I traveled to Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona this May for the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) 2019 Conference. The conference theme was “Environmental Engineers & Scientists see Cities in 4-D” and highlighted the need for environmental engineers to see cities in multiple dimensions such as built environment, natural environment, human health, and cyberspace. This broad perspective helped to shed some light on the interconnectedness of engineering problems and policy.
I attended several interesting talks. Most of what I attended had fairly direct connections to my research into water quality and premise plumbing, but I also listened in on a few others (from decentralized water treatment to managing mold growth in carpet in the International Space Station).
This is the third conference that I’ve attended since I started my PhD last January, and it was great to meet up with several other students and professors that I’ve met at previous conferences. I’ve felt somewhat hesitant to develop these relationships, but it’s been very rewarding. It sometimes even felt like I was just meeting up with friends instead of just feeling like professional networking events.
I presented a poster about my current research the second morning of the conference. I got a lot of helpful feedback, and had a good time talking to colleagues, conference-friends, and other attendees about my work. It felt a lot different (and less stressful!) talking to others about my research when I viewed the interaction more casually. That mindset helped me to ask better questions about others’ work and to see some connections that I may have missed had I been more stressed or focused on making a good impression.
The conference organizers kept us busy. Apart from the posters and presentations, I attended social events put on by the conference each night. I had the opportunity to explore ASU’s Desert Botanical Garden, participate in a trivia night and watch a 3D astronomy show in the Marston Exploration Theater, and finally hang out with lots of other students at a casino night at the conference venue. I really liked the broad scope of the activities and the interesting conversations they inspired.
I really enjoyed my trip, the conference, and the opportunity to further develop my professional network. Thanks to ESPP for the generous funding to make this travel possible!
Ryan Julien is a doctoral student in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering with a Dual Major in Environmental Science and Policy. For information on the ESPP Interdisciplinary Conference Travel Grants, please go to http://espp.msu.edu/education/travelfunds_2018_final.pdf