Graduate Student Handbook
There are numerous travel opportunities that will arise during your career here. Conferences are perhaps the best and most exciting way to find out what's being done on the cutting edge of Planetary Science as well as unparalleled opportunities to begin "networking" with other scientists in your discipline (see Networking). They are also great ways to get your research noticed. It is much easier to have a conference poster accepted for presentation than to have a paper published in a major journal, and you will have the advantage of being able to personally explain it to interested people. The biggest annual conferences in Planetary Science, and the ones that a large LPL contingent will usually attend, are:
The Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)
Sponsored by the Johnson Space Center and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Held near Houston, Texas every mid-March. A lot of surfaces and geophysics; a fair amount of meteorites/origins of planets; lunar science and asteroids. Abstracts and proceedings are published in sets of yellow books and now CDs called Proceedings of the nth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.
The Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting (DPS)
A branch of the American Astronomical Society. Held in various locations around the U.S. (and sometimes abroad) in September/October. Generally not as much geology as LPSC but a lot about remote sensing/telescopic observation of outer solar system planets and satellites, asteroids, and Kuiper Belt objects. Abstracts and proceedings are published in the Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, referenced as BAAS.
The Meteoritical Society Meeting
Sponsored by the Meteoritical and Geochemical Societies, who publish Meteoritics and Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Held in various locations around the world typically in August. Focuses on meteorites, lunar science, and origins of the solar system, as well as a little about comets, asteroids, and other small bodies. Abstracts and proceedings are published in a special issue of Meteoritics.
Other conferences include the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meetings, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meetings, and various specialized conferences like the Asteroids, Comets, & Meteors (ACM) meeting.
Posters vs. talks
There are three kinds of presentations at conferences--invited talks and lectures, contributed talks (oral presentations) and contributed posters. Oral presentations last from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the conference, and related talks are given in sessions. Posters display your information on large boards, which people can inspect at their leisure (go up to PIRL to see some old poster examples). You often have a choice whether to present by talk or poster. Posters are a lot of work in advance, but not much while you're there. Talks are the most stressful while you're at the conference. However, most people agree that talks receive the most attention, and posters are only marginally noticed. If you decide to give a talk, keep the Journal Club pointers in mind and talk to people who have presented at that conference before to know what to expect. If you give a poster, put it up in LPL when you return!
If you're taking classes and need to miss them to attend a conference, most professors will be understanding if you notify them in advance. However, you are responsible for making up all missed work.
Attending a conference can become rather costly when you add up the airfare, hotel, registration fees, and per diem expenses. If you are giving a poster or oral presentation, there are several sources to which you can turn for help in defraying these costs. First, there is the advisor with whom you did the work that will be presented. If their name is on the abstract, it counts as a publication for them, so don't be shy about asking for money! There are some University funds for students presenting at conferences. The Graduate and Professional Student Travel Grant Fund and the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Travel Fund are some good sources; try talking to the grad students about other programs. Often, the conference organization has a fund to help scientists attend. Ask the conference organizers for more information. If you've given a good effort and are still unfunded, try simply asking collaborators or other faculty in the same field for help. This is often less successful but sometimes works. If you can't raise any money, and you REALLY think you need to attend, see the Head/Director. And if all else fails, you may have to send yourself. You'll have to decide if the exposure and networking opportunities are worth the expense to you.