I currently have the pleasure to attend the 2015 INQUA Congress (International Quaternary Association). This is one of the largest gatherings of people who work on geology and climate change for the past 2.5 million years. Although I still question the wisdom of holding a conference in Nagoya in July (temperatures are currently in excess of 35C), overall I am quite happy with how the conference has gone so far.
Conferencing is an incredibly fun experience for me. Not only do you get to see the latest cutting edge research, but you also get to connect faces to the names of all the people that publish papers that you read. It is also a great opportunity to talk people up and build collaboration! You also get to meet up with old friends who have either moved on to other institutions, or have stayed at an institution you used to be at yourself!
Another thing that I like about conferences is that they reinvigorate the passion for your work. When you spend endless hours debugging code and bashing your head on the keyboard after a simulation fails to run properly after churning away for a day, it is easy to lose faith. When you get up at the podium, show some nice figures and afterwards have people say they are really interested in what you are doing, it really brings back the spark. I’m sure that when I head back to Sweden next week, that productivity will increase dramatically.
And of course, conferences allow you to see an experience new countries and cultures. Although being an early career researcher can be challenging and unstable, there is no doubt that it brings some rewards. I spend quite a bit of time in Japan (my partner lives here), but even so, Nagoya presents a new place for me to explore. The 35 degree weather kind of hampers it a bit, but I did get out to see Nagoya Castle, which is a pretty amazing monument (see picture at the top). Japan has such a rich history, and there are endless places to see. And of course you can’t go to Nagoya and not sample the local cuisine. I still have to find a chicken wing restaurant, but I have already tackled miso tonkotsu (fried pork with miso sause) and kishimen (flat noodles in a soy sauce soup). Oishii!