My checklist for a conference

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while since my last blog but I really had quite a lazy last month. The only thing interesting happening in my life is the new season of Game of thrones 🙂 .   I also decided to head back to Goa in May, and get some much awaited vacation time with family and friends. Though the weather was really hot and humid back home, overall it was a good trip. Plus, I got some quality time on sandy beaches of Goa.

Boomerang, Goa

When I got back, I was quite pleased to see a LOT of sunshine in Manchester as well. The weather was so pleasant that I got to put my dusty old sunglasses to some use.  However, now it’s back to the rainy Manchester. I also discovered some free hula classes outside Whitworth art gallery, every Sunday from 2 to 4 pm.

Hula outside Whitworth Art Gallery

Meanwhile, in lab I received my Jetson TX1; It’s a development board from NVIDIA that is targeted for the embedded platform. Now, I can start to do some fun experimental work with it.


Jetson TX1

As per my last month’s blog post on my conference trip, I wanted to devote another blog describing how I prepared for my trip. I think that it would be a useful guide in general as well as for myself, since I have decided to register for a summer school next month.

I have listed a series of steps below which you may find useful:

Step 1: Select a conference well in advance.

Well, this step is key as I had to choose a conference that was closest to my field. I chose the GPU technology Conference (GTC) as it featured posters, talks and hands-on-labs from both academia and industry in the field of deep learning. The hands-on-labs were particularly useful for me because I got to learn a lot about the Jetson TX1, even before I received my own board.

Step 2: Check about the hotels and flights

The website for this conference had a link to the hotels that were closest to the venue of the event. But by the time I decided to reserve the hotel (as I waited to get my visa first), most of the places were filled up and I had to split my stay between two hotels. So, don’t wait too long to do the booking as you can cancel it later, if things don’t go as planned. Also, for my travel to the US, the journey was around 18 hours +, as I had to make two stops; one in Amsterdam and then Seattle. I later found out there are shorter flights if I had traveled from London, Heathrow.  Apart from that, it was a jet lag nightmare for me.  I was visiting US for a week and I took about a week to recover from  jet lag just in time  to head back to Manchester and spend another week trying to adjust back again. 🙁

Step 3: Check if you need a visa.

Well, being an international student, I had to apply for my US visa. So, this involved a two day trip to London for my interview at the US embassy. I had yet again to book train tickets as well a place to stay for one night in Marble Arch, since I had my interview early morning the next day. This comic strip best describes the interview process and I was in fact asked just one question “What’s your PhD about ?” :P. All I can say is that I tried really hard to be concise. 😀



Step 4: Meeting the finance department for the first time.

For all of the above steps, right from getting the visa to booking the stay, getting familiar with financial procedures is necessary. I never even knew where the finance department was during my Masters; well I did not really need to know back then. Anyways, it involved a  whole lot of mundane tasks of request forms and emails, which in hindsight was very important. Also, once I got back from my trip,  I could fill up my expense claim form on My Manchester account and hand it in to the finance department.

Step 5: I got myself an Uber account

This was quite useful when travelling to and fro from the airport.

Step 6: Travel Money card (optional)

I decided to get a travel money card as the debit cards would incur some transactional charges for every purchase I made abroad. Even though my trip is being paid for (perks of being a PhD… 🙂 ), I decided it would be a better idea to get some travel money in dollars to avoid all the extra cost.  Also, something to take care of with a travel card, is that Uber doesn’t accept travel money card and the card should not be used for paying the deposit in hotels. More information is available on the website linked above.

I got my card from the post office at Hathersage Rd within a day.

Step 7: Get a Universal adapter

Step 8: Business Cards

I think I have enough cards stocked up for the next three years..

My final step was to decide whether to make business cards or not. Since ,  I was travelling to my first conference, I thought that I would definitely  meet new people and it would be nice make contacts. From experience, I say that getting business cards printed was the best decision I made. So, after a lot of searching I found few places that can make business cards.

I did not really opt for this one at the time, but it is a good place to get started if you are thinking of getting one. I think there is an option of designing the cards yourself and then getting them printed as well.

Another option was suggested by one of my PhD colleagues was for printing the cards.

Well, that brings me to the end of this blog. I hope that this information was useful and serves as a useful guide if you are thinking of going for any academic trips.