Oliveras Santos Goes to ECS with Support from the MRSEC Honored Scholar Travel Award

by Stephanie Oliveras Santos, Gopalan Group

The MRSEC Honored Scholar Travel Award defrayed some of the costs for me to attend the 243rd ECS Meeting in Boston, MA. Based on my experience attending the nanocarbons sessions, I highly recommend it to scientists in electrochemistry (battery, corrosion, nanocarbon, etc.) and solid-state (energy technology, sensors, etc.) research.

The sessions were divided by days Sunday through Tuesday was one session and  Tuesday through Thursday was another. This organization made it possible for me to attend and make the most out of many sessions without major conflicts. Because of the MRSEC support, I stayed in the same hotel where the conference was offered. This improved my first-time experience in terms of safety after nighttime events and reduced cost/time in transportation.

Oliveras Santos with Dr. Gabriel at ECS Poster Session.
Oliveras Santos with Dr. Gabriel at ECS Poster Session.

The technical sessions were highly focused and the audience was relatively small. I recognized the names of renowned experts in the field – which I often cite. It was incredible to meet some of them. It was even more amazing to benefit from their obvious passion for high-quality research accompanied by “offline” discussions. The researchers have really created a space to share their results in a critical, respectful, ethical, and friendly environment. Overall, these technical sessions enhanced my excitement for science from both the fundamentals to applications. I learned a lot, including:

  • Each day, I learned things that would take days or weeks to learn through reading or performing experiments.
  • I learned about research targeting similar challenges to mine and about many efforts with a completely different focus or application within my field.
  • I learned about computational resources that I could use in my own research.
  • I learned about the commercialization of research products – especially sensors.
  • I got a better sense of the main challenges being addressed in the field, based on the frequency of certain themes.

During my poster presentation, the audience – composed of people from all divisions – seemed highly interested in our team’s research. I enjoyed answering many questions, receiving feedback, and engaging in discussions with professionals and students. This experience increased my confidence in technical and communication skills. I also received a poster presentation award, which was a pleasant surprise.

Poster Winners at ECS
Poster award winners at the Nanocarbons Division Reception (Oliveras Santos on far right)

I met a lot people from different backgrounds and stages in life and careers during the various networking opportunities provided. I am thankful for these conversations and time together with the purpose of learning about each other. I am thankful for the students from Germany, UK, Spain, Central America, and the US. We were intentional in creating conversation, having dinner together, and sharing our contact information to keep in contact. These conversations also helped me learn about some of computational resources. I also appreciate similar interactions with other professionals. I had a meal with a professor who explained the benefits of life in academia and the ongoing efforts in increasing diversity. From others, I learned about internship opportunities in national laboratories for undergraduate students of underrepresented minority groups (to share with my community). I was also introduced to upcoming short-term internships, long-term internships, and employment opportunities for graduate students.

There is a lot for me to learn and grow in becoming an effective technical leader. Early career advisors and entrepreneurs mostly attended this session. I learned from their questions that they were all trying to create a safe and motivating space, where high-quality work can be done.

There were many takeaways. One quote that stuck with me was “Employees need both responsibility and authority to make decisions” (otherwise, it leads to frustration) and “Believe in your abilities and that you can change” (to develop a growth mindset).