Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snippets from GHC2010 - Part 2: Five reasons to participate in the PhD Forum

One of the many ways you can participate in the Grace Hopper Conference is through the PhD Forum. The PhD Forum is intended for PhD students in their last year of the program to share their thesis research.

Why should you participate in this forum when you already have other technical conferences? I participated this year and found it more beneficial than I imagined. I didn't know what to expect because this was my very first GHC. In five bullet points, this is why you should participate in the PhD Forum

  • The forum is split in several sessions. This year each session had 3 presentations. Each session has a mentor assigned that helps you through the presentation and before and after the event. My mentor was the amazing Patty Lopez from Intel. Patty was extremely useful before, during, and after the presentation, and after the conference was over. I am happy to have found such a mentor!
  • The audience is from a wide range of technical backgrounds. Unlike most presentations we give during grad school, this time around I was presenting to students from outside my area of expertise, people from industry and even undergrads. I found it challenging and fun to present to such a diverse audience, but, beyond all, it made me think about how to distill my research to its fundamental concepts that can be explained to anyone with some technical computing background.
  • GHC in general is a very friendly community and place for mentoring and networking. I was very impressed with the questions from the audience, both in technical content and interest in the work. I also presented my research during a poster session, which allowed people that were interested in more details to drop by and chat some more on the subject.
  • This was the very first time when I received written anonymous feedback on a research presentation. I was overwhelmed with the response: people took the time to write thoughtful comments and provide written feedback on the technical content, the presentation delivery and the appealing factor of my research. I remember one of the comments that made laugh: "cool idea, I can't wait to see it in my next processor!" :)
  • Several people from industry got interested in my research and asked me whether I am interested in internships. Unfortunately, I'm planning to graduate soon and I couldn't take advantage of such opportunities, but it's important to know that such opportunities exist and GHC is the place to "grab" them. One person in particular made my day when she came after lunch that day to let me know that her academic department is hiring and they could use more computer architects! 
If you participated in a PhD Forum at GHC what are your five reasons to encourage others to take advantage of this special opportunity?

Update: Somehow, I forgot one of the most useful aspects of submitting your work to the PhD Forum: when you submit your work, you are required to provide the name of several reviewers that get to read your proposal and give you feedback. When I received my reviews for my PhD Forum proposal, it was such a boost of confidence to see what others thought about my research. Who doesn't need a boost of confidence?! You may think that it requires time to apply for the PhD Forum, but it is time very well invested!