Department Visitors

My department gets a fair number of visitors over the course of the year. These visitors are usually faculty from other universities. But they may also be grad students or even faculty/grads from within the university, but outside the department. Nonetheless, there are always lots of talks being advertised. These on top of more “regularly” scheduled talks we have.

Thankfully, most of the visitors are working areas so far removed from what I’m working on, and so I don’t need to go to their talks. I go to some, if they sound interesting, but not most. And going to more would eat into a lot of my time.

I use to go to a lot more, specifically when I was a first year Masters. I think I would have as a first year PhD, if I hadn’t already been with the department. But as a masters, all the talks seemed a lot more exciting. And they were chances to learn and hear about different areas of computer science. Which was really useful when I was trying to decide what I wanted to study. With my path now much more firmly set, I feel I have the right to be more choosy about who I go listen to.

However, there are usually a few speakers a year that I am required to go see. These are speakers that are doing research that is at least somewhat related to what I work on. Or at least within the same general domain. And, often with these speakers, not only do I need to attend their presentations, but I usually need to meet with them, either one-on-one or as part of a group.

Now, the good thing about invited speakers, is that they are generally good speakers. They know how to present complicated data without it become too boring. They’re also usually pretty good at explaining their research to those who, while in the same field, may not know much about the specific area being discussed. (This is a much rarer talent then it should be for scientists in general.)

However, while the talk may be good, the meeting one-on-one (or small group), doesn’t always go so well. It’s usually a combination of a) there is either too much time for the material or too little, b) the person I’m talking to is not at all interested in what I’m saying (and not great at hiding this), c) the person I’m talking to, while interested, has had their quota of talks/meetings for the day and just can’t gather enough energy to have a decent discussion. Now, there’s the odd speaker (like maybe 2-3 in the past 5 years) where this hasn’t been the case. But, more often then not, it ends up being awkward.

Today, I have one of these meetings scheduled. A meeting I know is going to end up being too long, unless the person I’m talking too is willing to put in some effort and get an actual conversation going (fingers crossed). I’ve got a demo (but it really won’t take all that much time) and I’ve looked up some of this persons research. But, to be honest, professor websites and publication lists really aren’t the easiest thing to decipher to figure out exactly what they’re doing. Especially when a lot of the publication lists the professor is on with their students, and so you don’t know how involved the professor actually is with the research.

So, this morning I’ll do a little last minute preparing (panicking) and then head to the meeting. Hopefully it all goes well. I’d really like to get some useful feedback from this person. And I’ll finish my day off by attending the talk. I’m so looking forward to the weekend.

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