I was in Austin, TX for the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) annual conference. I had gone to this conference through grad school, and a few times since. This time was a little different.
There are many reasons to go to conferences. To keep up with your field. To follow recent developments. It is an efficient way of learning new developments (compared to only reading a paper). To present your work. But it is also a way to keep in touch with old friends (and if you are in a profession for any length of time, there should be friends at conferences). And in my case, the obvious conversation topics were:
"How old is he? Why are you here?" and "Pictures!"
As far as the professional side went, I had my talk. It went well. And a good chunk of the audience left right after my talk (I was the first talk of the session, so this meant that people were in the room for my talk, then they went to where they really wanted to be for the rest of the session time slot).
But what made the conference different was my talk was not important (ok, so maybe that has not changed). I was part of two talks at the conference, and this was the boring one. The interesting one was my student's. And that went well. Good audience reaction and commentary. And definite interest. Which bodes well when he does this again next year, with visions of graduating dancing in our heads. The goal for this conference was not about me, but all about him. Having him give a talk. And meet all the researchers who wrote the papers that he has been reading, poring over, and extending. To talk about what they have done and what he is doing now. Developing confidence that what he is working on is indeed something reasonably new, a contribution to the body of work, and something that can be of interest when it is done. It was a good feeling, watching my student interact with people I know (and many I did not). While talking to my own advisor, another, more senior researcher was commenting that it would be my advisors first 'grandchild'. I have to agree, talking about my student is a lot like what being proud of your own child is supposed to be like. So, in a sense, I have two thriving children, and one getting ready to take flight.