Last week was my birthday. Last week was also the Southeastern Regional ACS conference where several friends and I presented research posters. My greatest fear going in was that I would be found out as the uninformed undergrad that I am; that tends to happen when you wander around expensive hotels looking like a lost puppy. The undergraduate coordinator saw the lost puppy and dumped it into a focus group for the undergrad ACS magazine. I hadn’t realized that there were so many (slightly bewildered) geeky chemistry undergrads in the world, not to mention a magazine for them. It turns out that you don’t have to understand everything that’s going on to come to these conferences.
We presented our poster and had several graduate recruiters visit us. That was cool. Another cool thing was that they were not put off if I couldn’t answer all their questions–at least, they didn’t get the sort of frozen smile that forms when some people realize that they are encountering (someone they think is) an inferior. They already knew I didn’t know as much chemistry as them. And they tried to recruit me to their graduate programs anyway.
From there, everything fell into place. I went to sessions because I wanted to be there, not because I saw some grand relation to future research or actually knew anything about the subject. About halfway through the conference, I saw a trend. These people were desperate to recruit students and researchers to their areas, and if you sat still long enough and looked interested, they’d explain things to you. What was even more special? I wasn’t put off by what I couldn’t understand. I want to learn EVERY SINGLE CHEMISTRY.
I learned that I want to do even more research than I can possibly fit into my schedule next semester. Graduate school will be amazing because I can just focus on chemistry without all these distracting electives. I also learned that I need to get more sleep because falling asleep in lectures and taking naps was cutting into my precious chemistry learning time. SERMACS 2011 was amazing in ways that I cannot fully articulate. Oh, and Richmond was nice too.