Yesterday marked the end of the 2015 Geological Society of America (GSA) conference held this year in Baltimore, Maryland.
Most scientists go to meetings like GSA to present their work and to share and learn about new scientific findings, but there is so much more to conferences! This post will highlight a small handful of activities, networking events, and presentations from Nov. 1st (first day of technical sessions) that go beyond academic science.
Zoe Gentes will be writing a companion piece to this post highlighting her experience at the GSA conference.
Early Career Professional Coffee Event
A huge focus at GSA involved networking, mentoring, and organizing job and fellowship opportunities for students and recent graduates. This was made evident by a coffee get-together hosted for early career scientists.
What is an early career scientist? As described at this get-together, it is the “limbo” stage for students about to graduate and post-graduates who have just started wiggling their way into their future careers. This includes a range of different people from post-doctoral researchers to seniors in undergraduate studies. GSA representatives presented career information for a variety of geoscience pathways available for pursuing, such as private industry, non-profits, academia, and policy (Fig. 2)!
So what career opportunities exist for geoscientists? It turns out to be more than you’d think! This event highlighted marketable skills that many geoscientists have, but don’t know they do! For example, anyone who has done a research project can likely add problem-solving, working with complex data, thinking outside the box, and effective communication to their résumés. Each of these could be a line on a résumé that would make you appealing to many different employers, in and outside of specific field of study.
For example, one speaker shared her experience transitioning from a planetary volcanogist (that’s someone who study volcanic activity on other planets!) to a science communication and geodesy specialist (that is the science of the shape of the Earth). The take home here, you can transition between different science disciplines if you are able to express how your quantitative skills make you a great thinker!
Other career-related events offered for students and early career professionals included a résumé clinic where anyone could sign-up for a private consultation to review their résumé as well as appointments to meet and discuss opportunities and, even set up interviews, with industry representatives and faculty positions.
Getting involved in Middle and High School education
A few technical sessions were focused on outreach and helping to educate future scientists. One comment that spoke to me, paraphrased here from a talk by William Slatery, noted that many students decide their career pathways in high school, so exposure to Earth Sciences is important to help recruit future geoscientists.
These sessions included talks from teachers who go above and beyond to bring science to their classrooms and professional scientists who volunteer their time to visit local high schools! The overwhelming consensus: volunteering not only helps the children and grade school teachers, but helps the volunteer learn how to be a more effective communicator!
One of my favorite talks from the day included: TEACHING ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY – MODEL MY WATERSHED by Juanmanuel Hernadez. This ‘Model My Watershed’ simulator, aimed for middle school audiences, is a model that allows you to visualize a water budget in different soil and development types. The model can become even more informative and complex by incorporating real-time data. Young students in a few states have been experimenting with this model to learn about where they are in the watershed and to even act as land-planners to try to improve their watershed’s water quality.
GSA Women in Geology Career Pathways Reception
The first full day of GSA was capped by many ceremonies and networking-based events that included a reception to honor outstanding women in the geosciences.
One award winner that I found truly inspiring was Dr. Priya Ganguli who received the Doris M. Curtis Outstanding Woman in Science Award. She gave a brief presentation highlighting the 5 things that have helped her in her own career: applying to seed grants (smaller funding opportunities), networking as much as possible, community outreach, motivation to keep researching things she was passionate about, and improving her self-esteem.
Dr. Ganguli noted that she was the “poster child for imposter syndrome,” which has been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Imposter syndrome is a term to describe when people feel like they are not good enough or that everyone else is smarter than them. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but as a young scientist, I have certainly felt that way, and it was inspiring to see a successful scientist feel the same way.
Lastly: A podcast for Science Communication
Poster sessions are a fun part of conferences. You can peruse through posters on your own or attend during the official poster hours to interact one-on-one with the poster’s author(s). These sessions are where most of the science networking and idea-sharing occurs.
One poster I wanted to highlight was by two scientists who have a podcast titled “Don’t Panic Geocast” which they use to talk about geosciences in an audio medium. You can read their abstract here, or even tune-in to their podcast to find out more.
Conferences are a great way to learn about new opportunities and make in-person connections with scientists. Many researchers attend a conference to present their work in a few hours long time slot. What you do with the rest of your time is up to you! My advice: go to as much as possible! You never know if you may learn about your next career move or even meet a future research collaborator!