Being a PhD student definitely involves a lot of work, that can’t be denied. But, there can be occasional perks, one such being conferences! I’ve attended a couple in England so far since starting but this time I got lucky and boarded a plane to attend a four day long Symposium On Radiation Measurements and Applications (SORMA), located in the sunny, seaside city of San Francisco.
I flew with Kevin Tree (NGN cohort 1 member) from Manchester to Atlanta and then on to San Francisco with a full day free before the conference start. The conference itself was being held in Berkeley at the University of California, just across the bay from San Francisco. Transport was easy enough as the Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) system is in place which connects the two cities via cheap rail transport. On the Sunday before it began we both travelled into the city to explore. We ate lunch at the port and before boarding a classic cable car up to the top of one of the many steep, steep hills the city is known for. A wander back down through Chinatown, a quick beer and back to Berkeley in order to attend the afternoon drinks reception.
On the second day, after some talks, we attended a banquet meal in the memorial stadium (Not inside the stadium itself, but above the stands. Close enough). This offered some truly amazing views of Berkeley and across the bay to San Francisco with the golden gate bridge barely visible in the distance. The food was spectacular and it was a great chance to talk to the other attendees.
The highlight of the trip for me though was a cruise on the USS Potomac, otherwise known as the “Floating White House”, which was previously used by FDR. The cruise started on the East side of the bay and went out past Alcatraz (the famous prison island) before going underneath the Golden gate bridge and returning via the same route. It offered some great views and we were even lucky enough to see seals, dolphins and a whale. Still, this was a networking trip and despite enjoying the (numerous) free drinks , including some amazing local craft beers, I took the chance to talk with some of the other passengers from the conference about their work and research.
As fun as this sounds though I can’t not mention the conference. There were many interesting talks, with an emphasis on radiation detection for nuclear security, plenty of which were related to my field of research (Compton cameras and nuclear decommissioning). I met some people that I will definitely be talking to in future as we have shared mutual research interests.
I hope this might go some way to demonstrating that a PhD isn’t just work work work all the time, despite how much we may moan about it. We do sometimes get to have fun under the guise of work as well! And sometimes you get lucky, and you get to attend interesting conferences in sunny, foreign places and try all the local beers they have.