This past February, I had the opportunity to attend the Practical Applications of NMR in Industry Conference (PANIC) in Houston, TX. My advisor, István Pelczer, is the one who first told me about this conference during the Fall 2015 semester. He suggested that attending would give me the chance not only to present my senior thesis research to a group of scientists who specialized in my field, but also to broaden my perspective by gaining exposure to other research applying the same basic technique to address a range of scientific problems.
Along with a collaborator from Rutgers University, I was able to get feedback about my research from graduate students, professors, and industry employees from around the globe. Furthermore, the conference featured networking sessions as well as talks presented by some of the other attendees. I was fascinated by the sheer variety of problems that the other researchers had chosen to tackle. Some had chosen to approach issues such as identifying contaminants in factory-produced chemicals during times of emergency, and others described their findings toward improving the analysis of small compounds. Several of the oral presentations were memorable, and I was even able to follow up with a few speakers to discuss future research and the possibility of collaborations.
Of course, my trip didn’t consist only of attending an academic conference for four days. During my stay, I was also able to find the time to take advantage of the other activities that Houston had to offer. In particular, I really enjoyed my trip to the Houston Zoo the day after I arrived. The weather was fantastic, there were plenty of animals to see, and my memory of the experience is one that will last a lifetime.
As for my experience as a participant in the conference, I was very pleasantly surprised. Despite initially feeling tense about presenting my own research in a room full of people who were further along in their academic careers than I was, I felt at ease within minutes of getting to the location of the conference on the first day. The friendliness of the other attendees and their genuine curiosity about my project led to some enjoyable discussions and helped me open up my eyes to new directions to take my research that I hadn’t noticed of previously. It was a great joy to have had the chance to attend a research conference as an undergrad, and I would absolutely do it again if the opportunity presented itself.