Students at AGU look to the future

 In Geosciences

By Meghan Murphy

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists are presenting their work at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans this week. Here are some highlights of their research, as shared at the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting.

University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student Mitali Chandnani deftly weaves in between exhibitors and crowds at one of the largest scientific meetings in the world. She isn’t interested in the eye-catching swag or in hearing pitches about universities or scientific products. Like many at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, she is on the hunt for a job.

“This is the best place for networking if you belong in the geosciences and want to continue a career in geosciences,” she said.

Chandnani studies remote sensing and the geology of planetary surfaces in UAF’s College of Natural Science and Mathematics. She hopes to find a career in her native India.

She first came to AGU in 2015 to present a poster on her research with UAF. She said she was immediately impressed with how easy it is to network at a conference with more than 20,000 scientists from all over the world representing many different disciplines. This year, she obtained a grant from UAF’s student government, which is funded by her fellow collegians, to help her attend again.

“The thing that I really like is that it’s a meeting ground for people to interact, engage and collaborate with each other,” Chandnani said of the meeting. “There are very rare chances when events like this happen, but when they happen, everyone wants to take advantage of them.”

Every year, more than 100 UAF researchers attend AGU. They include many graduate students who either give oral presentations or present posters about their research.The AGU meeting is an annual conference for scientists to collaborate and present research on geophysics with a focus on ocean, solid-Earth, hydrological, atmospheric and space sciences.

With one year left in her doctoral program, Chandnani said she needs to start networking and then applying for jobs. So she decided to attend AGU 2017 and volunteer at the UAF exhibitor booth.

Chandnani is also trying to meet up with UAF alumni who could give her career advice. By chance, she ran into former CNSM geosciences graduate student Niyi Ajadi, who graduated last year.

Ajadi has attended AGU five times and secured an internship through AGU that helped launch his career.

Ajadi said he now works for DuPont Pioneer, but continues to attend AGU to network.“AGU is a very big conference. Some people overlook it because they think it’s too big,” he said. “But I met a future boss at AGU. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in NASA asked me to work for them.”

AGU is also a place where many people come to network with UAF.

Just three days into the conference, dozens of students have visited the UAF exhibitor booth to inquire about graduate student opportunities at UAF and how to arrange meetings with professors at the conference.

Forty years ago, David Stone, now a UAF professor emeritus, met Paul Layer at AGU and recruited him for a tenure-track position. Today, Layer is dean of CNSM, which graduates more students with master’s and doctoral degrees than any other program or school in Alaska. CNSM also has dozens of graduate students attend AGU each year.

“AGU is a place of starts,” Layer said. “Students find mentors and graduate programs. Graduate students find jobs. Researchers find collaborators for new projects. It’s a wonderful networking opportunity.”

Photo Captions:
Photo by Meghan Murphy
Mitali Chandnani runs into Niyi Ajadi in an exhibitor aisle at the AGU Fall Meeting in New Orleans. Ajadi recently graduated from UAF and now has a job. Chandnani is on the search for one.

Photo by Meghan Murphy
A Google representative who works as a coder talks with UAF graduate student Mitali Chandnani, left, at the AGU Fall Meeting in New Orleans. Chandnani said she isn’t interested in coding, but the company might have other jobs and she wanted to ask about its culture.


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