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Attending the American Society of bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) annual meeting 2017 in Denver

What I learned from attending academic conferences

Me with my advisor and my lab mate at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017 in Chicago.
Me with my advisor and my labmate at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017 in Chicago.

Most of us who pursue a graduate level degree know that attending an academic conference is a worthwhile opportunity. Why? An obvious reason is we get to learn new knowledge in the field. From my experience, going to conferences benefits me far beyond this answer.

I do believe that attending a conference provides an excellent platform for professional development. First and for most, it allows us to put ourselves out there and present interesting findings from our research. This can lead to further thought-provoking discussion among us and other scientists in the field. Most of the time, we think and work on our own and it is always productive to have someone with fresh eyes critically share their thoughts on our work as well as what we could do to improve it. In some case, we might interact with someone who is working on a specific area that complements our work. In that case, the discussion can lead to potential future collaborations.

As a young scientist, I found both oral and poster presentation to be very challenging in different ways. An oral presentation is usually 12 minutes long. You have a 10-minute period to tell your story and another 2 minutes to answer questions from the audience.

Giving an oral presentation at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017
Giving an oral presentation in the Gene-Diet Interaction Research Interest Group session at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017

From my experience, you can excel the presentation part by practicing and putting a lot of thoughts on the flow of the presentation and limit the contents to where your target audience can follow easily in 10 minutes. Knowing your audience is always the most important key to success in a presentation. This is because you would cater the information, details to be included and words you use to suit your audience.

Presentation of my first research project on the impact of dietary calcium and genetics on 3D structure of femoral bone and lumbar spine.
Poster presentation of my first research project on the impact of dietary calcium and genetics on the 3D structure of femoral bone and lumbar spine.

The more difficult part for me is when you need to respond to questions from the audience. Given that I am already nervous to speak in public, I need to think on my feet in order to provide a sound answer to a question which I might not have thought about before. It is definitely challenging, yet helpful for developing my skills in communicating science. And remember, to master a skill, you need to keep practicing it. You might fail many times before you start to feel like you are getting better, BUT that’s a required step of growth 🙂

Apart from the opportunity to present your research, you would get to expand your circle of people who work in the same field and have similar research interests as you. As you can imagine, this is very useful and necessary especially when you are graduating and hoping to secure a job in the near future. Many people, myself included, dread the idea of networking. However, if you see it as an opportunity to getting better at networking (again practice makes perfect!) and you have nothing lose (since you might meet that person only that one time anyway lol). This helps put you in a productive mindset and might boost your confidence to go for it.

Attending Nutrigenomics Workshop at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2016.
Attending Nutrigenomics Workshop at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2016.

Also, networking can be very fruitful at times. Many times I heard stories of people who got their job because a friend of their colleague knew someone that can link that person to his or her future boss. Therefore, it is worth keeping your eyes opened and get to know new people. A couple of times I have met people who have become my good friends until now.

Another thing I appreciated from my experiences going to scientific meetings is I get to learn about a life story of thought leaders in my research area or their path to becoming a great scientist. I found this to be very inspiring and encouraging. Working in research requires a perseverance both mentally and physically. Therefore, it is very easy to fall for failures or failed experiments and feel bad for yourself in the course of Ph.D. study. Hearing how senior successful scientists overcome these challenges and thrive in this type of environment definitely help open my perspective and encourage me to keep working hard and determine to my goal rather than focusing on small setbacks that we inevitably cannot avoid.

Reunited with a friend from my Master's program.
Reunited with a friend from my Master’s program.

In addition to all the skills I earned from attending conferences, it is an opportunity for me to apply for financial support. Most research societies provide a travel grant for graduate students who have outstanding research work to present their work at the meeting. Applying for this type of sponsorship not only will you receive monetary support to attend a meeting, but also get a recognition for your research work which subsequently would enhance your profile in the long run. Besides an external support from meeting organization, I sometimes apply for a financial support from my college. Given that you presenting your work which has been conducted on campus, you help publicize the research quality at your university at the same time. Therefore, you are likely to get a fund from your university to go to a meeting.

Lastly, I enjoyed traveling to a new city as a way to broaden my horizons. Besides that, I get to meet new people as well as reunite with my old friends/colleagues. So I always have a wonderful experience attending a meeting both for my professional development and for my personal fulfillment.

 

 

Purdue Sign

India >>>>> Indiana – What Brought Me Here

India >>>>> Indiana – What Brought Me Here

In this post, I would like to talk about my field of study. I am a doctoral student in Learning Design and Technology or LDT, which is known as instructional design in some universities. I want to discuss what attracted me to this field and brought me here, all the way from India.

I wish to describe myself as an avid learner and a passionate educator. My work experience spans different career paths. I have worked as an electronics engineer, as a faculty in a computer hardware training institute, as a STEM subject teacher, University lecturer in a business school and as a technical writer. However, the career I enjoyed most was teaching Math, Physics and Environmental Science to middle school students. The curiosity that my students showed and their interest in exploring beyond the curriculum encouraged me to expand the boundaries of my teaching.

The Learning Design & Technology field has opened several avenues for me to put my education to practice in addition to stimulating my creative side. The Master’s degree and the Ph.D. programs in LDT at Purdue University, have provided the theoretical foundation for how to make learning appropriate for different audiences. LDT brings about a beautiful amalgamation of learning theories and emerging technologies to make learning fun, easy and meaningful to learners, whether in K-12, University, corporate sector or in adult basic education classrooms.

