Mariana Yolotzin Alcántara-Torres, National University of Mexico, is finishing up her thesis for her undergraduate degree and will be starting graduate school as soon as it is complete. She attended GSA 2019 as an On To the Future (OTF) student and shares how her mentor introduced her to many people who shared her geologic interests, supplied much-appreciated career advice, and provided feedback on her poster—her first in another language.
Pre–GSA 2019 Questions
What are your expectations for the annual meeting and OTF?
I have never participated in a geology meeting. I chose the GSA Annual Meeting as my first because it is one of the most important geological meetings around the world.
What do you want to get out of the program?
My expectations are to learn and receive recommendations, advice, and knowledge from expert geoscientists in order to support me as I start my career in geology. I would like feedback on my research project, so that I can improve my future research methods.
What are you most looking forward to?
I hope to share good experiences with established geologists to learn from them. I believe that I will enjoy and value my time with the OTF team as I share the values of not discriminating according to nationality, race, or beliefs. I think that the OTF program is an excellent opportunity for me to connect and network with the international geoscience community for the first time.
What would you like your mentor to help with during the meeting?
I would like my mentor to share her experience and knowledge working as a geologist. I’d also like to learn from her how I can be most effective in meeting and networking with others working in geology. Furthermore, I would like my mentor to guide me in deciding the best sessions, workshops, and poster presentations to attend according to my particular interests within the field of geology.
How do you see OTF helping you in the future?
I think that the OTF program will give me the knowledge and guidance needed to launch my career in geological science research.
Post–Annual Meeting Questions
Did OTF meet your expectations?
Yes it did; I think that OTF was more than I expected. It was a new and pleasant experience.
What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?
It was the early career workshop about how to contact people we want to work with and how to apply to grad school. In my opinion, this workshop was very important to start my early career as a geologist. For me it was very important to meet other students with the same interests and situations, because we received feedback that will help in my future applications. And I think that it was a good idea to have the mentors at this workshop, because they had more experience in their geology careers, and they gave me many tips and recommendations about making the best applications.
What do you remember most from the annual meeting?
One experience I had helped me more than I thought. I was looking for a talk about the same research that I am doing in my undergraduate and I found a study that is really similar to my project. After the talk, I wanted to speak with the professor, but he was busy talking to other people. I decided not to interrupt and I left the hall. Then I went to the exhibitors’ hall and I stopped at the Alabama University booth, because I remembered that he was from there. When I spoke with the students at the booth, I told them that I would like to meet him; suddenly, the professor walked up behind us, and one of the students told me, “you can meet him now.” I was so nervous to talk with him, but he remembered me. He said sorry because it was very busy after the talk, but then we started a good conversation about my research and his research project. He gave me his email and recommended me to write him as soon as possible and keep in touch for tips in my research and future grad school interests.
What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?
My mentorship experience was fruitful because my mentor helped me to meet people I could network with. She gave me a lot of advice about my poster presentation because I was very nervous (it was my first time presenting my research work in another language). And she introduced me to some of her contacts.
I would like to be a mentor eventually, but I would like to prepare more by attending at least a couple more meetings.
After your OTF experience, how do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?
At the meeting and as an OTF student I made many connections with students and professors who are working in the research I am interested in. I learned about many grad programs where I can apply in the future, and even different jobs that I am interested in. In my poster presentation, I received good feedback. I also received instruction on how to make a good résumé and application letter.