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2021 AGU in New Orleans

Chia-Hsin Tsai in front of her poster at AGUOld Members’ Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Grant Report – Chia-Hsin Tsai

American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall meeting – the largest Earth Sciences-related conference in the world, was held in a hybrid format for its first time from 13-17 December this year at New Orleans, LA, USA. It used to be at least 25000 attendees every year but the number of in-person attendees this time is only 10000 due to COVID and I was one of them. AGU is an excellent opportunity for me to present and broadcast my PhD studies. I gave a poster presentation of my research about great earthquakes and the characteristics of their surface ruptures of the intra-continental faults. Quite a few researchers have been attracted by my poster and I had enjoyable discussions with them. Apart from getting useful advice, I also made new connections and friends through my poster session.

COVID-safe poster at AGU showing lanyard optionsSince the meeting was held during the pandemic, some interesting and unique designs were introduced for the first time at AGU. Unsurprisingly, masks were required during the whole meeting period in the venue. What impressed me the most was how AGU let the attendees choose the colours of their badge lanyards based on to what degree they care about social distancing. It’s a thoughtful design but it seemed few people dared to choose the red ones even if they wanted to. Because of the hybrid format of AGU, Q&A sessions became more complicated than usual. As an in-person attendee, we now get to ask questions anonymously via online systems; however, we lost the chance of chasing every discussion happening on the live online platforms.

Despite the disadvantages mentioned above, I still got to attend a few networking events and EDI-related sessions. I attended the early-career seismology and tectonophysics networking luncheon event where some senior researchers shared their own experiences and academic paths. These help me think about the potential challenges and opportunities for my career. I also attended the EDI session at the Great Hall and realised the underrepresentation of minorities in Earth Sciences is more serious than I thought, which does worth people’s attention and improvement on it.

Chia-Hsin Tsai showing her poster to two AGU attendeesApart from the meeting itself, I also took the chance to visit the city of New Orleans. It’s a vigorous and diverse city full of amazing live music and delicious food. However, you can still tell the hurricanes and pandemic have made the city bleaker than it used to be. Another enjoyable moment from the meeting is the reunion of old friends. It felt good to catch up with and see some old faces of colleagues and classmates who I’ve not met for a long while. Making new friends during the meeting is also the precious reward of this trip. I’m glad that I have this opportunity to meet people who share the same research interests as me and who are at the same career stage. Attending the AGU meeting this year is an important experience for my current PhD and my future career, I am very grateful for the support of my College and the Old Members’ Trust.

Find out more about the range of travel grants and scholarships available to assist Univ students on our Travel Grants page or read further travel reports.

Published: 1 March 2022

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