A few weeks ago, I headed out to Seattle, WA to attend the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA). The GSA Annual Meeting is held each fall and is one of the largest national conferences for geologists. I attended another one of these meetings back in 2015; however, at that time I wasn’t as fully submerged in geological study (I was transitioning into geology from engineering). Therefore, this year’s event was much more meaningful. For one thing, this was my first time presenting my research to a national audience.
I did this in the form of a scientific poster. It is standard procedure at these meeting for geologists to gather in the conference center’s exhibit hall after the day’s formal technical oral presentations. Here, meeting attendees enjoy adult beverages and chat with other researchers about work that interests them. During my session, I met many geoscientists, from undergraduates with very little exposure to my particular field of study to some of the sub-discipline’s leading experts. Many engaged me in spirited discussion and some even posed questions for consideration that I hadn’t thought of myself. I learned quite a bit and was excited to share my project with the community at large.
In addition to presenting my own work, I was able to see what other researchers in my field are up to of late. Conferences are particularly useful for getting a more immediate idea of where scientists are heading with their projects since presentations don’t undergo quite as rigorous (and lengthy) review processes. I particularly enjoyed sessions dedicated to “Challenges in Tectonics”, which resulted from community input to a document meant to direct research funding. It was exciting to see how our discipline is evolving.
Meetings like this are also a great venue for building networks, visiting with colleagues from other institutions and even finding future collaborators. One of the more interesting networking events I attended was the On To the Future (OTF) Alumni Reception. OTF is program meant to increase diversity in the geosciences by providing funding for students to attend their first GSA Annual Meeting. During the reception, a very inspiring speech was given by the 2017 Bromley Award for Minorities winner, Aradhna Tripati. Dr. Tripati emphasized the importance of perseverance and encouraged audience members to speak more openly about challenges faced due to cultural and social inequalities that still exist within our institutions.
I was also fortunate to visit with several friends and colleagues with which I’ve developed relationships over the past few years. I was especially excited to have lunch with professors and a fellow student from the Border to Beltway program. This program was designed to introduce students traditionally underrepresented in the geosciences to the discipline and it was during this program I feel I really emerged as a geologist.
Overall, I had a really great time and I look forward to attending future events. If there is a meeting like this one for a topic that you find interesting I encourage you to attend!