This guest post is from Anna Han, an undergrad working on the Hubble data from Galaxy Zoo:
I attended the AAS Conference in Austin, Texas with the Yale Astronomy and Physics Department to present the results from my research last summer. Many thanks to everyone in the department and Galaxy Zoo who gave me this opportunity and continue to support me through my work. It is because of their guidance that I was able to present a research poster at the conference this winter and enjoy a whole new experience.
The AAS Conference was fascinating, motivating, and overwhelming all at the same time. Starting from 9:00am every morning, I listened to various compact 10-minute talks given by various PhD candidates, post-docs, and researchers from around the world. Though I must admit some of the ideas presented went over my head, I learned more and more with each talk I heard.
The midday lunch breaks made up one of my favorite parts of the conference. Yes, the ribs in Texas are good. But no amount of delicious southern cuisine compares to how welcome and at ease I felt with fellow astronomers kind enough to invite me, a newbie sophomore undergraduate, to lunch. Lunch became my 2-hour my opportunity to talk one-on-one with other researchers and get informed on their work. When my questions ran out, I gladly took the chance to introduce my own research and use their feedback to better prepare for my poster presentation.
On Thursday morning, I tacked up my poster in the exhibit hall and stood guard, armed with organized details of my research and cookies as bait. Let me confess now that I have never been at or in a science fair, but I imagine it must be similar to what I experienced that day. Non-scientist citizens and experts in AGN alike perused my poster and asked questions. Every once in a while I recognized a familiar face: members from my research group, students I had befriended throughout the conference, and fellow researchers I had shared lunch with stopped by to see my poster. Explaining my research to someone who was interested (either in my work or the cookies) was an immensely rewarding experience. I felt proud of what I had accomplished and so thankful to the people who helped me do it. The encounters with other people also gave me ideas for future directions I could proceed in.
This semester, I plan to continue searching for multiple AGN signatures in grism spectra of clumpy galaxies. My experience at the AAS Conference has inspired me to develop a more systematic search for clumpy galaxies using Galaxy Zoo and explore in more detail the possibility of low redshift galaxies containing multiple AGN. To the citizens of Galaxy Zoo, thank you again, and I hope for your continued support!