NMT Grad Student Assn Hosts First Four-Corners Region Research Conference, March 20, 2006

by Jayme Margolin, GSA

SOCORRO, N.M., March 2006 – New Mexico Tech's Graduate Student Association (GSA) organized and hosted the first annual research conference, "Standing at a Crossroad: Making the Transition from Student to Professional through Research and Publishing," which took place on February 16 and 17. Institutions from across the Four-Corners Region were invited to participate. The majority of the participants and attendees were from New Mexico Tech, but also in attendance were a number of representatives from New Mexico State University, as well as from the University of New Mexico and the University of Arizona.

The GSA invited both undergraduate and graduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to present research papers and posters at the conference. Earl Eiland, conference chairman, came up with the idea of having this kind of smaller-scale conference because it is an excellent way to share ideas and network with faculty and students from other departments and universities.

Dr. Dave Johnson, Dean of Graduate Students, agreed that “presenting work at national conferences for professional societies can be pretty intimidating. Conferences like this one (the GSA Conference), where the presenters and the audience are peers, provide a comfortable setting for young engineers and scientists to present their work.” He added that “as important is the opportunity to meet with others working in related areas and to discuss research challenges and directions.”

The task of setting up this conference with goals of networking and gaining experience was tackled by Eiland and a full conference committee, including Abhirup Datta (Locations Coordinator), Danielle Lucero (GSA president), Lisa Majkowski-Taylor (Conference Planning Mastermind), Jayme Margolin (Judging Coordinator), Diane Meier (Publicity Coordinator / submissions coordinator), Lara Owens (Registration Coordinator), George Schmaltz (Keynote Coordinator / Webmaster), and Gopal Tadiparthi (Abstract Review Coordinator).

The committee started planning for the event in September 2005 and received monetary help from the Tech administration in order to make the conference possible. With her past experience of organizing NM-AGAP conferences, Lisa Majkowski-Taylor was instrumental in planning the conference. She commented that it provided “something for everyone. The workshop topics offered a variety of opportunities for students to network.” She also made it a point to note that GSA is “greatly indebted to everyone from behind the scenes, including the administration and specifically graphic designer Edie Steinhoff.”

By December, the GSA conference committee completed the abstract reviews with the help of some other GSA members. In total, this conference had about 20 presentations on the morning of the 17th and then about 20 poster presentations that same afternoon. The presentations were split up into three categories; Computer Science, Earth Science, and Life Science (including biology, chemistry, and engineering).

Monetary awards were given to the best presentation in each category for both the morning and afternoon sessions. After Dr. Johnson tallied the judging sheets, the award winners were announced as:

Best Presentations
Computer Science - Aaron Soto, New Mexico Tech; Implementation of
Virtual LANs for Virus Containment
Earth Science - Shasta McGee, New Mexico Tech, Comparison of
Chlorine-36 Rates Using the Radiocarbon Age-Constrained Lake
Bonneville and Provo Shorelines, UT
Life Science - Andrew Garst, New Mexico Highlands University, Energy
Allocation and Sickness Behavior in Siberian Hamsters
Overall - Life Science - Jeremiah Robbins, New Mexico Tech, Processing
and Properties of Carbon Nanotube-Reinforced Polycarbonate Matrix

Best Posters
Computer Science - Rajaa Shindi, New Mexico State University, Evaluate
the Performance Changes of Processor SImulation Benchmarks when
Context Switches are Incorporated
Earth Science - Jayme Margolin, New Mexico Tech: Minor Resumed
Activity at KA Crater of Mt. Usu, Japan and Possible Triggering
Mechanism by Tokachi-oki Earthquake
Life Science - Julieanne Heffernan, New Mexico Tech, Correlations of
System Mobility with Various Scalar Metrics
Best Overall - Fernando Solorzano, New Mexico State University, 3 '
UTR-Mediated Regulation of Cytosolic Glutamine Synthetase

In addition to the numerous presentations, the GSA had a schedule fully packed with speakers and workshops. Vice President of Student and University Relations Dr. Ricardo Maestas opened the conference by welcoming everyone at the opening dinner. The Humanities Department led the first workshop that helped add humor and ease the nerves on the evening prior to the presentations. Dr. Deming, Dr. Ford, Dr. Griffin, and Ms. Stewart-Langley kept the audience laughing while discussing "Getting the Butterflies Out."

Humanities continued with another workshop on Friday morning, in which Dr. Ford and Dr. Walsh reviewed proper techniques for conducting a phone interview. Chartwells provided us with an amazing New Mexican-style lunch, while Dr. Enrique Vivoni was the guest speaker. After the poster session, two more workshops were conducted by Dr. Warren Ostergren and Laura Wilcox about transitioning into the workplace and by Dr. Van Romero about pursuing an academic or industry career.

The conference concluded with a banquet and keynote address. Keynote speaker Anne Murphy Daily spoke about How to Be Happy in the Real World. Through her speech, we learned how her career path led her to be an attorney-at-law, chairman, founder, and owner of Centaur Royalty Corporation in Santa Fe, as well as being a current member of the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents. George Schmaltz of the GSA commented that “Regent Ann Murphy Daily exemplified the fact that scientists and engineers can do just about anything and go anywhere in the world. Her wide variety of activities has never fit into the category of ‘that's just what engineers do’.”

The GSA is very appreciative of all of the staff and faculty who volunteered their time to serve as a judge, conduct a workshop, and support this conference. Faculty from New Mexico State University were truly interested in this conference and showed this by volunteering so much of their time and by helping the students’ network.

Eiland stated that the conference was “a success and well attended.” He saw enthusiasm from all speakers and helpers with the conference. Majkowski-Taylor was pleasedat the degree of communication during the poster session.

The committee held a debriefing meeting to discuss improvements for next year and finalize the loose ends from this year, such as sending out presentation CD's (every presentation was taped) and judging comments to each participant. One goal is to attract a bigger crowd, possibly doubling the participation. Dr. Johnson believes “this was a wonderful beginning. I really hope that it continues and grows.” With this experience, GSA is already looking forward to the second annual NMT-GSA Research Conference in 2007!