Last year, I was fortunate to be part of the AIP Summer Meeting 2017 held in my university. The meeting was held from 3rd December to 7th December in UNSW. This includes:
- 03 December Undergraduate Symposium
- 04 – 07 December Conferences in topics: Astronomy, Quantum Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Physics Education etc.
I was in the conference from Sunday (03 December) until 5th December. There was a lot to see but the more important is this is my first conference I have attended in my life.
Undergrad Special Day
The first day of the conference was a special one for undergrads. It contains some introductory talks from UNSW researchers (and they were our lecturers as well) with their intro about their fields. This includes from Acoustics, Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics and Quantum Computing. I have been taught by most of the researchers whom presenting in front of us before. It is a good introduction in general. However, what I feel the best feature is they have significantly said that their work cannot be done because of their collaborators, postgrads and undergrad buddies. It’s a good sign of these researchers will treat their future students nice like family. Indeed this was my biggest worry while doing research. I have heard many rants about bad advisers 😅.
Then here comes the panel sessions. On the day, there are
- Panel with current UNSW PhD students
- Panel with ex PhD students
The panel with current UNSW PhD students main involved with topics like exchanging their experiences. All panelists do say they have an encouraging team to do their research. Which is an encouragement if you are not sure about your future academic advisor. One panelist says her team is friendly and her academic adviser is nice and would give many support when being asked.
They provided some suggestions that they would like to change to make their experience better. When being asked what would they do if they have their second chance to do this degree. One panelist said she would like to stop her work at 5 pm every day, instead of staying back. It’s not something you could realise if you are not in the position. But rather I still remember until today is, because of my past experience in battling with stress and anxiety while studying and working.
After it is the panel of previous PhD students. This panel of 4 people are equally divided by whose still remain in academia and whose left academia. Of course, all of them enjoyed what they have now.
The 2 panelists who remained in academia would like to make an advise that being in academia takes a lot of responsibility. One panelist is a manager of a telescope. He said his responsibility changed compare while he was a student. Now he accepts help calls from his colleagues, as well as anyone who uses the telescope. Unlike his student years, where he can ask for assistance, now whenever he got called he need to find solutions by himself. Although he is lucky that his colleagues may help him to solve the technical issues of the telescope.
There are 2 panelists that have left academia, and they could not reach to this place is because personal circumstances may obstruct them to do 2 post-doc degrees. To become an academic nowadays, one have to finish a PhD degree, and 2 post-doc degrees. It is tough because you will need stamina and your life can support you financially and mentally.
Now these 2 panelists did their jobs that involves research tasks. For example, one panelist is working as a data analyst that manages data from universities. It is similar to what she has done and she said she liked the job. Probably because of the less tenser culture in work, bit also she is not fully dumping what she has done for the many years in university.
Then here comes the conference. Which spans for the 4 days in the week. I attended the ones that interested most. For example,
- New Method Of Calculations For Complex Atoms: Nobelium Spectra And Hyperfine Structure by Vladimir Dzuba and Victor Flambaum. In this presentation, Prof. Flambaum started with the many upper states in heavy elements and explain that the energy transitions may use statistical methods to model. Furthermore, he explained a new way to model these physics observations.
- Youtube Science Communication: Reflections In Multimedia by Petr Lebedev and Manjula Sharma. Petr presented his experiment with Dr Derek Muller, a famous STEM Youtuber on Veritasium. The experiment has 2 sets of videos, with the first series of questions and the latter with solutions. Petr collected a survey and “83.3 to 89.9% of the people who answered incorrectly reported that they changed their minds”. The presentation focuses on why others have not changed their minds.
It is very interesting to the dedication of these researchers on their project. They are very confident, and they continue their confidence while answering enquires.
This article did not published after 6 months since the conference. Of course, procrastination. I have struggled to find work and was very upset when I didn’t have a solid plan in the beginning. These 6 months build up my future plan as a researcher.
AIP Summer Meeting 2017 opened the door for me, not a hand to become a researcher. I am a person that feels awkward if I don’t have a full picture of the future. The way that the people speaks, how they present their ideas confidently, their frustrations about their future, and their eager to be part of the science community. Is my summary of this conference.
In this moment, standing in a crossroad. I am looking at everywhere that looks scary to me. I am glad that I am a researcher for a professor that I really like. The future is dark… with all the unknowns and scary candies for us to grab and enjoy.