Students Take Austin by Storm

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences

Students Take Austin by Storm


Aaron Alexander, SPS Representative to the 2018 AMS Student Conference Planning Committee, University of California, Davis

Greetings from Austin, Texas, site of the 2018 American Meteorological Society (AMS) Student Conference. The AMS is a professional group for those interested in atmospheric sciences, and the student conference is held to inspire undergraduate and graduate students to pursue their professional passions. Despite its name, the conference isn’t limited to meteorology students. Those interested in atmospheric chemistry or dynamics, climatology, space weather, and even communication also come together to meet other students from around the country, engage in professional development, and present research.

Professionals from institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Weather Service (NWS), as well as private weather forecasting companies, fielded questions from students on whether to attend graduate school before looking for a job, how to stand out in a pool of applicants, and how to find your professional passion. Students also got to talk with experts in various disciplines, such as researchers trying to understand severe weather or those who’ve sailed the open seas with the NOAA Corps.

For students looking toward graduate school, distinguished researchers from top-tier institutions and current graduate students answered questions about what makes a prospective graduate student competitive, what students should do to aid their transition, and even where to look for internships within their field of interest.

“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 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.”

In addition to the panels, the conference offered a variety of interactive sessions. One of the most popular was the resume workshop, where students had their resumes reviewed by professionals in academia, government, and private research. Other 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.

The conference is a good opportunity to find out more about what meteorologists and atmospheric physicists do (spoiler alert: not everyone forecasts the weather), develop professional skills, and have one-on-one interactions with professionals in the scientific community. Next year’s conference, in Phoenix, Arizona (January 5–6, 2019), promises to be even better—and I hope to see you there! //

Aaron Alexander is a first-year PhD student in water resource engineering at the University of California, Davis. His undergraduate degrees are in physics and atmospheric sciences, and he was heavily involved with his undergraduate SPS chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno.

AMS Student Conference attendee presenting research at poster session. Photo by Aaron Alexander.

Students making connections from around the country as part of the AMS Student Conference. Photo by the AMS Nationals photographer.

Attendees enjoy talking with Dr. Sunni Ivey about careers in academia during Conversations With Professionals.  Photo by Aaron Alexander.

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences