HSU oceanography students attend national conference


By Jenny Lavell
Flapjack Chronicle staff

Surrounded by well-established scientists and dedicated grad students, presenting your own research can be intimidating. Thank goodness the professors here at HSU do their best to prepare their students for just this.
As an oceanography student I was told freshman year that I would have to work on a year-long research project for my senior thesis. What they didn’t tell me at the time was that I would probably help present the results of the project at a national conference.

This year’s oceanography seniors are taking their findings to the Eastern Pacific Ocean Conference in Mt Hood, Oregon. Present will be scientists from organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Scripps Institute of Oceanography, as well as professors and grad students from all over the States. The project’s results, though important, seem to fade in comparison to the chance to make connections with so many respected scientists.

When asked how they felt about the project before it began, most students seem to agree they didn’t see this as a real possibility. Madalyn Walker, 22, spent much of her summer burning and identifying plankton for the project.
“I didn’t realize how intense it was going to be until I heard about it from a friend,” said Walker.

Michael Porter worked on calculating dissolved oxygen concentrations. He didn’t know about the conference until two months prior to the trip.
“I didn’t hit me until August, when the abstract was due, that we were actually doing this,” said Porter.
In a group of 14 and with most people gone for the summer, this was the general consensus. So much had to be done to make a poster to present our results. But so much more was needed to prepare ourselves.
“I read through the proposal to refresh myself,” said Walker. “I also re-evaluated the data; just to be sure I was comfortable with everything.”

No one felt sure of what to expect going into the conference. We were all a little intimidated. Everyone expected to find the place full of overwhelmingly smart, experienced scientists who weren’t really interested in our presence.

What we found was the opposite.
Throughout the entire conference everyone was exchanging ideas, admitting shortcomings, and offering help. And, most importantly for us, they were very interested in what we had to say.

During the evening of the second day all the posters were set up in a room so everyone could mingle and ask questions. This was our time to shine.

“I loved the poster session,” said Porter. “I liked mingling with professors and grad students and hearing about their new types of modeling. I also learned about new parameters for our project.”
This is the chance every new scientist hopes for. Here were about 90 other people, very interested in our work, asking us questions individually. Here was our chance to get contact information to submit resumes, advice on grad schools, or new project ideas.

Dr. Christine Cass, a first year professor at HSU, is one of the advisers for the oceanography seniors. For her, conferences like EPOC are a great way to reconnect with former colleagues and meet others with the same interests. She believes it’s important to have students at these gatherings.

“There are a lot of established scientists at these conferences,” said Cass. “It’s nice to see this new generation of scientists coming through.”


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