Mid-AAS Musings

I can’t imagine kicking off a new year without the winter AAS meeting, and there’s no better venue than Seattle. This year, I’m teaming up with fellow astrobites author Erika Nesvold as a Media Intern. We have official-looking “Press” ribbons on our badges, access to a quiet press room with free coffee and tea, and even less free time than usual (ha!) as we dash between regular science sessions and press conferences.

I am also presenting a poster on Wednesday (345.16). This is a sneak preview.
I am also presenting a poster on Wednesday—this is a preview.

A lot has changed since I attended my first AAS meeting in 2008. Certainly the obvious things: everyone has a portable screen, oodles of sessions are all about exoplanets, the program book is (finally!) accessible online with an app. But more noteworthy to me is my sneakily slow-growing familiarity with all the science. I remember my first few AAS meetings were fraught with struggling to understand the plenary sessions, being completely lost in the parallel sessions, and being afraid to ask anyone about their poster because I didn’t think I knew enough about their subfield. That’s not to say everything was over my head; rather, it took me a good deal of intellectual effort to distill the gist of a presentation, and sometimes I didn’t have all the pieces I needed to complete the picture.

There was no “Eureka!” moment when this changed. I can’t point to a single event, or even a single year, when I suddenly filled in the missing knowledge gaps I barely knew about. But today, I realize I am more often than not answering others’ questions: Why should I license my code? What is reverberation mapping? How do I analyze stellar spectra? What is the SDSS data release all about? How does the revamped Kepler “K2” mission work? What is microlensing and why does it require precision parallax? In turn, I find myself actually wanting to ask questions after talks, and when I see someone standing in front of their poster I am comfortable starting a legitimate conversation about their research.

At the same time, AAS meetings remain incredibly exhausting. The introvert in me still protests on day 2 or 3, and I have to acknowledge I cannot attend an event in every single time slot. A deluge of newsworthy science results from my colleagues can still set off a bout of impostor syndrome. But it is wonderful to cram one week a year chock-full of nothing but astronomy. The whole shebang will be over before I know it.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening at this year’s AAS meeting, check out the daily astrobites posts and the #aas225 hashtag on twitter.

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One thought on “Mid-AAS Musings

  1. Meridith
    I am extremely impressed! I had no idea what you were doing! I am so glad you chose to send me your essay on how you decided on Astronomy!
    For what it’s worth, I think you can do anything you choose to do…you are so gifted…you have an extraordinary mind…and you are a terrific musician! I hope you will continue to have music in your life no matter where you live and no matter where you work!
    I have no words to express my gratitude for your contrbution to the New Horizons Symphony. I shall miss you terribly! Of course, we don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue…but I have had a long run and my wish for you is to have an equally long run and to find happiness and music the rest of your life.
    Please keep in touch with us…you are one person I do not want to forget!
    Lots of love and best wishes always
    Marianna

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