Thankful for Conferences

Thankful for Conferences

Last week, I didn’t manage to post because I was uber busy for two reasons: 1) there is an engineering society that I am heavily active in and it was the annual meeting and 2) I fractured my right fibula doing a Tough Mudder on the Sunday morning before I had to flew to the conference. Considering DrWife, NanoGEARS, and the InLaws were in conference city and my heavy involvement in the conference (planning committee, session chair, presenting, and poster), I had little time to rest and ice my foot while still making the necessary contacts at the meeting. Check back to my normal blog for details (and maybe some gruesome photos) on the Tough Mudder.

And with all that going, I come back to find we have a Theme Week: Engineering things that I’m thankful for. And rather than harp on some cool gadget, or proclaim my magnificence describing some great thing I’ve built, I’m going to just state that I’m thankful for technical conferences. I have been attending this one particular conference for about 6 years now and I’ve been on the planning committee for 4 years. And I am especially thankful for the exposure I have received from being a part of this conference.

Conferences are a great place to discuss relevant topics in your field, give your brain food to help brainstorm, and it’s a chance to meet with colleagues that you don’t get to see often. This was also my first conference where I was not a graduate student and I can definitely say there’s a certain amount of legitimacy given to you just because you’re an assistant prof. I’ve been presenting similar topics at this conference for a few years now but this is the first time that I think I’ve been taken truly seriously. So I’m pretty thankful that my work was well received and that I have the opportunity to pursue other means for funding my research.

I’m pretty sure my graduate students were pretty thankful that I took them as well. Not only did they get to take some tutorials on topics that they would never have in class, but they got to meet people very high up in the field. That’s a great opportunity for them especially if they keep attending and become more known in the society. Additionally, going to a conference exposes them to so many different things that are difficult for me to describe in a short time frame. But hopefully, this will energize them and give them additional motivation to do good research.

Next week, I’ll discuss some more things regarding conference etiquette and what graduate students should be doing while attending.

[photo credit: Marriott]