What a start it's been to my first conference! I was lucky enough to join the 39th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP), the biggest conference in High Energy Physics. About 1000 physicists are currently gathered in Seoul, presenting results from all across the field. Getting to visit South Korea plus hearing about cutting-edge physics sounded like a 5-star recipe to me!
Since there's so much physics to get through, the first few days of ICHEP are split into "parallel sessions", each focusing on different areas. On Friday and Saturday there were "Education & Outreach" sessions. These sessions were close to my heart as I got to present the "ATLAS Open Data Project", something I've been working on since the start of my Master's degree. Other outreach talks described Virtual Reality, live videos, social media, masterclasses, online courses, summer schools, festivals, shows…
I've also attended several sessions on loads of cool physics, including top quarks and SUSY (she still seems to be hiding in the dark). I’m not sure I understood all of the content, but hey, we're all learning. It was also really nice to see sessions on “Technology Applications and Industrial Opportunities” and “Diversity and Inclusion” included alongside physics talks. In the poster session, it was amazing being able to approach the authors to ask questions face to face.
Coffee breaks are a great chance to chat to anyone and everyone, which is worth doing since whoever you speak to is an expert in their respective field!
Talks invoke many a thoughtful conversation over hot beverages. (Unfortunately, no hot chocolate is available for those of us who still like to pretend they're children.) Coffee breaks are a great chance to chat to anyone and everyone, which is worth doing since whoever you speak to is an expert in their respective field! The organisers also did a really great job introducing us to local culture during these breaks, providing traditional teas and sweets, and showcasing traditional South Korean calligraphy, caricatures and dancing.
Evenings provide a perfect opportunity to go out and explore the conference host city. Right outside the conference venue there’s a lively area containing South Korean restaurants and bars. This setting made it easy to carry interesting physics discussions into the night over food and drink. You really need to try South Korean food if you’re ever over here (spoiler: it’s delicious).
Everything has been non-stop since the conference started, but it's been worth it and I wouldn't ask to have it any other way. Roll on the rest of the conference!