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After doing well at science fair, I started working with an extremely nice professor at the local university who encouraged me to submit my work to the relevant conference. I was rejected at large, but accepted to one of the workshops. The workshop is the day before the conference. The professor reviewed my paper twice, probably taking him a half hour or hour total (it's a short paper). He also told the conference he would shepherd me, which kind of puts his name on all of this. However, looking at the calendar to plan my flight etc, I noticed the workshop is on the day of Yom Kippur! I am not that religious, and if this was some huge event for me I could possibly make an exception, but I'm not sure if presenting my mediocre work (the work is good for a high school student, but really lame for an actual conference) to the few people who will come to the presentation supersedes such a holiday. Also, after being rejected I didn't really want to go anyway, since I won't understand most of the presentations and I feel they only accepted me to the workshop to encourage me since I'm a student.

How do I talk with the professor and the conference/workshop about my problem?

Follow-up: I decided to go. I'm just not sure what it's like submitting to a workshop of a conference but not the conference at large.

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    Re the side note: Not everyone grew up with any awareness of holidays other than their own. The scheduling is indeed foolish, but was probably just a matter of their making the same mistake you did and not checking the calendar carefully enough.
    – keshlam
    Aug 6, 2015 at 0:10
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    "I'm just not sure what it's like submitting to a workshop of a conference but not the conference at large? Do a lot of people do that?" - Yes, absolutely. Also, and perhaps especially, in situations where they had originally planned to submit a conference paper, which then got rejected, e.g. for being too premature, so instead, they converted it into a workshop paper for a workshop on the same conference. As a matter of fact, I'm quite sure it is not entirely arbitrary that often, workshops will set their submission deadlines a few weeks after the main conference notification date. Aug 6, 2015 at 8:08
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    Concerning your side notes: in which country is the conference? If it was in France for example, I would not be surprised that no one thought about Yom Kippur. Every country has its own tradition and it is difficult for an international conference to take all traditions into consideration.
    – Taladris
    Aug 6, 2015 at 9:36
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    I once attended a major international conference (thousands of participants) which overlapped the world cup soccer finals. The talks in the session that overlapped the game were nearly empty.
    – Bitwise
    Aug 6, 2015 at 20:36
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    I voted to leave it closed because the new question doesn't seem clearly formulated either. By the way, if a second question comes up, it's okay to compose a new question, and you can even include a link to a related question. Last comment: the surefire way to find out what such a workshop is like is to attend. Think of this trip as a way of dipping your toes in the water. It's good preparation for some future conference paper! Aug 6, 2015 at 21:16

3 Answers 3

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Unless you're presenting joint work and had worked out your attendance with your coauthors in advance, not attending a conference is always your choice.

Not attending a conference for religious reasons is also completely standard and understandable. (Though your claim that Yom Kippur is just like Christmas is a bit unconvincing. 83% of Americans identify as Christian, whereas 1.4% identify as Jewish. Moreover, a lot of Americans who identify as Jewish do not fast/atone on Yom Kippur and would be happy to attend a conference on that day: I do and I would. Though not with as much glee as I would attend a conference on Easter, I admit.) I think it's an A-class excuse: i.e., if you tell this to your faculty advisor he will accept it without any comment. I would keep to yourself however the fact that your amount of Jewishness is enough to get you out of a conference that you view as inferior but not a really important one. That's not the most mature perspective, and if in your later life people observe that you seem to be using religion as an excuse to improve your schedule, they will not be so thrilled with you.

By the way, I would think that there would be a lot of other reasons that a high school student could not fly to attend a conference. Saying "Sorry, I've just learned that my schedule doesn't allow me to attend" ought to already be more than sufficient (B+? A-?).

I think you may be off in your appraisal of the situation and the opportunity that going to any part of an academic conference is for any high school student. My advice would be to, when you say that you can't go to this conference, tell your advisor that you really appreciate the mentorship and would be eager to go to a different conference, possibly a bit later on and/or during the summer.

Finally, your faculty advisor does indeed sound extremely nice. Academics are extremely busy, and quality mentorship takes time and energy. Your estimate that he spent half an hour looking at two drafts of your paper sounds rather naive to me unless he explicitly told you that. I would spend more than 15 minutes looking at a student's cover letter, let alone their paper. By the way, the fact that he is willing to spend the time probably means that he thinks you are extremely talented, so I hope you do not give up too easily.

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    "A lot of reasons" — you bet.... The professor got them to waive registration, which is the biggest single expense, but still... Aug 6, 2015 at 0:30
  • Maybe he took longer... The second draft was nearly the same as the first, and there were only 3 pages of math and 3 pages of writing. Aug 6, 2015 at 0:38
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You should go! It's not like you're going to some Girls-Gone-Wild kind of event... God will understand!

It will be a great opportunity to see what an academic conference feels like, and you will meet people. Don't worry that your work isn't going to win you a Fields Medal, nobody is expecting that anyway.

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    Ya, I did decide to go. Aug 6, 2015 at 3:47
  • Fantastic! I wish you a productive and enjoyable career. Aug 6, 2015 at 3:53
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Tell them exactly what you told us. Scheduling disasters happen, whether due to illness or unexpected conflicts. Someone else in your group might be able to attend in your stead, present for you, and report back; if so the airfare is the main problem and it may be possible to convince the airline to apply at least part of your ticket to the other person's travel.

If it's a completely "use it or lose it" ticket -- as the cheapest ones tend to be -- that's annoying but is a hazard your lab (or boss) accepts when they tell you to take that sort of fare. Usually it's a good bet, but occasionally something unexpected does happen and you lose the gamble... and that's embarrassing when it could have been prevented but not much more than that.

If there isn't anyone willing and able to cover for you.. well, at least you'll get a copy of the proceedings.

I don't have to tell you the lesson for next time, do I.

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  • Haven't bought a ticket yet :) Aug 6, 2015 at 0:28

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