Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The joys of poster sessions and coffee breaks

Today was a rather interesting day at the conference, for more than one reason. There were some excellent talks (see below). But even more so there was some great interaction with people. Over the poster session last evening and coffee today, I got talking with a few graduate students. A few were about to graduate, one had recently graduated and one was a 6-month newbie. All were giving talks at the conference. So it was natural that there was considerable anxiety and presentation nerves for the newbie. He was worried people would find his work too simplistic and not smart enough. The about to graduate and the recent graduate were looking for jobs and there was considerable anxiety related to the job search. It all brought back the memories (not too distant!) of my first international conference and then later my own job search.
Last evening over the poster session, Dr. Ishwar Aggarwal, Chair for Specialty Optical Fibers, spent some time talking with me. He discussed upcoming technical areas for the future, he gave me advise on life and my career. Most importantly he encouraged me... when  someone eminent, whom you admire gives you a bit of encouragement it can mean a lot (unless you are very odd!).
So it felt a bit strange that today I was trying to reassure my new friends that
a) simple talks were good talks
b) the jobs would come
And it was particularly good to find that a little conversation raised their spirits and  made me feel happy too.  I am happy to report that  newbie's talk was extremely well received, the jobs I am sure will come for the graduates.
And none of this talking would have taken place without coffee breaks and poster sessions!
As for the excellent talks:
I particularly enjoyed the session on nano-photonics for energy conversion and other applications. To me the  highlight was the talk by Prof. David Norris on template stripping of metallic films for PV. There was an interesting talk on bulk heterojunction organic solar cells also that was quite good. The recent trend in solar cells (of all kinds) on patterning the surface and including nano-particles must surely converge to some optimal design, given the volume of work in this area?

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