outcomes in pediatric hEDS patients. I hope to find both what may help and what may hurt mental health in hEDS patients. 



Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee. (2016). National pain strategy: a comprehensive population health-level strategy for pain. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. 

Levy HP. (2004). Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. In: Adam MP, Ardinger HH, Pagon RA, et al., (Eds.). GeneReviews [Internet]. Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Seattle. Available from:

SPPAC 2019

In April, members of the Pediatric CHILL Lab went to New Orleans for the Society of Pediatric Society Annual Conference.

Attending a national conference every year provides me with exposure to the most recent research being done in my field and allows me an opportunity to build connections.  This past April, members of the Pediatric CHILL Lab attended the Society of Pediatric Society Annual Conference (SPPAC) in New Orleans, LA.  What I love about SPPAC is the exposure to many different areas of pediatric psychology that I might not have exposure to through my research and clinical training.  Last year when I attended this conference, I happened to attend a talk focused on an unfamiliar area of pediatrics, integrative primary care.  Through this presentation, I realized how well this field aligned with my interests; integrative primary care has a community based component and also a focus on interdisciplinary care. 

After gaining knowledge about this field, I made it my goal to learn about the field by attending relevant poster sessions and talks.  SPPAC offers an exciting opportunity for trainees to attend a mentoring lunch to connect with an established clinician or researcher in the field.  I met with a pediatric psychologist who works in integrative primary care which allowed me an opportunity to ask questions about the field and find ways to gain training in primary care. 

Attending a national conference is a one-stop shop place to build connections, learn about research, and connect with old friends.  I always leave conferences feeling inspired and excited to explore new ideas.