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IGERT Trainees Welcome and Wow at Indoor Air 2011


Twenty-eight past and present trainees and affiliates of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program in Indoor Environmental Science and Engineering (IESE) at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) played a major role in the development and implementation of Indoor Air 2011. Indoor Air 2011 was a major international conference held in June of 2011; the last conference was in Copenhagen in 2008 and the next will be in Hong Kong in 2014. The conference coincided with the end of the 5th year of the IESE IGERT program, and was very much a celebration of our program’s accomplishments and stature. Program Director and faculty participant Richard L. Corsi served as President of Indoor Air 2011. Faculty participants Kerry Kinney, Jeff Siegel, Atila Novoselac, and Ying Xu all served major roles in terms of conference planning and implementation, and Xu received a major international award (Yaglou Award) as top young researcher in the field of indoor air quality. The six-day conference was attended by 1,000 delegates from 47 countries. A total of 270 graduate students attended the conference from all over the world.

A highly interdisciplinary group of IGERT trainees and affiliates designed and implemented a two-day symposium on Indoor Air Quality and Cook Stoves in Developing Countries as part of the Indoor Air 2011 technical program. Trainees and affiliates actively recruited symposium speakers (24 podium presentations), including trainees from other IGERT programs, as well as symposium panelists. Dr. Ashok Gadgil gave the opening keynote presentation at the conference and discussed his efforts with the development and implementation of the Darfur cook stove, amongst other technologies relevant to environmental issues in developing countries. The symposium was attended by approximately 200 of the conference delegates and received tremendous reviews by many professionals who attended.

Trainees and affiliates also played a major role many other ways at Indoor Air 2011. In doing so they always donned bright orange tie-dye shirts to make them recognizable to visitors from around the world. The “orange shirts” assisted with tours of research facilities at the University of Texas at Austin, including an experimental test house that was purchased with first-year funds as part of the IESE IGERT program. They coordinated a student video competition with awards given at the closing ceremony of the conference. Videos were played at the start of the plenary session each day and were very well received by conference participants. Trainees and affiliates helped in the coordination of a novel effort to have a graduate student serve as co-chair of every one of over 80 technical sessions at the conference, paired with internationally-recognized researchers in their field. The feedback from conference participants on this effort was universally positive. Many of our own trainees and affiliates also participated as session co-chairs. They staffed the speaker ready room throughout the conference, assisting over 800 podium and poster speakers with coordination of their presentation materials. And our trainees and affiliates also served as gracious hosts for students from around the world. They established connections with student delegates months before the conference, providing input about Austin and the conference. They greeted them as they arrived at their dormitory rooms and at the Austin Convention Center. They developed a social program that involved a night out listening to local musicians and a venue reserved near the University of Texas campus.

Finally, IESE IGERT trainees and affiliates also presented their research, much of it funded by the National Science Foundation, in various technical sessions, forums and workshops during the conference. In total, 19 IGERT trainees and affiliates of the IESE’s program presented their research findings at Indoor Air 2011. In addition, three trainee graduates of the program who are now faculty members (Dr. R.J. Briggs at Penn State University; Dr. Michael Waring at Drexel University) or scientists at national labs (Dr. Diana Hun at Oak Ridge National Lab) and several past affiliates who are now at federal or national labs (Dr. Chi Hoang at NIST; Dr. Federico Noris at LBNL, Dr. Donghyun Rim at NIST) returned to Austin to present research results with their new colleagues or their own students.

These activities were a major professional development experience for our trainees and affiliates during the past year, helped to showcase the students and resources of our IGERT program, and also served as a celebration of our program and reunion of past and current trainees and affiliates. The efforts of our trainees and affiliates were recognized at the closing ceremony of the conference when they were acknowledged and received a loud ovation for their efforts by conference participants.

Address Goals

These activities involve substantial learning. Trainees and affiliates of the NSF-funded IGERT program in Indoor Environmental Science and Engineering worked closely with other students from around the world and implemented a very successful student program that benefitted 270 300 graduate students who attended Indoor Air 2011. These trainees and affiliates from different departments across the University of Texas worked closely for two full years planning the student symposium on cook stoves and other important aspect of the conference. At Indoor Air 2011 they interacted with a large number of researchers from around the world in disciplines as far ranging as engineering, biology, health science, chemistry, psychology, business, and economics. In helping to plan Indoor Air 2011, IGERT trainees and affiliates engaged in learning how to organize a major technical conference in their field, as well as the nuances of international participation.

Trainees and affiliates practiced their own presentations at formal group practice sessions in front of peers and faculty members who provided feedback, thus allowing them to learn how to deliver effective technical presentations. The primary discovery component of these activities preceded presentation delivery and was in the form of one or more research discoveries that were presented at the conference and on tours. Importantly, trainees and affiliates received valuable feedback on their research that will help them to think of their findings in different ways, possibly leading to additional discovery.