conference time / Phd Life / Women in Science

My first conference

September was crazy busy! So I’ve not had time to post but now I have plenty of things to talk about.

So to the matter in hand! What is a conference?

Well us academics like to get together every so often to find out what everyone else has been learning. It’s a chance to catch up with the latest developments, to meet old friends and colleagues, to find potential new people to work with (this process is called “networking” in official terminology) and maybe get some inspiration.

Conferences are usually for a certain area of study. For my first conference, I was attending the RMetS Student Conference, for PhD students in meteorology and related areas.

So what do you get up to?

Well a conference starts with a bigwig (or several) addressing the assembled delegates. We heard about the changes in weather forecasting since the 60s (which was super interesting) as well as a few rather less interesting things.

Then the conference starts properly, with talks grouped into sessions by theme. The themes are announced beforehand, and you send in your abstract with a certain session in mind. Once the person has finished their talk, you get to ask questions.

A session has a chair, whose job is to keep the session to time. This seldom works.

During the conference there will probably also be posters, you walk around, read the posters and if the relevant person is near the poster, ask them questions.

There should also be plenty of tea and biscuits.

So a Student conference?

Yep, a conference for students. I view it as a chance for us to practice being proper scientists without fear of embarrassing ourselves in front of the leading professor in your field. Stumbling over your talk, being unable to answer questions and forgetting to bring something nice to wear for the formal dinner are all fine! It also meant I got to meet students working on similar areas so I can ask them for help in the future. We had more organised activities than I think normal for a ‘grown-up’ conference, my group won everything. There was also sessions on careers and continuing in academia, where we were treated to five middle aged men tying themselves in knots over the issue in maternity leave, and found out that being a researcher in TV is a pretty cool job!

And was it good?

I’d say for my first conference experience it was really enjoyable. It was quite relaxed and I didn’t have to be worried about my talk. I’ve met someone using a similar model to me, so now I know who to contact if I get stuck. And I know to check if a conference has a formal dinner, so I can bring something decent to wear! If you happen to be in a vaguely meteorology related discipline, I’d recommend going in future!

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3 thoughts on “My first conference

  1. Glad to hear you had fun!
    Session chairs keeping to time? I WISH! We had some sessions at the ICSB overrun by half an hour i.e. right through the break. Also, their tea was disgusting whereas at the Nottingham Conference the tea was delicious and plentiful, as were the biscuits. Jammy dodgers and garibaldi ftw!

    I really like the idea of a student conference with the chance to present to people working in the same field as you. My two departments offer limited chances to present to the student body, but that’s not quite the same.

    • I don’t know if it was because it was students speaking and we were scared to run over time (and just have less to say) or because they put a countdown on a laptop facing you that went red as you got close to time…
      There were not enough biscuits compared to the second conference I went to!

      • Hmmm, I reckon both those things would add to it! The main thing was not so much the talks running over as the question time being really badly managed. Most of the chairs were too afraid to interrupt people when the allotted time was up.

        The people in charge often under-estimate the importance of biscuits!

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