Conferences, seminars, and journal clubs, oh my!

I’ve heard a lot of people say that travelling is one perk of being in science, referring to the travelling done for multi-day conferences. I think I disagree more than I agree. Conferences usually have tight schedules, and there’s not much time for exploring a new place, unless one sacrifices some scheduled talks or takes additional days off after the conference is over. When I think of travelling for ‘fun’, I imagine spending a few weeks sampling bits and pieces of a foreign place at a peaceful pace… but, usually, conferences involve sitting in overly air-conditioned rooms, listening to research talk after research talk, scarfing down not-too-healthy food, scrambling from room to room, and tracking down a few (potentially) interesting posters in giant venues, a la ASM 2011, in New Orleans:


I coudn’t resist taking that picture from the balcony that overlooked the poster “room”. In short, conferences are kind of crazy and hectic — and ASM is especially crazy because it involves so many people.

All that being said, I really, really like conferences. I guess I like science discourse — even when I can’t contribute in a meaningful way. I am puzzled by (and sort of suspicious of) people who don’t invest time in meetings, seminars, and journal clubs. Obviously, these can get dry… but still. I guess I’m constantly learning new things that I think I should know, or things that I’m doing or have done wrong, that I find these things useful. Also, I guess it just seems like doing science without doing all of this other stuff is like… painting in a room without immersing oneself in the ¬†world one is trying to paint. You could still be a great painter, but that behaviour somehow seems incongruous with the love of the art.

Anyway, speaking of conferences, my lab is going to CSM this year. My supervisor sent us all some advice on how to make posters, and I wanted to share it because it was good advice as well as entertaining. I was pretty proud of my poster for ASM (design-wise, not results-wise), but I think now that it had too much text:


I’ll have to work on that. Live and learn. (And do science, and make time to enjoy the other science that is in the world. And paint?)