At Purdue, I’ve received maximum support from my faculty and I am involved in many research projects. My adviser applied for a fellowship for me and helped me receive the David Ross fellowship that supports my Ph.D. education. Not only me, several international students have received good fellowships and teaching assistantships which help them finance their education at Purdue. Within a year into my Ph.D, I was able to publish two scholarly papers in noteworthy journals and have a few more papers under review. In addition to working on research papers, I receive plenty of opportunities to work on other projects.

At present I am working with faculty on different projects ranging from evaluating MOOCs, studying attitude change in online and face-to-face (f2f) education, teaching f2f under-graduate educational technology courses, co-teaching an online course on Project Management, developing a repository of educational technology tools for online teaching and so on. As a service I am also developing STEM based learning modules for adult basic education (ABE). This semester, for my internship, I will be working on creating educational content which will be used by programmers to develop lessons using Augmented Reality (AR) technology. All these experiences, I believe, will make me a better teacher, collaborator, learning design technologist and educational technology expert.

On completing my Ph.D., my immediate goal is to teach in a research oriented university and gain valuable experience interacting with faculty, mining their expertise and expanding my knowledge. I really enjoy reading literature pertaining to educational technology, researching learning environments and writing scholarly papers. The joy of seeing my work, published in peer-reviewed journals is undefinable.

​Long-Term Goals​

I always wanted to establish a School of Practical Learning in India. This school will scaffold the theoretical learning in STEM subjects that is provided by other regular schools. It was with this vision and to update myself with what is new in education, that I enrolled in the LDT program at Purdue University in January 2015 to earn my 2nd Master’s degree. My journey continued into the Ph.D. program. I fervently hope to identify ways to augment the learning of students, with regards to socio-scientific topics, like environmental sustainability to make them better citizens of this world. ​

Someone once said, “If you are not willing to learn, No one can help you.

If you are determined to learn, No one can stop you.”

I’m determined to learn – Shamila Janakiraman

     

Zucrow Student Association

Reflections on Purdue and the Zucrow Student Association

Hello folks visiting this super webpage! I’m not entirely sure how to start this blog, as this is my first time as a blogger, but well 😊 first time for everything. I’m writing this up as I am flying high in the air somewhere over the Atlantic to land in Warsaw and then following the smell of chocolates to my home country: Belgium. Going on a necessary break after a nice and exhausting semester here at Purdue!

Small introduction… I’m James and currently 3rd year PhD student at Purdue University. As many students here, I’m an engineer and enrolled in the mechanical engineering department. I started at the same time as Mario Tindaro (who made this awesome movie for the global ambassadors, as seen here) as well as Valeria Andreoli. I landed here after doing a research master in fluid dynamics at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. And now I’m performing research on the future gas turbines at the PETAL lab (Purdue Experimental Aerothermal lab, engineering.purdue.edu/PETAL). This research lab is located outside of West Lafayette, near the airport, in a place called Zucrow Labs. A place that most students don’t even know!

I’m of course not here to tell you about my research (for those kind of questions you can shoot me a private mail😊), however I’d like to share some parts of my life here. At Zucrow we have a student organization called the Zucrow Student Association, in which I am serving my 2nd year as president. Indeed, foreigners can become presidents here! ZSA consists of all kinds of cool people: Amelia and Monique (both from the west coast) and Timo and me (both from the North of Europe 😊. You see, a lot of fun!

Our goal is to try to get all the students together as much as we can, both during working hours, as outside. In September we hosted a tailgate for the students of our lab. Tailgate? Yep, before a football game, all of the purdue fans gather in front of their cars and have a BBQ on the fields of the Corec (our gigantic gym) which results in a huge party! (For the early birds: during game days, the true purdue student fans wake up at 5-6 AM to start ‘breakfast club’.. a very interesting activity that everyone should once do!).

 

We also host lunch and learns where we get the famous Papa Johns pizza (some say the best pizza from West Lafayette) and where students talk about their research while eating some thin crust pizza/ cheese bread / you name it and ZSA serves it! We also do coffee breaks where we serve premium Starbucks coffee and Marie Lou Donuts. These Marie Lou donuts are unique: 50 cents for a donut, but the best ones you will ever try! I guess that’s why these donuts run out so fast…

Zucrow Student Association Volleyball

In summer (it gets really sunny out here) we play beach volleyball and organize barbecues in the famous picket park, because after some intense game of volleyball: what’s better than enjoying some of the finest Indiana pork ribs?! During winter this should be switched to ice skating, although now there is still no ice.. this will probably come very soon.

 

 

This year, we also hosted an end-of-the-year dinner at the Lafayette brewing company: some Indiana beers and burgers, what else you need to make students happy?!

Additionally, many of the former grad students at Zucrow go to space: recently Scott Tingle! Guess what? He took our group photo and a banner from zucrow to space to sign it, so in a way… all of Zucrow goes to space 😊 !!!

Finally, ZSA also sells a lot of apparel: Zucrow t-shirts, Zucrow mugs, … all you can imagine: ZSA sells it. Don’t hesitate to shoot us an email if you’d like to buy some hehe 😊 (zsa@purdue.edu). The apparel is very useful and cool: imagine taking a flight wherever over the world… at least one person will stop you to tell you “BOILERMAKER!!” (and you with your jetlagged mind :”huhh??”). So you see, you’re never traveling alone, boilermakers all over the world. (PS Purdue students are called boilermakers…)

So, this student is going to lower the seat, relax and ready to dream about chocolates, fries and beer aka Belgium 😊, if at least the people behind me stop talking… good night!