May 14, 2019

Getting Ahead Online: AGU’s Virtual Poster Showcase

Posted by AGU Career Center

It is undeniable that conferences offer a plethora of opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to network, learn, and receive crucial feedback on their research from peers and subject matter experts in their field. As exciting and beneficial as conferences are, some students miss out on these career-building opportunities. For this reason, AGU holds a Virtual Poster Showcase (VPS) in which undergraduate and graduate students from around the globe can showcase their research via an online poster session, and compete for prizes including funding towards lodging and airfare, and complimentary registration for AGU’s Fall Meeting. VPS gives those who are unable to attend poster sessions in person at the Fall Meeting the opportunity to gain invaluable experience presenting their research online so they can receive feedback from both peers and subject matter expert judges. In addition to receiving a certificate of participation, all VPS participants also get a citation for their abstracts in AGI’s GeoRef database, which allows for students’ research to be more visible to the scientific community.

Over the past few weeks, AGU has interviewed former VPS winners to gain insight into their experience in participating in the showcase and their motivations for doing so. The winners’ academics backgrounds span across different stages and fields of study, ranging from undergraduates to recent PhD graduates, and from geochemistry to heatwave mitigation. Although VPS winners are very diverse, most of them offer a singular piece of advice to students who may be on the fence about participating in the showcase: “just do it.” Students may be apprehensive, particularly if VPS is their first time presenting their research in a professional setting, but past winners insist that it is a great experience.

Babak Fard, a VPS winner and current civil and environmental engineering PhD student at Northeastern University researching how high temperatures change on different spatial scales, said that he appreciated receiving feedback from people of different backgrounds and encourages students to participate since “there are no barriers to entering because they don’t need to travel.” Stephanie Schneider, PhD student at the University of Toronto researching ocean-atmosphere interactions, echoes these sentiments. She believes that hesitant students should take part in the Virtual Poster Showcase because “it’s not very expensive, it’s not a big-time commitment, [and] it’s a great experience to get to communicate with experts and judges and other students.”

Some VPS winners had an innate passion for science and were certain that they would be pursuing a career in the field as adults, while others developed an interest over time. Marlene Vargas Sanchez, civil engineer and Earth science master’s student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said that through exploration, she was able to cultivate a passion for engineering and science. Zenja Seitzinger, a geology student at SUNY Geneseo in New York, discovered her love for geology after competing on her middle school’s science Olympiad team. Trista McKenzie, a PhD student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, grew up participating in watersports like swimming and windsurfing, and translated her love for water into research on groundwater flow and wastewater infrastructure. All three of these VPS winners hope that in the future, the geosciences will better inform us on how humans affect the world around us, and Samuele Papeschi, another VPS winner, encourages equal emphasis on all geoscience subject matters due to the fact that future innovations in any given field can yield crucial results.

AGU’s Virtual Poster Showcase provides graduate and undergraduate students with skills crucial for success in their future academic and professional endeavors while they are still in school. AGU is honored to have the opportunity to help young Earth scientists excel in their fields and is eager to review future VPS abstract submissions.

The 2019 Fall Virtual Poster Showcase will begin accepting abstracts on June 27.


Julia Emilie Jeanty, Talent Pool Intern, American Geophysical Union