This blog got somewhat neglected in the last few days of the conference … so here goes!
On Wednesday morning Sam and I got up early to set up our posters, then hurried to catch up with the rest of the group on that morning’s hike, to Bridal Veil falls. It was a beautiful morning and a challenging upward trek, but one that was made quite a bit more interesting given our destination. You see, Bridal Veil falls serve as the home of Nikola Tesla‘s power plant, which is perched atop the falls in a rather precarious manner. Two waterfalls lead down from the powerplant, and if you look closely at the picture below, you can see powerlines extending down the mountain. We sadly ran out of time to get all the way to the top, but I suppose science calls!
After another afternoon of talks, Sam and I headed to Wednesday’s poster session, where we each presented a poster. In all the excitement, we forgot to take a picture of us with our posters, so here’s a picture of our posters from the morning when we put them up:
The two-hour poster session gave us plenty of time to talk to the other scientists who were interested in what we were doing. Many of them were surprised that we were undergrads — which we took both as a compliment and as a sign of how great Haverford is. I got a few really good suggestions about how I could improve my poster, which I’ll be sure to take to the Undergraduate Research Symposium that Haverford hosts in September. Some comments I received on how I can improve my explanation of my project and other details I need to cover will also be really useful when I begin writing all of this up in my thesis. Overall, it was a really good — and empowering — experience to present my results to other theoretical chemists and get their impressions of my project.
After the poster session, we ended up at the Last Dollar Salloon, a dive bar in Telluride which hosted a lot of conference attendees that night. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed at this conference is how friendly the other theoretical chemists are and how willing they are to talk to us, both about what they do and about our own interests. Throughout the conference, these more informal social events have been a really nice way to meet people and get their perspectives on their work and their institutions.
We slept in on Thursday morning and took care of some work before the talks started. The ones on Thursday afternoon were probably the most directly relevant to our own work, and they were pretty stimulating. It’s exciting to see how broad this field is and how much more is out there!
On Thursday night, ACTC hosted a party complete with lawn games — cornhole (which I was miserable at) and stilts. We went to Smugglers’ again and took another ride up in the gondola to look at the stars.
Friday morning brought some final talks, mostly focused around water. I really enjoyed a talk from Professor Valeria Molinero (University of Utah), who talked about modeling water by essentially creating a new element on the computer, with assigned properties somewhere between carbon and silicon. This element was able to accurately simulate how water behaved and bonded, keeping the predictive power of the simulations while significantly reducing computational time. Overall, I’d have to say the computational tricks theoretical chemists come up with are pretty clever. As some would say, “It’s a dirty business” … but one with enormous predictive power.
We drove back to Montrose, CO on Friday afternoon, and hopped on another puddle jumper plane back to Denver. After a few hours of hanging out in the Denver airport, we parted ways: Josh and Professor Subotnik back to Philadelphia, Sam to Berkeley, and me home to Minnesota. For me, at least, the last four weeks of summer will be spent digesting, planning, and thinking… what to do after college, and where?