Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My first conference


As we approach conference season, our new recruits at PVL are getting their first taste of what it is like to present your work in front of the scientific community and to interact with labs working on disparate problems. Look for more posts in this vein and details about what we'll be discussing in our nine abstracts at the upcoming 2017 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas in March. The image above is taken from the poster session at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting, the largest conference on the Planetary Calendar.

By T. Giang Nguyen


As my third term rolls around as a graduate student, I’ve grown rather cozy of the little office where I generally spend most of my time. Aside from a summer short-course at Western University, I have not strayed far from York University since the fall term started. You can get pretty comfortable relying on daily routines but once in a while, it’s healthy to mix it up a bit. There had been discussions between the different events that we can attend and the group is heading to Houston, Texas for the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in late March. Excitement and anxiety kicks in as this would be the first time that I would participate in a conference and it’s outside of Canada. Although this winter has not been as unforgiving as previous winters, I do enjoy the thought of escaping the ice and snow.


I would need to prepare for the conference, however, as I opted for a poster presentation. I scrapped up all the pieces of my research so far and attempt to build something at least coherent. The first step was to submit a two-page abstract of your research; it was more of a daunting task than I thought as I had to tread between having too much and too little. After the abstract comes the poster itself. Luckily for me, my research revolves around features of the Martian surface so I should have wide selection of figures and pictures to add. Although aesthetics is not the primary goal, I do want it to look somewhat nice and clear. As this is still an ongoing project, I am also tempted to add in more new things to make it more current. When we have drafts of the posters ready, I imagine that we would go through a ritual where lab members would just mercilessly criticize each other’s posters. If that somehow didn’t make your poster better, at the very least it should prepare you for the worst things that you might hear when presenting your research at the conference.

Hotels and flights have been booked, and yet, some minor worries still persist. Things like my credit card suddenly not working or I can’t get a visa to go to the United States are very improbable but if they were to occur, I wouldn’t know what to do. I also don’t really know the dress code for LPSC so for now, I’ll be sticking to my default option of business casual maybe leaning more towards casual than business. As for Texas, the only image that I can conjure up is the stereotypical cowboy riding into the sunset overlooking oil refineries. It would be interesting to see what it actually is like there; I really hope that I can get some time to explore the nearby Houston (the conference is actually located in The Woodlands on the northern outskirt of Houston).

The conference itself should be amazing. The week-long event is massive as it includes hundreds of presentations and exhibitions on everything planetary. I would be seeing the most current work done in space technology as well as possibly meeting the people whose works is instrumental towards my studies. Being able to attend conferences is a fantastic opportunity to expand and refine your research though if you’re like me, you’d probably try to see as many things as possible out of just sheer curiosity. I like to think that a significant chunk of science involves the collective effort of a diverse and dedicated community and international conferences like LPSC are the epitome of that belief. So as I try to conceal my excitement of my trip down south, I’m also looking for other interesting conferences and workshops. If everything goes smoothly, I will try to go as many of those as I can and hopefully, learn a thing or two.

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