Student-led glass conference spotlights work of young researchers

David Kubarek
September 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For students, losing the opportunity to attend summer conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant even fewer chances to advance their academic careers. Students typically have just a few years to attend, present their research, and find areas of interest they’d like to specialize in.

That was the driving force behind the Young Researchers Glass Conference, a virtual conference organized by Penn State students for scientists in the glass research community.

The result was a virtual conference in July where 65 undergraduate and graduate attendees and early career researchers from across the globe presented cutting-edge glass research and had the opportunity to connect with others in the field.

“We created the conference with the ultimate goal of bringing the glass community together by showcasing research from students and researchers who were young in their careers,” said Rebecca Welch, a doctoral candidate in materials science in engineering (MatSE) and co-organizer of the conference. “Often, student presentations get overshadowed by leading experts in their field, especially undergraduates who may be presenting their research for the first time. With our conference, we wanted a comfortable environment for them so that they felt less intimidated in both presenting as well as asking questions.”

The conference featured 10-minute talks, followed by questions. It ended with a “glass great” session where glass experts including John Mauro, professor of MatSE, highlighted the work of pioneering glass scientists.

“This session was not technical and instead was about the great glass scientists who have come before us and unfortunately passed away before any of us could know them,” said Collin Wilkinson, a doctoral candidate in MatSE. “It was a great session that provided great historical insight and contextualized modern glass research.”

Topics of the talks included glass characterization, breakage, ceramics and mechanical properties.

Organizers said they received positive feedback on the student focus and in-depth discussion and are planning to continue the conference, or work with a larger conference to bring on their ideas.

“The conference was definitely a success,” Welch said. “Everyone had a great time, and our objective of providing a welcoming atmosphere for new researchers was accomplished. We would love to continue this conference every other year and in person.”

  • Collin Wilkinson

    Collin Wilkinson, a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering, was one of two students to organize a virtual glass conference for young researchers across the globe.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 15, 2020