Attending Scientific Meetings

Did you know that scientists from all over the world gather at regional, national, and international conferences every one to two years? These meetings are a unique opportunity to meet scientists from many career paths, learn about others’ research, and investigate career and educational opportunities.

There are very large annual meetings which include a range of disciplines within the geosciences–these meetings can have many thousands of attendees. Scientists present their research as invited or approved speakers to small and large audiences (often dozens occurring simultaneously), and other scientists present their research on a large poster in a one-on-one format alongside hundreds of other posters (see photo lower right). These large meetings often include a vendor hall (where numerous companies and organizations display their products and recruit employees), job fairs, graduate school expos, committee meetings, and educational “short courses” on specialized topics of interest. Some national meetings even offer special sessions or mini-conferences designed just for undergraduates or first year graduate students. Additionally, there are often numerous social events in the evening that provide an excellent opportunity to meet and converse with peers.

ESWNers at AGU2014

There are also smaller, more intimate, meetings focused on special areas of research that meet once every two-to-three years. These meetings typically only have one speaker presentation at a time in addition to one or two poster sessions, and all topics are related to a particular specialty. These meetings also offer social events where scientific ideas and friendships are frequently developed.

Closer to home, national organizations often have local chapters in your city or region. These meetings provide the opportunity to get to know those in your field who live and work in your area. Groups may meet monthly or quarterly and activities may include invited speakers, social events, community service and outreach.


Funding your meeting travel

If you are involved as an undergraduate research assistant, in an REU program, or in an internship, it may be possible that your advisor or mentor may have some available money to assist or fully pay for your travel costs. Speak to your advisor and ask. If you have received a prestigious scholarship from a national organization in your field, this organization may also fund your travel to and from their annual meeting. If you do not have a scholarship or are not closely working with a professor, there is still hope! Many organizations offer discounted registration costs to current student members as well as targeted funding opportunities for undergraduates who are presenting their research. Finally, your registration fees may be waived in exchange for volunteering your time during part of the conference.

Ask around at your university. Many schools will have programs that can offer limited funds for student travel as well. Start exploring all options early—six months to even a year before the conference occurs will give you plenty of time to find a funding source or multiple small funding sources. Like the old adage, “where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Upcoming Meetings

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