Presentation Adrenaline or, That’s a Charming Polygon! Here, Look at Mine

The night before my poster at the American Geophysical Union meeting, I barely slept. I had expected nerves and excitement, but I surprised myself with the level of anticipation I felt as I tossed and drifted in the hotel bed. I knew I was overly tense, but (since my body and mind showed no interest in relaxing) I gave myself over to expectancy. Adrenaline left no need for caffeine when the first of the alarms (each set by one of the Polaris students in the room) went off. Dressed and primped, we walked through the rain of the pre-dawn city.

It seemed all Polaris was present in that aisle of posters, though I was several boards removed from the nearest other student. I was greeted by the reassuring presence of John Schade, camera in hand, who spent the setting-up period documenting all of us with the same enthusiasm he showed in Siberia. Soon, however, he disappeared to man his own poster, and the people started coming.

Megan Behnke, Jessica Eason, and Nigel Golden in the poster hall.

Megan Behnke, Jessica Eason, and Nigel Golden in the poster hall. Photo by John Schade.

I had had every intention of looking at my fellow students’ work that morning, and visiting other posters on the row. I did not have time. The session we were in was an excellent one—packed with people milling about and looking at research. And that research included mine–from 8am to 12:30pm I talked with scientists interested in my work.

I should not have been nervous. It was wonderful. To have scientists whose papers I had read come and find me (and have constructive and exciting suggestions to offer) made me feel both rather proud and intensely humble. I have such a long way to go yet before I can do work of the scope and significance they do, and yet they clearly think I am on the right road. I had two researchers who were beginning work in the North Slope of Alaska ask me if I had any experience with permafrost polygons—the geometrical patterns which occur in the ground due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles. I had been delighted by a polygonal flood plain we had found in Siberia, and was able to give them some thoughts. We exchanged pictures of our polygons on our iPhones the way coworkers exchange pictures of children or pets. Even in my beginners state, I had something to offer.

Seth Spawn, Erin Seybold, and Megan Behnke at Megan's poster. Photo by John Schade.

Seth Spawn, Erin Seybold, and Megan Behnke at Megan’s poster. Photo by John Schade.

AGU wasn’t just a reunion with the wonderful Polaris team. It was a reassurance from the community. If the week had reached out with a smiling greeting of “Welcome–you belong here,” I could not have felt more at home with the type of people and work I encountered around me. The sheer magnitude was definitely overwhelming, and even with my careful list of interesting things happening each hour I sometimes felt lost, but the vast panoply of interesting topics and most of all the weather-worn, fit, grinning people I encountered reassured me once again that I am on the right path.

One Response to “Presentation Adrenaline or, That’s a Charming Polygon! Here, Look at Mine”

  1. January 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm, Doug Foster said:

    Congratulations on your poster presentation at the AGU! Does this mean you are majoring in geophysics?