McGee Group grad student, Callahan-Dee Fellow Christine Chen shares her experiences from AGU 2015.
With nearly 24,000 attendees, the AGU Fall Meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world. Now in its 48th year, AGU Fall Meeting is the best place to present your research; hear about the latest discoveries, trends, and challenges in the field; and network and make connections that can enhance your career. Helen Hill interviewed Christine Y. Chen, a PhD student in EAPS who attended the conference this past December in San Francisco, CA. Here's what she had to say about the experience.
HH: What is it like to find yourself one among approximately 24,000 Earth and space scientists?
CYC: It's kind of a shock when you first go, but once you get used to it, it's fun! The conference takes place in three huge buildings, and in each of these buildings, there are multiple floors with dozens of rooms that have talks going from 8am to 5pm each day. And then there's a huge hall, which is more like a large airplane hanger, filled with easily hundreds of posters, which change every day. It's essentially a miniature city buzzing with Earth and space nerds, and it can be overwhelming. But it's also neat to see the scale of how many people are involved in this community, trying to understand Earth and how it works. That part is inspiring.
HH: Last year you presented a poster. How did it differ to give an oral presentation this year?
CYC: Having a poster at AGU is a great way to get feedback from people outside of MIT whom you don't normally interact with. Since my project was in its nascent stages last year, the timing was great to receive suggestions for future research. Giving an oral presentation is great for when your research—and the story you want to tell—is further along, and you want to share that result with others. An important part of being a successful scientist is communicating your data, results, and implications to other scientists, and a great way to do that is to give a talk at AGU.
HH: What was your presentation about?
CYC: I talked about my recent results trying to reconstruct the lake level histories of a few small, high-altitude ancient lakes in the arid Central Andes. What we're seeing so far is that these lakes were once much larger than they are now, and thanks to U/Th dating techniques that I'm able to perform in my advisor Professor David McGee's lab, I can pinpoint precisely when in the past these lakes were bigger.
HH: With so many things to do at AGU, even aside from the all the oral and poster presentations, how did you manage your time? How many talks did you manage to go to?
CYC: Last year, at my first AGU, I was really gung ho about trying to go to every relevant talk and visit a lot of different posters. But, as I mentioned before, there are so many great things going on that's it's really impossible to do it all, running around between buildings with your brain working 24/7. I lasted two days before burning out! This year, I was more choose-y with which talks and posters I chose to go see, and had a much better time.
HH: Were there any particular lectures/events that stand out (I see you attended Kerry's Bjerknes Lecture..)? Did you attend the EAPS reception? Any time-management lessons learned for next year?
CYC: My favorite AGU events are what are known colloquially as prize lectures, which are given by scientists being honored and recognized for their outstanding contributions to their sub-field. These lectures often serve as a "State of the Union" address on where things stand in their specific sub-discipline, with suggestions for how the community should move forward based on the questions that still remain unanswered. I love these talks because they are infused with a decades-long perspective on sub-fields that are always shifting their focus, which is really helpful for a new young scientist like me to learn about. I also like walking about the Exhibitors Hall. There, you can get free swag, like this MATLAB hat I got last year for reporting a bug. NASA and Google Earth always have exciting exhibits, too. Plus, I got to see R2D2 there this year!
HH: Were you excited to meet R2D2?
CYC: Meeting R2D2 was the best unexpected meeting of the conference! I think he was there to promote the exclusive advanced screening of the new Star Wars film being offered to AGU attendees. Proceeds of ticket sales went towards the Student Travel Grant fund, which helps bring students to the conference.
HH: Would R2D2 be useful for fieldwork?
CYC: Haha, well, we all know that R2D2 is a pro at gliding across deserts! If it has a rock hammer in one of the side compartments, it is definitely invited to come along.
HH: Are you excited to go again next year?
CYC: Of course! It's always great to get out of the MIT bubble, where it's easy to have "tunnel vision" and be completely immersed in your own research and nothing else. AGU is a place where you get to see your research in the context of the whole suite of questions and problems Earth scientists are trying to solve and answer. It's always refreshing.
Story image: Christine Chen gets up close and personal with a potential new fieldwork tool at AGU - Image courtesy: C. Chen
On December 14, 2015 members old and new attended EAPS annual reception during the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, at the San Francisco Marriott. A buzz of excitement filled the atrium of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis as nearly 300 guests convened for the EAPS reception during the AGU Fall Meeting. This annual event brings together the entire EAPS community for an evening of networking and information sharing.
2015 EAPS Presentations
Review the over 100 presentations EAPS members contributed HERE
Photo Credit: Disease Biophysics Group, Harvard University