“Coming Together to Split the Atom”
Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the ANS National Student Conference at the University of Michigan. To give you an idea of the sheer volume of this conference, let’s start with some numbers:
Total Attendance: 665
Total Student Attendance: 500
Number of Sponsors: 57
Number of Technical Papers Submitted: 157
Cups of Coffee Consumed: 3000 (Ok, so this one is just an approximation… but based on my own experience, I’d be willing to bet that it’s close)
Considering last year’s attendance of 528 and the predicted attendance of 550, you can imagine the terror on the faces of the co-chairs as the numbers continued to climb throughout the days leading up to the conference. But thanks to immaculate planning and a dedicated committee, the event went off practically without a hitch, despite the surprising turnout.
The program centered on the 123 podium presentations and 34 poster presentations given by the students. In addition, students enjoyed a hefty career fair with 44 booths, outstanding meals throughout the day, a public forum, and even a riverboat cruise. Each event was thoroughly thought-through and I think I can safely say that everyone left feeling like they got one heck of a bang for their buck (the riverboat alone was more than worth the $25 student registration fee!)
What really struck me about this conference was the overwhelming enthusiasm on all ends. The students took time out of their studies to present their work and learn about new projects, which is not always easy to do. They attended workshops, met with recruiters, and really demonstrated their enthusiasm for the industry. It was particularly inspiring to see that almost every student went to the public forum to hear a panel speak about current topics in nuclear power. We are acknowledging that public opinion is not only a vital factor in the future of this industry, but it is also important to us as engineers. Students could easily just spend their time confined to their respective university bubbles, but instead they are choosing to blog, tweet, or do whatever they can to communicate with a world outside their own. This is big. I’m probably biased, but I like to think that people tend to enjoy talking with students about topics such as nuclear power. We’re young, we’re not getting paid to push some big company’s agenda, and we tend to give it to you straight. I just hope that meetings like this continue to inspire more students to talk about this industry we love so much. So far, so good.