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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Ways to Explore Academic Interests

 by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

High school courses introduce students to a variety of topics. Learning more about those that interest you takes some effort but will be very helpful when comparing potential majors, majors at different colleges, as well as various concentrations within majors, not to mention potential research and internship opportunities.

In some cases, students can take a course at a local college or online in their area of interest. Many universities have numerous courses available through various online platforms like Coursera.

Another option is to attend undergraduate research presentations at colleges you are exploring. Watching student presentations will introduce high school students to the topics as well as expose them to the caliber of research and presentations being done by undergraduates.

A third option is to attend academic conferences. At these, students will be exposed to advanced research topics and techniques, have opportunities to learn from leading scholars and faculty in fields they are interested in, as well as possible networking opportunities. Hopefully, students will also be inspired and will be able to glean ideas for further study and/or activities in their community. Advice and/or exposure to well-done and effectively presented research will also provide valuable input for their own endeavors.

Attend a conference in your areas of interest this Spring! Typically high school students can register at the undergraduate rate. Here are a few; there are many more!

Upcoming Spring 2021 Academic Conferences (ALL Virtual)

  1. American Chemical Society’s Annual Meeting: April 5-10, 2021This STEM conference separates out its “student-focused programming.” These include sessions such as “Enabling environmentally friendly plastics” and “Goals and activities of the Warriors Chemistry Club: COVID-19 edition.”  ($29 online registration fee for all 5 days, just attend the sessions you want to.)
  2. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Soft Robotics hosted by Yale University: April 12-16, 2021  Presenters from Yale, Facebook, UC San Diego, Columbia, and more are planned. Includes optional workshops on topics such as material intelligence and interventional robotics, as well as a robotics competition you can observe and two informative “speed networking” sessions you can partake in. ($25 online registration fee)
  3. Society for Affective Science Annual Conference (co-sponsored by Harvard, Tufts, and the Society for the Improvement for Psychological Science): April 13-16, 2021.Includes faculty presenters from UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, Harvard, U of Michigan, Vanderbilt, and more on topics on psychology, neuropsychology, family dynamics, and speech and brain patterns. ($50 online registration fee)
  4. Society for Military History’s 87th Annual Meeting: May 20-23, 2021Online and in-person in Norfolk, VA. They have not yet posted the virtual registration rate, but will soon and should be similar to these other conferences.
  5. Society for Freshwater Science Annual Meeting: May 23-27, 2021This is their first ever virtual conference. Session topics include: freshwater science ecological changes in arctic lakes and rivers, inequitable waterscapes, environmental justice, “herstory in freshwater sciences,” and more. Also includes e-workshops such as “writing for aquatic scientists”  and “Trash Talk,” on the ecology of trash in freshwater. ($30 online registration fee)

These are 5 low cost options that could make a BIG impact on your spring, and perhaps your summer and eventual college, graduate school and/or research pathway as well. If you've found particular professors interesting, see if any of them are speaking at conferences and see if you can attend. You may even get to do some Q&A with them!