As most of you know the International Astronomical Union (IAU) general assembly (GA) started this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For both work and family reasons I had earlier decided not to attend.
The only IAU GA I have attended so far was in 2003 in Sydney, when I was a PhD student at Mt Stromlo Observatory. I was part of the student body from Australian universities that volunteered to help out during the event. We were all given red jackets to stand out from the crowd and our tasks ranged from helping the wondering and lost astronomers find their way, to putting up stalls and posters, to distributing meal vouchers… 🙂 It was a fun experience and we of course also could attend the talks.
This time (and even last time in 2006 in Prague), I have more reasons not to attend. The IAU is a great place to mingle with the astronomy community and make contacts. Also its great place to showcase your work out there especially if you are on the look out for jobs, as having the right contacts can be key to success in the job search. However it is not the best place to get into a detail discussion about a particular astronomical problem you may have. Most people are on a very busy schedule and even arranging a five minute coffee meeting can be difficult. And with all the talks going on, it can be information overload. In my case right now since I already have the next job lined up, it would be better to spend the weeks making progress on my research. It is currently “the boring middle stage” of the analysing – but hey it must get done one day!
On the family matters, my little baby’s First birthday and as well as my birthday falls right in the middle of the IAU GA. Yes, I would have liked to celebrate my B’day in Rio, but not for my little one’s first B’day. Its his special day and I would like to spend it together with family. We did consider all of us going to Rio, but in reality the long flights from Germany would result in a cranky, jet-lagged baby and I doubt he would have enjoyed the trip. So instead we are planning a fun day with balloons, presents and colorful cakes!!