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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fall Meeting

Yesterday I presented my first oral paper at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting.
 

Back in August when I submitted my abstract, I'd only just finished collecting all my data from this analytical method I'd created.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to get enough data analysis done by December, but it seemed like a good idea to push myself into it.  So with my friend Garrett's encouragement (he's my cheerleader at school), I submitted my abstract for an oral presentation.  I've never done a talk at a conference before, only posters, and I've never been to this particular conference before.

I didn't have a good experience practicing my presentation in my lab meeting the week prior to the conference.  My labmates were silent, offering NO help whatsoever. So that left my PI and our post doc to give all the helpful and teasing advice that I could handle.  Ug. I left lab meeting frustrated because I felt like their constructive criticism was hidden amongst unnecessary teasing about my color scheme choices (which turned out to be the exact suggestions on the AGU website!) and giving me a hard time about how my computer's ghetto operating system is incompatible with the departmental projectors so my animation wouldn't work, leaving me to manually fiddle with the plots.  I should have been more prepared and tried the Power Point with the projector beforehand, probably, but they could have at least been a little more empathetic (or simply shut up and only offer feedback about the content of my presentation!).  Gah.  When Dave picked me up for dinner that night he could tell I felt defeated.

The whole weekend I stressed over the organization of the slides and the interpretation of my data. I gave myself Saturday "off" and didn't even touch it until Sunday.  Monday I reviewed the presentation with my PI, who gave me a thumbs up.

He and Garrett asked me who else was speaking during my session, and I admitted that I didn't want to know, lest I become more intimidated.  I was not as excited as they were that I was the only student presenting--and out of 8 speakers, 3 were invited.  Sheesh.  Talk about intimidation.

Tuesday I recorded myself doing the presentation and watched the videos to see what I could improve upon.  Learning to speak more slowly is something I will always struggle with, no matter how much practicing I do.

Dave couldn't justify taking Wednesday off so I could go to the conference unhindered with childcare duties, so I had to do Mama stuff in the morning, drop Eddie off at daycare, bolt to the Amtrak station to buy my ticket, look for parking (scratched the right side of the van in the parking garage when I reacted to another car coming quickly into my side of the ramp), decide to park in a timed spot anyway and deal with a parking ticket, take BART from the Richmond Amtrak station, and then walk to the Moscone Center.  I wore travel clothes and changed once I got to the conference center, leaving me only an hour before my presentation (during which time I ate and uploaded my Power Point onto the server). Garrett and I chatted over lunch before I entered the session, where there were probably 80-100 people in the audience.

My talk went only "eh" on a scale of "I'm amazing" to "I suck" ("eh" being toward the sucking end).  I spoke too fast, was nervous for the first half, and then was hammered with 2 difficult questions (and 1 easy one!).  See, Julie?  If you'd learn to speak more slowly, then you'd take up more time and prevent the chances of having any time left for questions!  Lesson learned for next time.  =)  My friend warned me about a particular professor who would probably ask me some difficult questions, just to prove a point (that he's a badass scientist man), and indeed it happened.

I'm not happy with how my presentation went: I could have been a lot more clear in some cases, I spoke to quickly, and I don't feel that the awesomeness and implications of my method and data was felt by the audience. BUT--my personal goals for the conference were to a) present an oral paper just to say I've done it (and to practice the vital communication of findings, as all scientists should) and b) force myself into data analysis/synthesis to get the ball rolling on dissertation-writing.  So in those regards, my presentation was a huge success. 

Once my entire session was over, I met up with Edward who'd come in on CalTrain to hang out.  We got an early dinner at an Irish pub and then walked around for a few hours, sipping hot cocoa, looking at all the holiday decorations, and doing some window shopping. It was really nice to just wander around for a few hours, unhindered by the stress of a deadline or a whiny child.
The Starbucks near the conference center had a cute sign up for all us geeks.
I'd hired a baby sitter to pick Eddie up from daycare since I knew I wouldn't be able to get back before 5:30 pm.  So I texted him to make sure everything was going okay, and it was.

Garrett and I BART/Amtrak'ed back together, rehashing our experiences at the conference to each other.  Of course, our train was late so I got back to the house until after 10 pm, 30 minutes later than I had promised the sitter.  But the good news is that my car didn't get a ticket after all.  Woo!

So. I'm done presenting. I feel like I've done my piece--not that my PI has ever told me that I must present at conferences, but it's sort of implied.  Now the work really begins: to outline the dissertation chapters, visualize my data, write about the data, add some introductions/sweeping conclusions, format it all into a dissertation, and ring that graduation bell!  And that should only take a few weeks, right?  (Months...no, more like a year.)

But first, I have some relaxing to do.

2 comments:

Mariah said...

congratulations on finishing the presentation! Meh, people.
1. YOu didn't pee in front of anyone
2. I assume there were no costume malfunctions...or maybe that would help for another time (wink wink..no no)
3. Awesome you can now relax a little!

steph.kelley said...

That is a HUGE accomplishment and a very scary one at that. Congratulations!!! I say foo on your unhelpful colleagues and prove-himself-professor. Mont had one of those at his first conference paper, and although it certainly deflated him, ultimately it just made everyone else in the audience roll their eyes that Professor High-Horse was yet again demolishing a good grad-student paper. They all felt bad for Mont and I think awarded him tons of sympathy points in the long run. :D Kudos to you again and enjoy that R&R! xoxo