CO – GSA125, Monday

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October 28, 2013 by Dr. G

Another full and exhausting day at GSA!  I started the morning by going over to the Poster Hall at the Convention Center to set up my poster (I was not required to officially be at my poster until later in the day, but posters were to be placed on the boards by 9AM).  After getting my poster up with some assistance from one of my geoscience colleagues and friends I recently went to Iceland with, I started going through the Exhibit Hall, weaving up and down the aisles to look at the latest and greatest textbooks, geology equipment, and yes, even geologically-themed t-shirts and jewelry.

Streambed for modeling water flow (or, fun in a sandbox!) - one of the exhibitors at GSA

Streambed for modeling water flow (or, fun in a sandbox!) – one of the exhibitors at GSA

Booth for the Council on Undergraduate Research, one of the many organizations in the Exhibit Hall

Booth for the Council on Undergraduate Research, one of the many organizations in the Exhibit Hall

But the meeting also had many other unique displays.  For example, there were many, many geologic maps and photos on display (geology is a very visual field, you know!).  One section of the Exhibit Hall was called Campus Connections, where students interested in attending graduate school could meet with faculty from various universities to learn more about the research and field opportunities.  Of course, Penn State was part of the collection of institutions represented!

The Penn State table, where students can learn about opportunities in the Department of Geosciences

The Penn State table, where students can learn about opportunities in the Department of Geosciences

I was able to pick up some great books in the Exhibit Hall to advance my discipline knowledge, and I was able to speak to some great faculty at their posters that are really advancing the field of geoscience education with innovative uses of Google Earth and Gigapan technologies.  My brain was saturated with fresh ideas for teaching even before lunch!

After lunch, I spent the entire afternoon in the technical session Undergraduate Research Experiences at the Introductory Level in Two- and Four-Year Colleges.  This session had 10 oral presentations that discussed various models of integrating undergraduate research mini-projects in courses to implementing research experiences across institutions.  I wrote down a couple of lines and statements that I felt were important to always remember, and good to smile about (students, do you agree?):

  • It is important to have students develop ownership of their own projects
  • Students do not have to be a senior to get a great experience with undergraduate research
  • And in reference to a course that embeds research to one that does not… “a class does not have to be easy to be popular”

In the session, I was sitting next to an undergraduate student from California University of Pennsylvania, a freshman majoring in secondary education and geology.  I was able to speak with him during the session break, and I was pleased to hear that, even as a freshman in college, he was able to learn so much at the conference (he proudly showed me the pages and pages of notes he had taken during the sessions), and I recommended some websites and resources he should check out to help him as he gets ready to do his student teaching in the next couple of years.  It was interesting that in a session about doing research with students in the first two years, I ended up sitting next to a student attending a conference in his freshman year!  I certainly wish him well, and I think he is off to a great start in his pursuit to become a classroom teacher.

My poster on display in the Poster Hall at booth #316

My poster on display in the Poster Hall at booth #316

I then headed over to the Poster Hall to stand next to my poster to present on my work, How New Technologies Advance Mentoring Practices with Non-Residential Undergraduate Researchers.  My poster was part of a session on Changes in the Undergraduate Research Experience over Time: Perspectives from Individual Mentors, Departments, and Institutions, and I was one of 465 posters being presented today.  I had some great conversations with people that stopped by, and I was able to continue to connect with geoscience colleagues that I hadn’t seen since – well, since GSA last year!  I hope the ideas I presented will assist other faculty with their work with undergraduate researchers.

In a first for me at a professional conference – the lights went out in the poster hall during the session.  That wasn’t so bad – at least I did not have to try to speak through the fire alarm that went off in some of the session rooms earlier today (I didn’t hear the alarm, but it was documented in several tweets!).

Alas, just like yesterday (and it will be the same tomorrow and the next day), there were some sessions and events I really wanted to attend but just couldn’t get there.  For example, I was hoping to see the screening of Shored Up, a documentary that addresses coastal development and sea-level rise in places such as New Jersey and North Carolina.  This is what keeps me coming back to meetings like GSA – there is always more to learn!

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