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American Geophysical Union Conference

Univ Dan Spencer Travel ReportOld Members’ Trust Graduate and Academic Travel Grant Report – Dan Spencer, 2nd year DPhil in Earth Sciences 

This past December I attended the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in Washington DC. AGU is the largest conference in my field and this year hosted over 28000 attendees. At the conference I was giving a talk entitled “The Interior Melt Distribution of Io”. This 15 minute talk covered the work which I did in the first year of my DPhil. Io is a moon of Jupiter which is characterised by extreme volcanic activity. My work uses computation modelling of fluid dynamics to elucidate the distribution of magma throughout Io’s interior. My work contradicted some of the leading theories on the interior melt distribution of Io, so my task at AGU was to explain my work and the reasoning behind it to the leaders in the field of planetary science.

Univ Dan Spencer Travel ReportThroughout the week of the conference in the lead up to my talk (which was to be given on the Friday) I had a large number of meetings with academics to discuss my work. Most notable of these was my meeting with Dr Rosaly Lopes, the chair of the Planetary Science division of AGU. Dr Lopes is a world leader in volcanology and discovered many of Io’s volcanoes. Dr Lopes and I had a great meeting where it became clear that I was making significant headway in putting my points across to the academic community.

The talk itself went extremely well. Friday afternoon sessions tend to be very poorly attended at AGU as people leave the conference early, but this session was very well attended. My talk attracted a large number of questions from the audience, I was asked five whereas no other talk in the session had more than one question. A number of people, both academics and students, approached me after the talk to tell me that they really enjoyed it and gave me confidence that we are working along the right lines.

Univ Dan Spencer Travel ReportFurther to this feeling of validation in my work, my trip illuminated some potentially very interesting avenues to take with my research. Currently my model does not take into account the compositional evolution of Io, but with the incorporation of this it may result in large further volumes of magma being produced, a phenomenon which has not been investigated before.

I have been left feeling that as a 2nd year DPhil student, this conference came at a brilliant time for me. I have been able to introduce myself to academics in my field and show them my work, but also I have plenty of time to take on their advice about the direction which my DPhil could take. For this I am extremely grateful to University College and the Old Members’ Trust for enabling me to take this trip, a trip which I’m sure I will look back on as a pivotal point in my academic career.

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.

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