by Adam Battle
The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Conference (LPLC) marks the start of the academic year for many planetary scientists in the Tucson area. This year, LPLC 2020 prefaced the Fall 2020 semester full of online classes, meetings, and conferences. Whereas LPLC typically involves multiple days of poster presentations and live presentations, this year’s conference was streamlined to just five hours and allowed participants to transition into the strange pace of the academic year. Participants this year recorded short presentations which attendees watched in the week leading up to the conference. On the day of LPLC, each participant had five minutes to answer live questions from the audience. These Q&A slots were grouped by topic into four themed sessions, each of which had one or two invited speakers who gave live presentations to the attendees. Among the invited speakers was Zarah Brown, the winner of the “Best Grad Student Presentation” in 2019; Zarah gave a great talk on Tracing Hydrocarbons in the Upper Atmosphere of Saturn. The winner of this year’s “Best Grad Student Presentation” award is Teddy Kareta who will be invited to give a talk at LPLC in 2021.
Despite the unusual conditions this year, LPLC had the same level of attendance as previous years with over 70 people joining to watch the talks and ask questions to fellow scientists. In addition to the invited speakers, almost 20 people gave presentations about their current or upcoming research. For a conference largely designed to bring the planetary science community together, LPLC met all of its goals despite the difficulties presented in 2020. The conference concluded with a bittersweet keynote from Tim Swindle about his decade of experiences as director of LPL, including all the lessons learned while leading such a unique and wonderful department.
LPL Department Head and Director Tim Swindle gave the keynote talk at LPLC 2020.