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Insights from the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics Conference or: How We Learned to Collaborate and Organize a Global Magnetics Conference from Scratch!

Authors:
Cody Trevillian1*,
Julia Majcherkiewicz2*, Shugo Yoshii3*, Mariia Efremova4#, Mingzhen Feng5#, Anna Maria Friedel6#, Santhosh Sivasubramani7#

1 Oakland University, United States
2 University of Vigo, Spain
3 Kyoto University, Japan

4 Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands
5 University of California, Davis, United States
6 TU Kaiserslautern, Germany
7 IIT Hyderabad, India

*These authors contributed equally.
#These authors contributed equally.

Near the end of every summer since 2020, the IEEE Around-the-Clock Around-the-Globe (AtC-AtG) Magnetics Conference has been a beacon of innovation and worldwide collaboration in magnetics. Organized by dedicated graduate and postdoctoral students of the global magnetics community (with generous financial support from the IEEE Magnetics Society, which finances our collaborative tools, the conference platforms and website, and a suite of awards!), AtC-AtG stands out as a virtual conference that genuinely lives up to its name. This unique global 24-hour event exclusively features contributions from graduate and postdoctoral students and invited talks from early-career and senior scientists (selected by the graduate and postdoctoral student-run organizing committee!), showcasing oral talks and poster presentations from the global magnetics community!

Beyond Pandemics: The Evolution of AtC-AtG

The conference has evolved beyond its original purpose of responding to the challenges of the global pandemic. It has begun addressing pre-existing issues, such as the environmental impact of travel and financial barriers to international participation. AtC-AtG has become a platform that fosters the exchange of scientific ideas and tackles these broader issues in the academic and scientific communities.

A Virtual Odyssey Around the World: The AtC-AtG Conference Format

AtC-AtG takes pride in its format, embracing the virtual realm to create a truly global and inclusive experience. The conference spans 24 hours, allowing participants from around the globe to engage in real-time oral talks and poster sessions via Zoom and gather.town, respectively. The absence of parallel sessions ensures that attendees can catch all the presentations, fostering a seamless flow of scientific discussions.

Virtual Poster Sessions: Connecting Across the Remote Gap

A notable feature is the virtual poster sessions conducted through a gather.town space (where you directly access the Zoom room for the oral talks, too!). Of course, nothing can completely replicate the in-person experience, but this format comes remarkably close. Participants navigate as 2D avatars with video chats popping up as their avatars approach each other, creating a dynamic and engaging environment for interaction—a far cry from the typical static virtual poster sessions.

Behind the Scenes: International Collaboration, Friendships, and Organizing the 2023 AtC-AtG

We asked the 2023 AtC-AtG Organizing Committee to share the unique experience and benefits of organizing AtC-AtG, here’s what they had to say:

 

Insights from the Regional Program Committee Co-Chairs

Shugo Yoshii (APAC Co-Chair):

I think the most invaluable experience of working as AtC-AtG committee is making research friends all over the world. To me, the funnest moment is definitely when I meet other committee members on some conference. I didn't feel that was the first time to meet in person because we already deeply discussed the huge amount of tasks and spent condensed time. So, we were already comrades and brothers with same experience.

Of course, working for the organization of AtC-AtG itself is quite meaningful and extremely hard. However, I was confident that we could succeed the event because we have great team and nice advisory committee. I believe these kind of demanding but meaningful work and great team work provided us the best of friends.

If you are at all interested in working as committees, trust our experience and jump in us. I believe you are able to obtain impressive experience from AtC-AtG.

Julia Majcherkiewicz (EMEA Co-Chair):

The work is dynamic, but thanks to the nice team and a great atmosphere, there are no stupid questions to be asked. We could always have valuable advice from the advisory committee. The chair's role is kind of more multitasking; however, it's extremely enriching! To name just a few important things during the experience: you meet very nice hard working people and establish new personal & professional connections, you learn how the organization of the conference looks like, and you develop many new skills.

If you're wondering if you can do it, the answer is YES: you try, you learn, you definitely do it! And during the process, you have a lot of fun.

Cody Trevillian (Americas Co-Chair):

Organizing the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics Conference was an absolute blast. It was more rewarding & fun than I could have anticipated when we started our work as 2023 AtC-AtG’s organizing committee earlier this year (Yes, the organizing committee is formed anew each year!) However, as the one-hit-wonder by the NewRepublic goes, “You get what you give.” Indeed, the collective effort of our international organizing committee of graduate & postdoctoral students was directly reflected in the engaging & high-quality conference experience of the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics Conference.

To clarify, I worked as one of three Program Committee Co-Chairs, representing & leading the Americas region. Previously, I had participated in every other iteration of the conference as either a contributed speaker or a poster presenter. This means that I was able to simultaneously employ my previous experience as a participant, while gaining new experience as an organizer. The position of Regional Co-Chair meant dipping my toe into each of the several (~8 – 9) task forces we formed throughout our work to organize the conference. Assuredly, each of these task forces played no small part in the organizing process. Without the collaborative effort of our international organizing committee, the 2023 AtC-AtG conference would not have been possible. 

Importantly, during this organizing process I have met many new people, fellow young researchers & newly-budding independent scientists that I would not have met otherwise. These are folks that I will now work with many more times in the future, perhaps on new and impactful scientific ventures that, prior to this organizing process, would have been impossible before. I am excited to continue to strengthen the bonds & connections we formed as a result of our success organizing the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics Conference. I welcome you to submit an application to be apart of 2024 AtC-AtG’s organizing committee!

Committee Member Perspectives

Anna Maria Friedel (EMEA Program):

Being part of the program committee for the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics conference was both challenging and fulfilling. All program committee members were spread across different institutes around the globe and in the beginning I only knew one person from the Americas-Section. It was funny to work with a lot of strangers on a common goal: the successful organization of this year’s conference edition.

