Fai Chanchai was intimidated about participating in their first conference, but the OTF program smoothed the path for them to meet new people and openly share their background and experiences.
What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?
As a second-year graduate student, I had never attended any academic conference in person. OTF provided me with an opportunity to participate in GSA 2021 in Portland, Oregon. This experience allowed me to meet and hang out with many interesting scientists outside of academic settings. I made new friends and professional relationships with colleagues in my research field. During the OTF & DEI reception, I made a few friends, and we had fascinating conversations, such as how to challenge scientific ideas to build community and how to open up space for women in science. This excellent opportunity encourages everyone to discuss openly, because we know that OTF represents a safe space where people are welcoming and inclusive of differences and diverse ideas.
What do you remember most from GSA 2021?
One of many special memories happened when I decided to get lunch with two friends. While we walked to the restaurant, we bumped into our colleagues, and they decided to join our lunch. We ended up with more than ten people at the table, and we had a chance to get to know each other better and form personal connections. For me, this was a beautiful aspect of having an in-person conference, as I had made long-term connections. Perhaps, one day these new friends will become my research collaborators and further our scientific field.
What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?
I was introduced to Nancy Riggs through the OTF mentorship program. She is a strong, impressive, hard-working scientist who also genuinely cares about mentoring. She ensured that I had a great experience during the GSA conference. We met a few times during the conference, and she provided me with guidance and suggestions for my future career in geosciences. I was touched by her informal style of mentoring, and I will continue our relationship in the future. We exchanged contacts and plan to meet for the next GSA meeting in Denver, Colorado. If I have the chance, I will definitely consider returning to be a mentor for future OTF recipients. I highly value mentoring undergraduate students because they are future generations of scientists.
How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?
The OTF program positively impacted me during the GSA meeting. I had opportunities to meet new people and learn new things. I learned so much from oral presentations and posters. The cutting-edge science and research provided me with new perspectives on how to approach my research questions and interpret my study data from different angles. This experience helped me become a better researcher and communicator. I was really inspired by these enthusiastic scientists and excited to continue my graduate school education.
What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?
My first time participating in a conference was intimidating, but the OTF program has smoothed the path for me to meet new people and openly share my background and my own experiences. I hope that the OTF program will continue to support marginalized students so they can continue to have this incredible experience. I am thankful and appreciate this opportunity.