Archive for January, 2019

AGU Fall Meeting 2018

January 30th, 2019

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting 2018 was the first time I attended a conference that was of such magnitude in all aspects – attendees, arrangements, content and information. It is an overwhelming experience for a first timer but totally worth it. The amount of knowledge and information that one can learn at this event is the biggest takeaway; depends on each person’s abilities but trying to get the most out of it is what one will always aim for.

There were 5 to 6 types of events that were held throughout the day for all 5 days. The ones that stood out for me were the poster sessions, e-lightning talks, oral sessions and the centennial plenary sessions.
The poster sessions helped to see at a glance the research that is going on in the various fields all over the world. No matter how much I tried, I found it hard to cover all the sections that piqued my interest in the poster hall. The e-lightning talks were a good way to strike up a conversation on the topic of the talks and get a discussion going among all the attendees. Being a group discussion structure I felt that there was more interaction as compared to the other venues. The oral sessions were a great place to get to know how people are exploring their areas of interests and the various methods and approaches that they are using for the same. However, I felt that it is hard for the presenter to cover everything that is important and relevant in the given time span. The time constraints are there for a very valid reason but that might lead to someone losing out on leads if the audience doesn’t fully get the concept. Not all presenters were up to the mark. I could feel a stark difference between the TWC presenters (who knew how to get all the right points across) and the rest of the presenters. The centennial plenary sessions were a special this year as AGU is celebrating the centennial year. These sessions highlighted the best of research practices, innovations, achievements and studies. The time slots for this session were very small but the work spoke for itself.

The Exhibit Hall had all the companies and organisations that are in the field or related to it. Google, NASA and AGU had sessions, talks and events being conducted here as well. While Google and NASA were focussing on showcasing the ‘Geo-‘ aspect of their work. AGU was focussing on the data aspect too which was refreshing. They had sessions going on about data from the domain scientists’ point of view. This comes across as fundamental or elementary knowledge to us at TWC but the way they are trying to enable domain scientists to be able to communicate better with data scientists is commendable.  AGU is also working on an initiative called “Make data ‘FAIR’ (Findable Accessible Interoperable Reusable) again’ which is once again trying to spread awareness amongst the domain scientists. The exhibit hall is also a nice place to interact with industry, universities and organisations who have research programs for the doctorate students and postdocs.

In retrospect, I think planning REALLY ahead of time is a good idea so that you know what to ditch and what not to miss. A list of ‘must attend’ could have helped with the decision making process. A group discussion at one of our meetings where everyone shares what they find important, before AGU, could be a good idea. Being just an audience is great and one gets to learn a lot, but contributing to this event would be even better. This event was amazing and has given me a good idea as to how to be prepared the next time I am attending it.


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AGU Conference: Know Before You Go

January 29th, 2019

If this is your first American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference, be ready! Below are a few pointers for future first-timers.

The conference I attended was hosted in Washington, D.C. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center during the week of December 10th, 2018. It brought together over 25,000 people. Until this conference, I had not experienced the pleasure and the power of so many like-minds in one space. The experience, while exhausting, was exhilarating!

One of the top universal concerns at the AGU Conference is scheduling. You should know that I was not naïve to the opportunities and scheduling difficulties prior to 2018, my first year of attendance. I had spent the last several months organizing an application development team that successfully created a faceted browsing app with calendaring for this particular conference using live data. Believe me when I say, “Schedule before you go”. Engage domain scientists and past participants about sessions, presentations, events, and posters that are a must-see. There is so much to learn at the conference. Do not miss the important stuff. The possibilities are endless, and you will need the expertise of those prior attendees. Plan breaks for yourself. Use those breaks to wander the poster hall, exhibit hall, or the vendor displays.

Key Elements in Scheduling Your Week

  • Do not front load your week. You need time to explore.
    • Be prepared to alter your existing schedule, as a result.
  • Plan on being exhausted.
  • Eat to fuel your body and your mind.
    • Relax, but not too much.
  • Plan on networking. To do that, you need to be sharp!
    • The opportunities to network will exceed your wildest expectations.
  • Take business cards – your own, and from people you meet.

Finally, take some time to see the city that holds the conference. There are many experiences to be had that will add to your education.

The Sessions

So. Many. Sessions!

There are e-lightning talks. There are oral sessions.  There are poster sessions. There are town hall sessions. There are scientific workshops. There are tutorial talks. There are keynotes. Wow!

The e-lightning talks are exciting. There are lots of opportunity to interact in this presentation mode. The e-lightning talks are held in the Poster Hall. A small section provides chairs for about 15 – 20 attendees, with plenty of standing room only space. This informal session leads to great discussion amongst attendees. Be sure to put one of these in your schedule!