We started divided into regional committees and quickly became familiar with the faces in our team. Early on, we organised into task forces mixing the different regional committees. Each task force was tackling specific aspects of the conference organisation. For example, I was the regional representative of the advertisement task force, which was in charge of setting up advertisement channels like a LinkedIn and X-Profile, communications with associations for advertisement in their newsletters, etc..

For me, the experience unearthed previously undiscovered skills, from delving into advertising and graphical design to contributing to abstract sorting and award selections. I really liked the team we formed and the organisation into task forces was so efficient allowing us to handle a massive workload in only a couple of months. And of course, the peak was seeing the conference come together on the big day with a cheerful wave of pride, relief and a lot of happiness!

I think the funniest moment was when I met a couple of virtual colleagues from the organizing committee in real life attending other “in-person” conferences. What started as a conference program committee quickly became a network of young researchers in the field and I’m looking forward to meeting again at various other events!

In essence, my experience as part of the program committee exceeded my expectations far beyond peeking into conference organization: I expanded my skill set and formed a new network of connections in the field, leaving a lasting impact on my professional and personal growth.

Mingzhen Feng (Americas Program):

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with the exceptional team at the IEEE AtC-AtG conference. As a Ph.D. student, my prior engagement had been limited to presenting oral talks at both virtual (during pandemic) and in-person conferences. My curiosity about the behind-the-scenes organization of such events and a desire to contribute to the IEEE Magnetic Society led me to join the organizing committee.

Balancing the preparation for my Ph.D. defense, embarking on a new industry position, and contributing to the AtC-AtG conference made last summer a busy period. Nevertheless, being part of the committee and collaborating with outstanding individuals to bring this conference to young researchers in magnetics was incredibly rewarding.

There were challenges at the beginning when numerous tasks coming up. Thanks to the support from the members in the steering committee and advisory committee, we received clear guidance and access to valuable resources.

One aspect I particularly appreciate about this conference is its flexibility. As organizers, we actively participated in nominating and voting for invited speakers. The design of Gather Town allowed participants to easily connect with presenters, fostering one-on-one or group discussions, a feature more convenient than traditional in-person conferences.

For participants, the conference provided a platform for researchers worldwide to converge, exchange thoughts, and share opinions. Notably, young researchers, including early-stage Ph.D. students, gained increased opportunities to present their work and engage with senior researchers, creating prospects for collaboration.

I encourage anyone with an interest in this field to consider applying for the 2024 IEEE AtC-AtG conference. It promises a unique and enriching experience for all involved.

Mariia Efremova (EMEA Program):

Joining the IEEE AtC-AtG conference 2023 organization committee was definitely my cup of tea. I genuinely think that the experience of organizing a conference is helpful for all young scientists, regardless of their future career trajectory. Below are the first three reasons that came to my mind:

- Multicultural communication: We worked in a big team from Asia & Pacific, Europe & Middle East, and the Americas regions. You learn how to coordinate with different time zones. You realize that people may have a very different opinion, way of thinking, and communication style than yours, which is valid to the same degree. You learn how to negotiate and compromise!

- Teamwork, defining your role, and subordination: As Ph.D. students and Postdocs, we know how to manage and execute the projects where you are your leader. But what if you all do the work collectively for a big goal? I lacked such experience before this conference and am so grateful it happened.

- “Trying on various hats”: I have participated in communication with invited speakers, evaluating and selecting abstracts, a bit in advertising and proofreading, and chairing an online Zoom session with 50+ participants. Where else can one get such training for free in less than half a year?

Finally, you can learn everything by doing and simply showing up.

Sounds convincing? Then keep an eye on when the committee selection for the IEEE AtC-AtG conference 2024 starts!

Santhosh Sivasubramani (APAC Technical):

This AtC-AtG conference has its impact among all stakeholders particularly as I'm aware of the Indian context, this played a crucial role as the opportunity to interact, network amongst top brains in the magnetic community and with the leaders themselves been present for organizing meeting for the conference, it is a one of the best opportunity available to PhD students / Postdocs who have limited access to funding for conference and travel, though had an first of its kind opportunity to be part of a global conference with so much of learning. Being in the organizing committee itself is a big task and the first stepping stone for many of them who gets trained, evolved with the learnings/interactions with their colleagues around the globe and also with the opportunity to learn tiny steps in the organization of a conference which is a worthy experience for any academician or industrialist down the lane. To sum it up, being part of an organizing team or being part of the conference itself is a privilege associated with benefits for the quality of time invested in it. Gather was a cherry on the final day show with first of its kind virtual participation feeling unlike traditional virtual conferences around.

Participant Testimonials: A Platform for Students

Hannah Bradley (Oakland University):

I absolutely loved being part of the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics Conference! It's incredible to see students driving the organization, creating a perfect platform for sharing our work freely. The diverse range of student projects showcased is just fantastic!

Omar Bishop (Virginia Commonwealth University):

Participating in the AtC-AtG was a wonderful experience for myself as a young professional. I have limited experience in my grad school career to give presentations, specifically due to Covid and the complications that come in today’s world with traveling and safety. AtC-AtG gave the perfect middle ground of a virtual conference that still felt more like a human interaction than just a zoom link and breakout rooms. The User Interface for the conference was so cute and fun, and gave such a personal touch that made it feel more comfortable to present in. I highly recommend this experience to all my young professional peers looking for an entry into the space of presenting your research in professional settings.

Participants Testimonials

Hannah Bradley, Oakland University

I absolutely loved being part of the 2023 IEEE AtC-AtG Magnetics Conference! It's incredible to see students driving the organization, creating a perfect platform for sharing our work freely. The diverse range of student projects showcased is just fantastic!

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