This time of year is usually one of anticipation, as the American Nuclear Society’s annual national meeting is set to take place in early June. The anticipation is still there this year, but without all of the hectic travel and hotel accommodations.
The 2020 ANS Annual Meeting--originally scheduled to take place in Phoenix, Arizona--will be completely virtual. Assistant professor Katy Huff and graduate student Samuel Dotson are among the NPRE contingent that was planning to attend and present at the conference. Both say that though the conference will be virtual, their preparations haven’t changed much.
“The fact that the conference is online hasn't really affected how I'm preparing for it,” Dotson said. “I'll be practicing the presentation [entitled “Optimal Sizing of a Micro-Reactor for Embedded Grid Systems”] as though I were presenting in person.”
“As usual, my students will be giving their practice presentations in the group meeting before the conference,” Huff said. “Though both the group meeting and the conference will be online, nothing much will change about their preparations except, perhaps, no one has to pack for a trip or worry about flights.”
Of course, conferences aren’t all about presentations. They provide a great opportunity for attendees to network with one another and learn from each other face-to-face. “Not having it in-person removes the benefit of networking that is a huge part of typical conferences,” Dotson said. “Conferences are also a great time to catch up with friends from other schools.”
“This is usually a chance for me to introduce graduate students in my group to the leaders in the field, which is an important way for me to lend them my network, help them to secure internships, and propel them toward their future careers,” Huff said. “I also will miss the opportunity to discuss future research collaborations with colleagues at other institutions, which frequently turn into grant proposals.”
Still, there are positives related to holding a virtual conference, mainly in the areas of accessibility and reduced expenses. “More people can ‘attend’ the conference who would be otherwise unable to due to an inability to travel,” Dotson said. “Presentations can be recorded and distributed later, so I can see more of the conference if certain interesting presentations are at conflicting times…I also think presenting virtually is slightly less anxiety-inducing, because I can do it from the safety of my own home.”
“It's vastly cheaper, with a much smaller carbon footprint to attend this meeting online,” Huff said. “Also…it is worth noting that the meeting would have taken place in Arizona if it had been in-person. While I'm sure it would have been lovely to see, Arizona in June might even have been too hot for me, a Texan.”