Oral sessions are what you would expect; people working in the topic, sitting in chairs at the front of the room, each giving a brief talk, then, time permitting, a Q&A session at the end. Remember these panels are filled with knowledge. For the oral sessions that you schedule to attend, read the papers prior to attending. More importantly, have some questions prepared.

//Steps onto soapbox//

  1. If you are female, know the facts! (Nature International Journal of Science, 2018)
  2. Females are less likely to ask a question if a male asked a prior question.
  3. Get up there!
  4. Grab the mic!
  5. Ask the question anyway.
  6. Do NOT wait to speak with the presenters until afterwards. They are feeling just as overwhelmed as you are by all of the opportunities available to them at this conference.
  7. Please read the referenced article in bullet #1. The link is provided at the end of this post.

//Steps down from soapbox//

The poster sessions are a great way to unwind by getting in some walking. There are e-posters which are presented on screens provided by AGU or the venue. There are the usual posters as well. The highlights of attending a poster session, besides the opportunity to stretch your legs, include the opportunity to practice meeting new people, asking in-depth questions on topics of interest, talking to people doing the research, and checking out the data being used for the research. You will want to have a notepad with you for the poster sessions. Don’t just take notes; take business cards! Remember, what makes poster sessions special is that they are an example of the latest research that has not, yet, become a published paper. The person doing the research is quite likely the presenter of the poster.

All those special sessions – the town halls, the scientific workshops, the tutorial talks, and keynotes – these are the ones that you ask prior attendees, past participants, and experts on which ones are the must-see. Get them in your schedule. Pay attention. Take notes. Read the papers behind the sessions; if not the papers, the abstracts as a minimum. Have your questions ready before you go!


This is really important. Do NOT arrive without your time at this conference well planned. To do that you are going to need to spend several weeks preparing; reading papers, studying schedules, writing questions, and more. In order to have a really successful, time-well-spent type of experience, you are going to need to begin preparing for this immense conference by November 1st.

Oh, how I wish I had listened to all the people that told me this!

Put an hour per day in your calendar, from November 1st until AGU Conference Week, to study and prepare for this conference. I promise you will not regret the time you spent preparing.

The biggest thing to remember and the one thing that all attendees must do is:

Have a great time!



Works Cited

Nature International Journal of Science. (2018, October 17). Why fewer women than men ask questions at conferences. Retrieved from Nature International Journal of Science Career Brief:


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TWC at AGU FM 2018

January 22nd, 2019

In 2018, AGU celebrated its centennial year. TWC had a good showing at this AGU, with 8 members attending and presenting on a number of projects.

We arrived at DC on Saturday night, to attend the DCO Virtual Reality workshop organized by Louis Kellogg and the DCO Engagement Team, where research from greater DCO community came together to present, discuss and understand how the use of VR can facilitate and improve both research and teaching. Oliver Kreylos and Louis Kellogg spent various session presenting the results of DCO VR project, which involved recreating some of the visualizations used commonly at TWC, i.e the mineral networks. For a preview of using the VR environment, check out these three tweets. Visualizing mineral networks in a VR environment has yielded some promising results, we observed interesting patterns in the networks which need to be explored and validated in the near future.

With a successful pre-AGU workshop behind us, we geared up for the main event. First thing Monday morning, was the “Predictive Analytics” poster session, which Shaunna Morrison, Fang Huang, and Marshall Ma helped me convene. The session, while low on abstracts submitted, was full of very interesting applications of analytics methods in various earth and space science domains.

Fang Huang also co-convened a VGP session on Tuesday, titled “Data Science and Geochemistry“. It was a very popular session, with 38 abstracts. Very encouraging to see divisions other than ESSI have Data Science sessions. This session also highlighted the work of many of TWC’s collaborators from the DTDI project. Kathy Fontaine convened a e-lightning session on Data policy. This new format was very successfully in drawing a large crowd to the event and enabled a great discussion on the topic. The day ended with Fang’s talk, presenting our findings about the network analysis of samples from the cerro negro volcano.

Over the next 2 days, many of TWC’s collaborators presented, but no one from TWC presented until Friday. Friday though was the busiest day for all of us from TWC. Starting with Peter Fox’s talk in the morning, Mark Parsons, Ahmed Eleish, Kathy Fontaine and Brenda Thomson all presented their work during the day. Oh yeah…and I presented too! My poster on the creation of the “Global Earth Mineral Inventory” got good feedback. Last, but definitely not the least, Peter represented the ESSI division during the AGU centennial plenary, where he talked about the future of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in the Earth Sciences. The video of the entire plenary can be found here.

Overall, AGU18 was great, other than the talk mentioned above, multiple productive meetings and potential collaboration emerged from meeting various scientists and talking to them about their work. It was an incredible learning experience for me and the other students (for whom this was the first AGU).

As for other posters and talks I found interesting. I tweeted a lot about them during AGU. Fortunately, I did make a list of some interesting posters.

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