Last fall while taking an introductory GIS course here at Stony Brook I produced a final research project that I was pretty happy with. So when I received an email from ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), the provider of the GIS software used in the class, about submitting an abstract to potentially present my project at their 2016 Oceans GIS Forum in Southern California, I was confident enough with my project that I sent a submission with the “what do I have to lose!?” attitude.
Well, about a month later, I received an email that my abstract had been accepted and I was being invited to speak at the conference. After working out some logistics, I found myself at the ESRI headquarters in Redlands California (abut an hour east of Los Angeles) attended amazing lectures on the most cutting edge oceans research projects to date. Naturally I was pretty nervous presenting my undergraduate research project from an introductory GIS course to an audience of PhDs, post docs and industry professionals, but I came to realize that the crowd was so diverse that my little project held its own with all the pros. After my presentation, I even received some compliments from professionals in the EPA and NOAA. This was such a great experience and I would give the advice to just go with your instinct and apply for anything and everything that you find interesting that comes your way. You never know where it may lead!