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AGU Fall Meeting 2008: An Undergraduate Perspective
By Jodie Barker-Tvedtnes, Utah State University (USU)
2008 SPS Outstanding Student Award Recipient, USU Goldwater Scholar

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Dr. Bob Schunk (Utah State University) giving his ‘investigative report’ at the SPA Banquet.

The 2008 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held in San Francisco, CA, was an incredible experience.  I have been to other conferences over the past few years but with over 16,000 people in attendance this meeting was by far the largest I have attended.

While researching the meeting I found out that they offered onsite daycare, based on this I decided to take my seven year old daughter, Kalila, with me and to have my boyfriend, Robert, meet us there.  So on December 14 we packed up the car and set out on the twelve hour drive to San Francisco.  Seventeen hours, and a blizzard, later we arrived at our hotel.

The rest of the week went well.  I attended some talks on Monday afternoon and my daughter and boyfriend accompanied me to the student breakfast on Tuesday.  Here I was able to meet and talk to some other students in as well as some of the


The Bay Bridge.


researchers attending the meeting, including Dr. Jan Sojka, a professor at Utah State University (USU) and the president elect for the Solar Physics and Aeronomy Section of AGU.  During this breakfast I learned that nearly 20% of AGU members are students.  This group was described as a large and silent portion of the AGU membership and the leadership committee said they are looking for ways to get this part of the AGU membership more involved in the society as a whole.  Most of these student members are graduate students and many of the people I spoke with were surprised to learn that I was attending the meeting as an undergraduate.  Other student activities included a career booth and student lounge located in the exhibit area.

After the student breakfast, I attended some talks on the solar minimum and walked around the posters for that day.  The meeting was organized so that every day new posters were put up and there were morning and afternoon sessions where the presenters were scheduled to be by their posters to talk about their research and answer questions.

2008 AGU Fall Meeting
The poster sessions at the AGU Fall Meeting filled a large conference hall, with new posters going up daily.

The next major event I was able to attend was the Space Physics and Aeronomy (SPA) Banquet at the Four Seas Restaurant in China Town on Tuesday night.  This was basically a social event.  I had the pleasure of being introduced by Dr. Bob Schunk, a professor at USU, to Dr. Christopher Russell from UCLA.  We talked for awhile about my interest in attending UCLA for my graduate degree.  The highlight of the evening was three presentations given after dinner.  The first showed cartoons of people in the different areas of the SPA section dancing in various styles.  The second was a revision of several movie plots to include research topics and researchers within SPA.  An example is The French Connection became The French Reconnection.  The third speaker did his presentation as an undercover investigation on a few members of the group.  The talks were hilarious and overall the dinner was a great experience.

On Wednesday, Kalila, Robert and I had the opportunity to have lunch with Thomas Olsen from SPS.  We walked from the conference center to the Ferry House discussing the meeting and my AGU experience to that point.  We had a great view of the bay bridge during the end of the walk.

The sessions related to my current research began on Wednesday the 17th.  At that point, I was able to catch up with some people I had met at previous conferences and to speak with several people about opportunities for graduate work at their respective schools.  My poster presentation was on Thursday afternoon.  This was a great opportunity to talk to other people about the research being conducted in my field.  It was also a good way to find out what specific research is being conducted at various schools which is wonderful for deciding what graduate programs to apply for.


The Aquarium by the Bay.  I am pointing out a bright red star fish to Kalila in the underwater tunnel.


Aside from the meeting I was able to do some sightseeing with my daughter and boyfriend.  We walked through China Town one evening to look for groceries and to buy souvenirs.  Another evening after my meetings ended we went to the Aquarium by the Bay to walk through their underwater tunnel and to pet some baby leopard sharks.  I was also able to meet an old friend for lunch on Friday afternoon.

On Friday evening after my meetings ended we embarked on the long, snowy, journey home.

A Child's Impression
Kalila Tvedtnes
Kalila Tvedtnes: A Scientist in Training

It was fun. Yay. I loved it. Daycare was fun and cool. The first day the meeting was so awesome that I loved it and it was cool. I loved getting my own name badge. That was the first time I ever got a badge. I got an umbrella in Chinatown that said "Made in China." When I saw a big shark at the aquarium I pushed Robert toward it and said, "Don't eat me! Eat Robert!" and he put his face to the glass and said roar. I thought it was silly.

I loved San Francisco.

by Kalila Tvedtnes

More recent meeting reviews...
SPS Reporter Program
SPS national sends student reporters to most major AIP Member Society meetings, where they are treated like other members of the press. Many ambitious student reporters succeed in securing interviews with society leadership and prominent invited speakers on such occasions.
SPS Travel Awards
A limited number of grants, on the order of $200 each, are offered to help fund SPS members travel to national meetings of AIP Member Societies holding a "SPS Session" co-organized by SPS and the Member Society.
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