Students Take Austin By Storm

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American Meteorological Society Student Conference

January 5, 2018

Austin, Texas

Meeting host:

American Meteorological Society


Aaron Alexander

SPS Chapter:

Greetings from Austin, TX, site of the 2018 American Meteorological Society (AMS) Student Conference! The AMS is a professional group for those interested in atmospheric sciences, and each year prior to their annual meeting, a student conference is held to inspire undergraduate and graduate students to pursue their professional passions’.  If you are curious about any aspect of the earth-atmosphere system, then the AMS Student Conference is the place for you! This conference allows students who are interested not only in meteorology, but also atmospheric chemistry, dynamics, climatology, space weather, and even communication, to come together to interact with other students from around the country, engage in professional development, and present research.

This year’s theme was “Revamping the #Conversation” which focused on improving the communication skills of attendees. To keep with the theme, students participated in Question and Answer panels with a variety of professionals from institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Weather Service (NWS), and even private weather forecasting companies like Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace and Technologies. The attendees sought advice on subjects like choosing whether to attend graduate school before seeking employment, how to make yourself standout in a pool of applicants, and how to find your professional passion. These Q&A panels were not the only opportunity to talk and network with professionals. A revamped session called ‘Conversations with Professionals’  allowed attendees time to interact with experts such as researchers trying to understand severe weather, or those sailing the open seas with the NOAA Corps

Stacey Hitchcock, a co-chair for the AMS Student Planning Committee, captures a photo of attendees at the AMS Student Conference 2018.

Students looking to go to graduate school also found resources at the AMS Student Conference. Students asked distinguished researchers from top-tier research institutions about what makes a prospective graduate student competitive, what they should be doing now to help their transition to graduate school, and even where to look for internships within their field of interest. Attendees were also able to ask current graduate students these questions as part of a graduate student panel.  “I love the graduate student panel because it gives students the opportunity to ask questions that can't necessarily be answered by faculty and staff at schools,” says Makenzie Krocak, a graduate student from the University of Oklahoma who has served on the graduate student panel for two years. “We keep it very informal because the goal of the panel is really just to have a conversation with undergraduates about how to manage their stipend or how to transition from focusing on classes to focusing on work and research.” Highlights from the 2018 panel included hearing from students who were studying the atmosphere by non-traditional means, like a graduate student studying the communication theory behind the NWS as part of their master’s degree or a student who is looking at the impact of emissions from farms on atmospheric chemistry.

Panels were not the only thing that made the AMS Student Conference unique! This conference offered a variety of interactive sessions where students received personalized feedback on their work. One of the most popular sessions was the Resume Workshop, where students had their resume reviewed by professionals working for the government, private research companies, or from academia.  Other interactive sessions included reviews of aspiring broadcast meteorologists’ audition tapes, a scientific writing workshop, and a session where students simulated a real-life emergency management scenario to understand how the NWS, local governments, and media interact during natural disasters.

If that was not enough, students also had the opportunity to present their research in a poster competition. Topics ranged from understanding how chemicals interact with one another under different atmospheric conditions, to understanding how to better predict atmospheric river events, and even analyzing lightning in different types of clouds. Top poster presentations are recognized nationally via AMS website. Those without research to present were able to attend the concurrent Graduate School/Career Fair. Many students used this opportunity to talk with potential graduate schools, find internship opportunities, and even sign up for professional organizations like SPS!

The AMS Student Conference gave students the tools to be successful in their future, whichever path they choose to take. One of the 2017 conference co-chairs, Stacey Hitchcock, feels that “the student conference is a weekend of professional development that strives to highlight the variety of career options available to students in the atmospheric and related sciences, provide insights and tools necessary to help students pursue these careers, and offers hands on opportunities to practice new skills in a supportive environment.”  If you are interested in finding out more about what exactly meteorologists and atmospheric physicists do (spoiler alert, not everyone forecasts the weather), want to develop professional skills, and have one-on-one interactions with professionals in the scientific community, the AMS Student Conference is for you. Next year’s conference in Phoenix, Arizona on 5-6 January, 2019 promises to be even better than this this year, and I hope to see you there!