The conference explorer

I’m excited to be attending one of my favourite conferences in less than one week’s time, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. It is relatively enormous as far as conference attendee numbers are judged. This puts some off, but to me it offers far more advantages than disadvantages. One is the immense flexibility to allow you to tap into an area that might be on the periphery of your research interests.

Typically, any large conference will provide that one session that falls straight into your field. It might cover a few days, but it still leaves time for other activities should you find the time to attend all week. It can feel really refreshing to pick up new and exciting ideas from these explorations. I have quite often found myself pondering the question: ’How can I use this technique in my own research?’. Ok, it is not a venture with a 100% success rate, but all it takes is one good talk to get the grey matter turning a new page. I have found this by venturing into the arena of machine learning, and its now forming an area of exciting research return for me.

Given the wealth of facilities and opportunities the AGU provides, perhaps consider the following:

  • Pick a session that interests you, even if it simply relates to that favourite episode of star trek.
  • For sure plan your week, but don’t be too rigid. It is ok to wander!
  • Go to the exhibitors hall! I missed this until 2 years ago, simply because I mainly delve into model development and considered this to be mainly for the lab jockeys. However, Google and NASA stands are EPIC. Bloody Google people!!
  • Arrange to meet people you know, and even try to arrange one with those you meet day by day
  • Draft some new ideas as you move through the week.

And for those fresh faced early career researchers, why not find that established researcher who’s paper sits proudly in your top drawer. Ask them that burning question!! You might be pleasantly surprised at the eagerness to engage. Above all, make yourself feel part of the huge community in your field, or even the small community. Either way, recognise these conferences are a golden opportunity to flex your wings, reach out and find those who might become life long colleagues, champions and friends. You might even decide to drift into a new area of research. Even if you are the seasoned pro, busy with this grant/project all week, take some time to grab a coffee and have a collegial debate.

On that note, who is going and would like to meet for a coffee and chat about cross over interests? #aerosol #thermodynamics #computing #informatics #python #maths 🙂


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