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What are conferences like?

  1. Dec 21, 2005 #1
    I know a lot of you are students and professionals. So, what kind of conferences to you go to, in what fields? What's it like? I'm only an undergraduate, how many of us are there usually? Any advice or experiences?

    I'm putting this in G.D., but if it becomes too serious you mods can feel free to move it elsewhere.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2005 #2


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    There are different kinds of conferences: there's the "holiday" conference :biggrin:, the "specific topic" conference and the general and often prestigeous conferences in a certain field.

    At a conference, you do several things:
    - you meet people. It seems that that is about the most important aspect of a conference. You network.
    - you give some visibility to your work.
    - you learn about what's going on in the field
    - you try to have a good time.

    The "holiday" conference is the kind of conference in an exotic place which has in fact not much to do with what you are doing, but you managed to convince your boss that your presence there was important :tongue2:

    The "specific topic" conference is usually a rather small workshop on the very topic you're working on. These are IMO the most interesting conferences: 1) you understand normally about everything which is said by others, 2) others are interested in what you have to say, and 3) you can get into contact with people who are working on similar things than you are. The downside usually is that it is "small scale", no prestigeous proceedings (worthless as publication medium to crank up your citation index) and often in not so fancy environment (some hotel in the middle of farmland in a rainy country :rolleyes: )

    The general conference is a thing you should go to regularly, every few years. If you can present your work there, all the better (but it's difficult to get a slot if you're not a hot shot in the field). It is great to get an overview of what's going on in the field. The downside is that often, you do not understand 60% of what's being said (it being things outside of your daily activities). It's usually in a prestigeous place. Sometimes it gets into the news on tv. The proceedings are an interesting publishing medium ; often there is an agreement with a journal to publish the contributed articles.
    Often you meet former professors and old acquaintances. There are usually also nice activities and dinners. Don't forget your smoking :wink:
  4. Dec 21, 2005 #3


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    As an undergraduate, I believe that it is important that one get involved with one or more professional socities in the field of study.

    I am involved in several professional socities related to nuclear technology, energy technology and materials. I may rejoin a couple of others.

    As for conferences and symposia, I attend several each year, including some overseas. Usually, I present or at least co-author a paper for the particular conference. It is an opportunity to meet with colleagues and discuss the latest issues in the particular science and technology, and also meet with potential clients.

    In fact, I will be attending a conference in January, and the primary purpose for my participation is to meet prospective clients.

    Later this year, I will probably attend other conferences and that will primarily be associated with my work on several technical committees. I am also trying with others to establish a symposium in aerospace and nuclear technology.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2005
  5. Dec 21, 2005 #4


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    Contrary to popular belief, serious topics are allowed in GD. :biggrin:

    I attend two types of conferences: 1) small, highly specialized conferences, and 2) large, very general conferences. I prefer the smaller ones for networking with people in my field, and to learn the newest findings that are most directly related to what I do. The larger ones give more of a big overview of related fields. I find I don't often learn much new about my own field at those because people save their best stuff for the specialized meetings, but sometimes I get interesting feedback on my presentations from people listening to it from a completely different perspective than those in my own field. This can be quite helpful.

    Of the conferences I attend, only one has any substantial number of undergrads attending it because it's an inexpensive meeting that faculty can afford to send the undergrads in their lab to it for a learning experience. For the rest, even the grad students better be presenting something if they want to get their registration paid for by their mentors. It could be an interesting experience to attend a conference as an undergrad, but not at all required. If you do it, I'd suggest looking for a conference that sets up some sort of mentoring program where you'll essentially get a guided tour. One of the conferences I attend does this, usually for the students at whatever local university is there (they also sometimes bring in high school students, but I don't really know that they could be getting much out of it at all), and I think it's the only way an undergrad could get anything useful out of it. Otherwise, everything will just be too far over your head and you'd be quickly lost and probably more intimidated rather than inspired.
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