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Gateways 2023 Perspective: Hector Santiago III (Supported Student)

By: Hector Santiago III | Winston-Salem State University

Participating in the Gateways 2023 conference proved an amazing learning opportunity and experience for me as a student. It exposed me to cutting-edge research across diverse fields and provided a platform for insightful conversations and mentorship opportunities. On the first day of the conference, I arrived in beautiful Pittsburgh, drove by historical buildings and saw the modern-day Colosseum known to many as Heinz Field. 

During day one, we had the opportunity to listen to Alex Wright from Google give a talk on design. We didn't talk much about design thinking as undergraduates, so this was very informative. His talk introduced me to new and insightful people and topics such as Paul Otlet and the Double Diamond Design Process. Around noon, I had the opportunity to meet my mentor for the conference, Nalyn Siripong. I took this opportunity to pick Nalyn's brain and ask questions about her experiences, the transition from college to full-time work, and any challenges she faced along the way. Having a mentor to go to with questions and just general chat made me feel more comfortable. Later that night, we had a poster session where I had my first-ever opportunity to present some of my team's work in a live conference setting. I was initially nervous, but I found my fellow conference participants intrigued, and the questions in our team's poster gave me energy and made it easier for me to explain our work and why it was impactful.

During day two, we had the fast-paced and exciting Bring Your Own Portal (BYOP) sessions that gave quick insights into the work several community members have worked on. The main topic for me on day two was a talk by Sandra Gesing discussing sustainability. Since my team's poster was based on SGX3's Focus Week discussion on sustainability, this talk was very interesting. Sandra gave conference participants ten good practices to position their gateway for success. Some points that stood out to me were community and advocacy to demonstrate community buy-in. The evangelist idea of having at least one person backing the gateway who is willing to work hard enough to push it to the finish line is sometimes needed for gateways to succeed.

On day three, we had several excellent talks from participants, including Joe Palca's speak on the truth about science communication. People in science can sometimes get a bad reputation for not being sociable, but most of the time, it's just small barriers between people who don't fully understand each other. Joe talked about knowing your audience and when and what technical jargon to use because while some may understand, others may not, it may shut them out of a very important conversation or article. This topic was beneficial for me as a student because while for the past several years I've worked with other computer science students, I also realize when I'm out of school and in a professional setting, I will be working with others who don't have the same background as me. Knowing how to have valuable conversations with others about my work will be very important for my career.

In conclusion, the conference was filled with wonderful people, excellent talks, and many growth opportunities. This time around, I gave an in-person presentation of our team's poster, and our team was voted runner-up for the best faculty/staff poster. As I continue growing, my dream is to be on stage at future Gateways conferences, giving talks and impacting students like many others have affected me during this Gateways 2023 conference.