Zixuan Wang is a chemical engineer and Barrett Honors student who conducted research at Yale University under the mentorship of Prof. James Mayer in the summer of 2015. She received the Undergraduate Research Travel Grant to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2016 Conference in Washington, D.C. to compete in an undergraduate poster session. Zixuan shared her conference experience with the FURI team.
In layman terms, what was the conference about?
The major purpose of this conference is to promote cooperation among scientists, encourage scientific education, and promote outreach to advance humanity. Annually, scientists and engineers from around the world gather to exchange ideas and critiques through poster and oral presentations in their respective fields.
What motivated you to present at this conference?
I wanted to attend this conference to improve my presentation skills. Additionally, I wanted to have the opportunity of engaging with students and researchers outside the field of chemical engineering.
Can you describe some of the presentations you attended?
The first presentation I attended investigated the use of radio waves and advanced mathematical calculations to model the Epoch of Reionization, a time period when hydrogen and helium became neutral in the absence of ultraviolet light. Comparative data between three different radio telescopes were compared: the largest one, LOFAR, spans most of Northern Europe; and MWA and PAPER are in Australia and South Africa.
Another one of the notable presentations I attended explored the effects of growing up bilingual in a monolingual society. One of the speakers disproved myths pertaining to bilingual exposure. For example, results from her research confirmed that bilingual children have vocabulary capabilities that are just as diverse as those of monolingual children. This was especially interesting for me since I grew up speaking both English and Mandarin.
What do you think was the best part of the conference?
The best part of the conference was meeting and talking to students with different research backgrounds. Coming from chemical engineering, it was really informative to explore some of my other scientific curiosities, such as astrophysics and sociology.
Has your involvement with this conference influenced your research plans?
This conference reaffirmed my resolve to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
Is there anything you wish you knew prior to the conference?
Honestly, I wish I could have prepared for how cold D.C. was going to be that weekend. I tried to avoid going outside which prevented me from participating some of the events held in the adjacent hotel.
Any suggestions for other students regarding conferences?
I would suggest students to attend a wide variety of talks and presentations at the conference. This would provide more opportunities to explore different research topics.
Going to a conference? Have research-related travel needs? Apply for the Undergraduate Research Travel Grant!