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Giving a talk at a National Lab, is it worth it?

  1. Sep 5, 2008 #1
    I got an email from a professor that I've been working closely with for the last 2 years about giving a talk at a big research symposium. He said he would help me with my talk and get a nice presentation together.

    However, the symposium is not close to me at all. I am in NY and the symposium is at Argonne National Lab. The flight (if I purchase the tickets now) is $300 roundtrip. It's $70 a night at the Argonne guest house (I need to stay for 2 nights) and I need to take a cab from O'Hare to Argonne, which is I don't even know how much. And there is a $60 registration fee.

    I'm just wondering what you guys think. I'm estimating that I might spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $600-$700 for this whole process.

    My professor is telling me it is a good experience and I might meet some professors who are from the grad schools that I'll be applying to which might help come admissions time.

    I am kind of tight on money, this would hurt me financially, to what extent I'm not sure yet. I would like to avoid asking my parents for any money. It won't absolutely cripple me financially, but it will hurt a lot.

    What do you guys think?

    Just to add another note: There is no way I'm going to get travel money from my school since I'm technically not attending the school anymore. I graduated in May and I am no longer a student.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2008 #2
    In your estimation, are there any points of contact you might possibly make that would benefit your career?

    Woah, don't take a taxi to Argonne from the airpost. Look into renting a car, bundle it with your flight.
  4. Sep 5, 2008 #3


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    Depending on the conference, I would think that yes, it would be worth it - especially if you haven't attended anything like that before. Conferences are a great place to network, learn about what other groups are doing and what the hot topics are in your field, talk with other graduate students about their experiences as well as travel to different places.

    As to costs:
    Some conferences offer travel scholarships for students. If you were a student during which time you did the work you'll be talking about you may qualify for them.

    Is the guest house price based on single or double occupancy? Sometimes you can put out a request for a room mate in order to cut down on expenses.

    Also look into shuttle service (rather than taxi) from airports, or find others going to the same conference. Splitting a cab ride can cut costs down substantially.
  5. Sep 5, 2008 #4
    Thanks for your replies.

    Just to clarify, it's an undergrad research symposium. It's really more of a huge mix of undergrad research from all types of scientific fields: Chem, Bio, Physics, Math, Engineering, Material Science, etc. And not so much like a Geometry conference or a Topology conference, where I could really meet people/professors that I could speak to and possibly get connections with.

    I'm not even sure if there will be any math professors from the schools I'm interested in. I'm hoping some professors from UIUC are going to be there, but this is a bad assumption to make.

    It seems like this is just a thing to put on people's CV's. It would be a nice experience, but I don't know if it'll really help me at any other than saying that I have a 15 minute presentation at an undergrad research symposium.

    I am also embarrassed to admit I do not have a driver's license and definitely won't have one by the time November rolls around.

    The cheapest rate they have the Guest Houses is $70 a night. It seems like there aren't many hotels around Argonne.

    How about a taxi from Midway airport? That seems to be closer to Argonne than O'Hare. I'm kind of disappointed to see how expensive this trip might turn out to be.

    I just emailed the head of my math department inquiring about the availability of travel funds even though I'm not a registered student anymore. I figured it can't hurt to ask.


    So I have been poking around, seems like this is the financial breakdown:
    Flight: ~ $315 roundtrip
    Limo/Cab (on the Argonne website they said a limo would probably be cheaper): I got a quote as $50 each way, you figure with tip, $125 total.
    Hotel/Guest House: $140-$160 (taxes, fees)
    Registration Fee: $60
    Misc Expenses: $50-$75
    Total: $735

    Hmmm, :-(
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008
  6. Sep 5, 2008 #5


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    If you can't get money from the school or department, how about from the research grant of the professor who recommended that you do this (assuming he has a research grant)?
  7. Sep 5, 2008 #6


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    I would not say that it is worth $700 of your own money to attend an undergrad research conference.
  8. Sep 5, 2008 #7


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    Maybe ZapperZ can give you tips on cheaper places to stay around Argonne. Unfortunately, it's out of the way of the EL, so you can't take cheap public transportation (though, there might be a bus headed that direction).

    Still, if it's only for undergrad research, and you have to pay out of your own pocket, it's probably not worth the cost. If you could get travel funds for it, I'd absolutely support getting the experience. Is there anyone else you or your professor knows who is also attending who can share some expenses with you, such as sharing a room, or a ride from the airport? When I was a student, we'd get a bunch of students together and drive together...even a long trip wasn't bad when there were plenty of drivers to take turns...and then we'd bunk 4 to a room in a cheap hotel to keep costs really low.
  9. Sep 8, 2008 #8


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    Where in NY are you? If you are on Long Island, Southwest flies between Islip and Midway, and it usually has cheaper fares. And Midway airport is more convenient to get to Argonne than O'Hare.

    If you can afford to rent a car, I would suggest you do so. It makes it easier to get around, especially if you are planning on having dinner off-site. BTW, what conference is this? The undergraduate research symposium?

    Staying at Argonne's Guest House is most convenient since you are on site and don't have to go far to get to your conference. Most of the nearby hotels have roughly the same rate, if not higher.

    If your former professor cannot sponsor your trip, or partially pay for it, then it may not be worth going unless you think you can gain some advantage from the conference.

    Last edited: Sep 9, 2008
  10. Sep 8, 2008 #9


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    good point. ask the prof if he can help pay for it from his grant.

    in a similar situation my advisor paid my way.
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