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AGU STUDENT TRAVEL GRANTS: CONNECTING STUDENTS WITH OPPORTUNITY

Pilar's Story

Pilar Madrigal, a two-time recipient of an AGU Student Travel Grant, left her home country of Costa Rica in 2012 to pursue a doctoral degree at Virginia Tech. “Although, at first it was difficult for me to grasp the nuance of what becoming a Ph.D. student entailed, I quickly fell in love with so much more than just my research on the composition and origin of melts in the Earth’s mantle…AGU’s student travel grant program, which supports students and early-career professionals of all backgrounds, opened many doors of opportunity for me.”

Read Pilar’s full story below.

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“I realized this would be an uphill climb”

By Pilar Madrigal

I joined AGU in 2012 when I left my home country of Costa Rica to pursue a doctoral degree at Virginia Tech. It became clear to me that academia was more than a system – it was a culture. As a minority student from a different country, I realized that this would be an uphill climb, but I was up for the challenge.

AGU’s student travel grant program, which supports students and early-career professionals of all backgrounds, opened many doors of opportunity for me. As a grant recipient in 2015 and in 2017, the student travel grant program has had an incredibly positive impact on my career development. It allowed me to participate in meetings and workshops that I otherwise would not have been able to attend.

Woman hiking over mountains wearing a red helmet

"Your support matters. Your support changes lives."

Networking skills are not often taught during doctoral programs but, it is one of the most important skill-sets during the transition from graduate school to a professional career. Science communication, is another important skill that can only be improved by practice and engaging with peers in settings that promote science advancement like the AGU Fall Meeting.

In 2015, I received student travel grant to attend the AGU Fall Meeting. As a first-time attendee it was undoubtedly an overwhelming experience. What struck me the most was how I found myself surrounded by peers, some with similar backgrounds and many struggling with the same difficulties and issues as I was. It was empowering to realize that I wasn’t alone and that I was represented by peers that came before me. This helped to radically change my point of view. If it wasn’t for the student travel grant program I wouldn’t have realized how much representation matters.

section of Poster Hall

Thanks to this experience, I became motivated to improve my communication skills in order to help advance one group that might need increased representation the most: young Latina women in geosciences.

More recently, I was awarded a Bruno Martinelli Travel Fellowship. The Martinelli Fellowship allowed me to attend the 13th Gas Workshop of the CCVG-IAVCEI that took place in Ecuador during September and October 2017.

As an early-career professor and researcher, the opportunities provided to me by the student travel grant program have positively impacted my career development, not only academically, but also in improving essential social and communications skills.

I thank all the donors who support the student travel grant program. Your support matters. Your support changes lives.

This story was edited for clarity and length.

Lava lake of a volcanic eruption