This year, I received a CIAN student travel grant for conference travel. Thanks to this grant, I headed to New Zealand over Thanksgiving for the International Network of OSA Students Conference on Optics, Atoms, and Laser Applications (IONS KOALA). Throughout the week, I gave a presentation on my research, listened to students from around the world present their research, heard a talk by a Nobel laureate, and explored the city of Auckland!
KOALA is a conference that bounces between Australia and New Zealand every year, so naturally, its mascot is a koala hugging a kiwi:
This was a student conference, which showed in a couple of ways. We were told at the start of the conference that anyone going over their time limit (15 minutes for most talks) would get shot with a Nerf gun until they stopped talking. This was apparently a pretty effective threat, because only one presenter went over time. Also, the organizers went out of their way to ensure that the presenters felt encouraged; if no one in the audience had a question at the end of a talk, the session chair would always ask something.