Jacob Ward, Physics and Computer Science major in the Barrett Honors College, attended the 227th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida with the help of an Undergraduate Research Travel Grant. Jacob has been working under the mentorship of Dr. Gillian Nave, a physicist for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and presented his work titled “Intensity and Energy Level Analysis of the Vacuum Ultraviolet Spectrum of Four Times Ionized Nickel (Ni V)” while in attendance.
The American Astronomical Society conferences take place to allow members of the astronomy community to share new research and discuss results. A main focus of the conference that Jacob attended was the next wave of space telescope instruments. Jacob was excited to attend the conference because it allowed him to share his research in a related setting with a community of people in similar fields. Since Dr. Nave works in Maryland, it also provided the two with a chance to meet in person.
At the conference, Jacob attended many presentations, including one discussing the Planck Space Telescope and its recent achievements and another discussing potential plans to make a UV-optical-NIR space based telescope. These types of presentations were his favorite parts of the conference.
“It gave me a glimpse into the types of questions we may be able to answer in the next decade of astronomy,” said Jacob.
Both of these presentations forced Jacob to think about his future and the steps he must take to be successful.
“It was a timely reminder for me that my career in the sciences will depend upon my ability to collaborate well with many different people from every part of the world,” he said.
This was not Jacob’s first time at a conference, and out of this experience comes some great tips for conference-going rookies. He says that students should take advantage of any downtime to get some networking in.
“If the last talk you are interested in ends at five in the evening, find a presenter or researcher you are interested in talking to and invite them to dinner,” he says.
This is a great way to have a casual conversation without the restraint or pressure of a conference setting. Jacob also gained a few new insights while attending the conference. He says the most difficult part for him was managing his money. The conference was held at an upscale resort, so there weren’t many options for cheap food.
Jacob urges students, “Look into the area around the conference center before you go and plan out how you are going to handle meals!”
With these tips, it’s easy for any student to make the most of the conference experience.
Going to a conference? Have research-related travel needs? Apply for the Undergraduate Research Travel Grant!