By Tanja

It is that time of the year. Everyone goes crazy, we are all busy but no one wants to work. We crank up the air conditioner and we are determined to ….. not wrap up the gifts. It is not Christmas I’m talking about – it is AGU. So we all crank up the AC and set down to make one last plot, try one more thing, do this and insert that. Print print print! AGU stands for American Geophysical Union and a big portion of RSES students and staff are attending to present their research. It is an annual conference taking place in San Francisco every December.

Students usually present their research in form of a poster on which they put their most important and significant figures with a bit of text briefly explaining what it is all about. They are assigned a certain time and space where they hang up their poster and have to stand next to it for a couple of hours and chat to anyone who expresses interest. This can obviously result in some good feedback on your research. Or not … I wouldn’t know. I have never been to a conference before. So when I submitted my abstract for AGU in August, I expected for it to be like that – the organizers will give me a “poster slot”, I will make one, chat to people, hopefully learn something new and that’s it. Just over a month ago I received an email from the AGU organizers saying that I should prepare an oral presentation, meaning – give a talk in front of bunch of people.

My initial reaction to the invitation email.

As someone who has never attended a conference, I have to admit that my initial reaction involved a few profanities having realized that I have been offered a talk at a conference that regularly hosts twenty thousand people. Of course, not all of them will be at my talk. But think about it – if even 0.5% of those people show up at the talk – it is still a hundred people I haven’t seen in my life. To say that I’m a bit scared and overwhelmed is an understatement. I am also equally flattered.

This kind of upped the ante on what I have to show. As you know from one of my previous posts – I am often stuck staring at my codes, trying to fix them. Now that I have to actually talk about what I’m doing I don’t have the luxury to discuss everything else that I have done and all the technical issues that I’m facing with an interested passer-by looking at my poster. I have to really show SOMETHING. So for the past month I have been frantically trying to work around technical issues and trying to improve my measurement methods in order to bedazzle the tiny crowd that will come to listen to me.

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My impression of a poster hall at AGU

As if that’s not enough stress, Qantas has landed three planes bound for US in the past 24 hours. Due to… why? Smoke in the cabin? Nothing to worry about. The good news is – they landed them!

You know what hasn’t landed though? My allowance for staying the whole week in San Francisco. The money that I need for food and transport and whatnot during my stay still hasn’t showed up in my account (at the time of writing, 4 days before departure) due to some misunderstanding between administration and finance.

As far as my work goes, I was hoping for miracles but miracles didn’t happen. What happened instead is that I sort of realized what is causing my inversions not to work properly – and it is not a technical issue. So that’s a result in itself and has also pointed me in a new direction. Hopefully the AGU crowd will recognize that as well.

You want more good news? My talk is on the first day of the conference. I will see me some San Francisco afterwards. So stay tuned for the impressions of a first-timer to both US and conferences…

What can possibly go wrong?