Written by Audrey Collins
Thanks to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Summer REU program, I was able to present my research at the 2021 APS Gaseous Electronics Conference. It was an amazing opportunity to learn more about my research and about the subject of plasma physics in general.
Due to a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in Alabama, experts advised that holding the conference digitally, rather than in person, would be the safest option for all participants. This was my first academic conference, and despite the fact that it was virtual, I felt the same levels of pressure and excitement as if it had been held in person. Some aspects of a virtual conference were more advantageous, such as the option to watch sessions on demand, which allowed me to watch more of the conference than I would have been able to if the conference had been conducted in person.
After watching a few speakers, I was intimidated to be in the midst of so many amazing minds, and I was apprehensive about how my presentation would compare to theirs. I had to reassure myself that I was just as deserving of being there as they were, and that I shouldn’t compare myself to them.
A Zoom meeting titled “Women in Science” was one of the live events I attended. Several successful female scientists moderated the event, sharing their experiences as women in a male-dominated profession. I appreciated attending this conference as it was educational and refreshing to hear from women who had had similar experiences to myself and how they overcame gender bias. The fact that the number of women in science is increasing every day and that the field of science is changing to become more inclusive and tolerant left me feeling encouraged after the conference to continue with my studies and research in science.
I was able to present my findings at my live poster session with ease and confidence thanks to extensive preparation with Dr. Renato Camata, my research mentor throughout the summer REU program, as well as with our research group. My experience at the Gaseous Electronics Conference gave me the confidence to present scientific findings in front of other professionals, and it served as good practice for larger conference presentations that I may participate in in the future.