The New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference (NEIGC) is centered around these field trips, which are designed for professionals yet encourage undergraduate participation. They’re opportunities to explore geologically interesting areas with an experienced geologist. The trip my group attended focused on evidence of the supercontinent Pangaea in western Massachusetts. Nicolas Roberts, assistant professor of geosciences, invited me and seven other Hamilton students to join him at the conference on Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.
This year’s conference was held at Smith College, and attending institutions included the University of Rhode Island, University of Massachusetts, University of Maine, Amherst College, and Mount Holyoke College, among other colleges and non-collegiate participants.
As this experience was my first time attending a conference of any sort, I had no idea what to expect. While there, I learned a few key things to do to get the most out of a conference experience.
Practice your skills
Since the NEIGC is focused on its field trips, I had the opportunity to practice my geology skills out in the field. At the various rock outcrops we visited, my fellow Hamilton students and I identified rocks and minerals and created hypotheses about the rock formations, led and aided by our professor and the other geologists. Conferences with these sorts of experiences present a chance to hone your abilities in a collaborative way with other conference attendees. This is a great time to apply what you have learned and enhance your skills.
Learn from experts
While half of the field trip was exploring the outcrops on our own, the other half was listening to Sarah Mazza, assistant professor of geosciences at Smith College, discuss the significance of the sites we visited in relation to Pangaea. Mazza was knowledgeable about both the subject and the specific areas we were visiting, so I learned a lot about a subject I knew very little about coming into the conference.
No matter what field you are in or what conference you are going to, there are sure to be instances where you can learn new information from experts. This is a valuable opportunity that you should seize, as these topics might come up again further down the line, or you could be exposed to a new realm of study that you would love to dive into further.
The most important part of a conference is the people attending. At NEIGC, I met passionate professors and geoscience students from other colleges. Chatting with them about their research and specialties within the field was enriching and interesting. By mingling with your fellow conference-goers, you might even find people to collaborate with on research or that you may work for in the future.
Hamilton provides funds that enable students to conduct research with faculty, attend national conferences, and provide stipends to take on an unpaid internship, visit a museum, or catch a performance off campus.