I am an undergraduate in computer science. I worked on a professor's project, and he submitted it to a conference with me being the second author (he and I are the only authors). If it is accepted, I would really love to attend the conference (I have never done so before), both for knowing what other people are doing and establishing some relation with other professors. However, I am not sure whether it is even appropriate to ask my professor. We are keeping a very friendly relationship, and I don't want asking him for this thing to make him perceive me as "conceited" (or something else).

For my contribution to the research, he came up with the theory, and I did most of experiment and data analysis and visualization to empirically support it. It amounts to about 25%-30% of the total length of the paper.

I am completely unclear about funding issue. Do conference organizer provides some compensation? Or should I ask for university for support (I guess they will be at best reluctant since I am not the first author)? Or should I ask for my professor to use his funding? Or do I need to pay my travel expense myself?

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    "I did most of experiment and data analysis and visualization" - So you did most of the work, but he only put you as second author? Feb 24, 2015 at 8:47
  • Questions about financial support are good but digress from the main question - please consider posting them as a separate question. Feb 24, 2015 at 11:04
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    @BenBitdiddle No, he came up with the theory and mathematical derivation and I programmed some simulation to empirically test it. Also he wrote most of the paper.
    – zyl1024
    Feb 24, 2015 at 14:03
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    I was a student author on two papers, and went to the conference. You need not worry: 1. First or second author status did not matter (indeed, sometimes it is mandated to be alphabetical - then what?). 2. My professor and I both attended the conference; In fact he encouraged me to do so, and I made the oral presentations precisely because I had written the code and thus was most familiar with the theory's actual programmatic instantiation and its limitations. 3. The university has a budget for conference travel - they probably have a form for travel advances, or reimbursements. Feb 25, 2015 at 4:29

3 Answers 3


As others have already stated, it is perfectly acceptable to show up at a conference when you are not the first author of your paper, or even if you have no paper at all at the conference.

Depending on your research group and how well-funded it is, funding your trip may or may not be a problem. Your first partner in such attempts should certainly be your co-author, and there is nothing wrong about asking him whether you can go and to what extend his grants or the university can support you. The prof. will also know about other funding sources you may apply to. For instance, you could apply as a student volunteer for the conference (usually levies the conference fee), or you could ask for a travel stipend from the conference organizers (although these are often indeed reserved for first authors, at least in my field).

As a sidenote, most professors around me are actually really happy about undergrads that want to go to conferences, as it shows that the undergrad really cares about research and wants to see how it is being done. People love that, because both, in my Swiss current and Austrian previous university, getting good undergrads to stay for a PhD was a perpetual concern and worth quite some money in up-front investment to professors that had some travel money to spare.

(PhD admission works different to the US around here. Most of our PhD students come from our own pool of undergrads, and it's definitely a students market (i.e., few good students, lots of professors looking for them). Good undergrads are basically wooed by professors to do a PhD with them.)

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    It's not very clear what you mean by seller's market. Who's doing the selling? (Also, typo: extend->extent.)
    – E.P.
    Feb 24, 2015 at 18:29
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    @E.P. A seller's market in the job market sense - few undergrads that want to do PhD, many professors that are looking for great students.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 24, 2015 at 20:13
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    Just saying - that's not necessarily very clear to non-businessy academics, so it could do with some clarification.
    – E.P.
    Feb 24, 2015 at 20:50

It is perfectly fine for the second author (if it matters: many people do use alphabetic ordering where second author does not necessarily mean less contribution) to present the paper. It is not only appropriate but encouraged to attend. I have seen many professors attend with one or two of their students.. Tell your professor that you are interested in presenting the paper or at least attending the conference in case of acceptance.

Ask him to help you with the funding. He may point you to different resources available on the department/university or even national level. Many conferences have student discount and many do waive the registration fees if you volunteered at the conference. Look for this information into the conference website.

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    +1 for student volunteers. That's also a good way to meet lots of people. Feb 24, 2015 at 6:56

Firstly, there is no reason (apart from funding) stopping a second author from attending. The conference organisers would love it, they want as many people to attend as they can get.

Sometimes conferences offer a small amount of funding for students. You should check out the conference web page and see whether you are eligible. As an author on one of the papers, you have a chance.

But otherwise you will have to find funding from elsewhere. Your supervisor should be the first person to ask, then maybe the head of the research group you are in, then the head of department. Perhaps there is university-level funding available too. These people should be able to point you towards that. There's probably also an office somewhere who collects information about such grants.

As a general rule, avoid paying out of your own pocket unless you have to.

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