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January 11, 2021 marks the start of the 4th Biennial Grid Science Winter School and Conference, a five day event that brings together experts and students in grid science research. Supported by the Energy Department’s Office of Electricity, the Center for Nonlinear Studies and the Graduate Program in Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona, the event is part of the Grid Science program at Los Alamos National Lab.

The biennial event has been taking place since 2015 and has had a significant impact on the research community, particularly with students. Carleton Coffrin, a Staff Scientist at Los Alamos,  attended in 2012 as a PhD student. Carleton has continued to participate and is returning this year as a speaker.

“When I was a student the primary draw for me was the amazing program of invited talks that was assembled and aligned with my research interests,” said Carleton. “The program was, and continues to be, an all-start cast of researchers in grid science topics.”

Clayton Barrows, a staff scientist at the National Renewable Energy Lab, said that he participated as a student because, “I’ve always admired and respected the work produced by the Los Alamos team, so I was eager to learn about their ongoing work and the work of others presenting at the event.”

Students that participate can gain valuable insight from world-class scientists about cutting edge R&D tools that can have a tremendous impact on their career development.

“It is beyond any doubt that my participation at the event has shaped my career,” said Line Roal, Assistant Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at University of Wisconsin – Madison. “Several collaborations resulting in numerous publications were started there, and the networking opportunities were crucial to me. I first participated as a student (which was a really eye-opening experience, both scientifically and personally), as a post-doc (where I again learned so much, and also found that the event provided very important connections) and later as a professor (where I again enjoyed both the interesting discussions and the close interactions with all the students). I am very excited that my own PhD students are participating this year.”

Becoming a member of this important R&D community is often the most valuable outcome. Past participants urge students to take advantage of the networking opportunities. “I was able to network with several other attendees, some of whom have become key collaborators in ongoing projects and proposals,” said Clayton.

Carleton agreed. “The most important thing were the professional connections that I made at the conference. At the conference reception I was able to sit at a table with senior world-leading researchers, which was an extremely rare and valuable networking opportunity.”

“I am participating in the Los Alamos Grid Science Winter School for the fourth time, and I am really looking forward to it,” said Line. “I really appreciate the many opportunities for interactions and discussions with other attendees and speakers, and found that this event provides an important opportunity to build a sense of community among the participants."

Recognizing the benefits they received as students, participants want to pay it forward by sharing their research with the up and coming researchers of the future. “It is an honor and privilege to be invited to speak at this exclusive venue,” said Carleton. “I am motivated by a desire to provide the next generation of researchers with similar opportunities to hear the latest results in grid science research.”

When asked what advice she would give to students, Line said “Try to stay alert and listen to the talks even if you don’t understand. If you think something is not understandable or interesting, talk to the speaker or find the students in the room who know more and talk to them. And very important, have fun!”

The Grid Science Winter School and Conference is recommended for graduate and postdoctoral students, and registration for this year’s virtual event is open.