Double Major, Cesar Garcia, Encourages Students Considering Graduate School to Explore Conferences Outside their Discipline

Cesar Garcia, a 2017 IN LSAMP scholar, is completing his senior year. Garcia is on track to achieve a BS degree in Geoscience and a BA in Spanish at IU Northwest. He plans to attend graduate school in the hope of one day attaining a PhD in Geoscience and teaching at a University. His dream of a PhD was discovered later in his academic career after attending and presenting at several conferences across the nation. His advice is simple,

“Take every opportunity that is presented to you, talk to anyone that will listen to you, believe in yourself, and seek out those that believe in you too.

Applications for graduate school require examples of mastery of the knowledge. In today’s competitive pool, GPA is not enough. The extracurricular activities and demonstration of professional focus are needed to promote a student to a top selection spot in a graduate program.  IN LSAMP uses travel funds to provide students the opportunity for professional development through presentation of their undergraduate research. Garcia has participated in research throughout his undergraduate career and his work has been accepted several times for presentation. What started as one research project has grown into a path to his future career.

Garcia’s undergraduate research project focused on microplastics along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. His research experience is the catalyst to live out his advice. In fall, he has presented his work at three different events over a period of fewer than three weeks:  IN LSAMP conference in Indianapolis, Eaton and LSMCE Technology Open House, and the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting. From abstract submission to travel arrangements, Garcia shares his unique insight.

Reach beyond your comfort zone and submit for conferences with a broader audience.

Michelle Quirke & Cesar Garcia, EATON and LSMCE Tech Open House, November 2, 2018

For the Eaton and LSMCE Technology conference, I had to present my research to what is not my normal audience. To do this I had to make sure that my message would be understood by and interesting to those that may not share the same interests that a geologist does. This involved careful consideration of what images and graphs to leave out of my poster. In the end, I believe that I was able to convey the relevance of our research. I was also happy to get interesting insights from the industrial chemical professional’s point of view.”

Tailor your message to your audience to receive valuable feedback.

“For the GSA meeting, I had a larger poster format to work with. This was good since my audience consisted of other geoscientist and therefore the poster needed to have much more data. It was bad because it pretty much meant starting from scratch as far as the poster was concerned. This was probably the most stressful part of those three weeks. Working on two completely different posters for two conferences only days apart from one another was incredibly stressful. However, it was not impossible and the results were both good. In the case of the GSA meeting, my poster got a lot of interest and I was confused for a graduate student by the judges.”

Anticipate the amount of time needed to present and travel with existing coursework.

“I knew that attending/presenting at three conferences within such a short amount of time would be a lot of work. However, I had not imagined the true size of the challenge. I feel like it consumed most of my semester, and I am still working on getting back into full classroom mode, and getting all caught up with the rest of my life. That being said, I would definitely do it all over again.”

Cesar Garcia GSA Annual Meeting, 2018

Each conference offered respective challenges which gave Garcia perspective and understanding; opportunity to speak from the stage to a room full of people, describe his project to scientists outside his profession, and network with experienced scientists thereby gaining valuable contacts. All valuable experiences for an aspiring university professor.

Garcia offers this final advice to his fellow students, “All of these experiences have made me more marketable to graduate schools. They have also helped me grow as a person.” Academic endeavors involve planning, organization, reliance on faculty and hard work.

Congratulations, Cesar Garcia for a job well done!

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