Last week, I went to visit Salve Regina University / Rhode Island for the Bioanlaytical Sensors Gordon Conference (translation: making devices to measure and understand biology stuff, to help fight diseases and things ). This is by far the best work-conference I have ever been on, even though the science was out of my specialty. I will do my best to explain:
In order to make it to the conference on time, I took an overnight flight to Boston / Massachusetts (arguably the most stupidly spelt state). I shared half my seat with a well built, leather jacket clad biker, who seemed very friendly. Although, unfortunately we did not become friends quick enough to let me sleep on his shoulder! The highlight of the journey was probably taking the train to Kinston train station in Rhode Island. It had a very western feel to it and was lovely and quiet at 7am on a Sunday, with just little robins for company.
So to give you some idea, Rhode Island is in the top right of the US:
The University is on the southwest coast of RI, right by the Atlantic Ocean and it’s very pretty. The middle brown building in the middle of this picture below is where we had our poster sessions:
This particular conference is fairly high profile, with about half the people attending being professors (though you would not guess it from the casual picture below), and everyone talking about their latest crazy ideas:
As I’m fairly new to research level biology, I was quite lucky to get accepted. I managed to employ two main faces during conversations, firstly, the “hmm, yes, I see, very science-y, have you considered science scince science?” face:
And of course, the “I hope you didn’t notice most of that going straight over my head” face:
There were some great posters and some mind blowingly good talks (for the scientists: Elizabeth Hillman, John Rodgers, Kevin Plaxco and James Ajioka), also, very interesting evening discussions in the bar.
One of the nice things about this particular conference is that everyone stays together in student halls. This means everyone eats all their meals together and you make friends fast. The food was absolutely 10/10 (for example, we had fresh lobster on the last day), but the rooms were… interesting. It has been a few years since I lived in student accommodation, and I loved it at the time… but it was strange going back to being Harry Potter and living in a cupboard under the stairs.
At least the outside looked very pretty, maybe that’s how they get you…
Another nice aspect about the Gordon conferences is that you do science talks and posters from 9 am till 9.30 pm, but get a 3h break in the middle of the day. This is great for the professors as most of them get about 1 week holiday a year, so this is like a backup holiday / work outing for them. This also meant we could explore Rhode Island / do team building in the day.
I’ll be honest, the first activity break I just went to bed (after 2 hours sleep the night before), but during the rest of the week I did manage to do a Boat trip around Newport harbor:
I also played football (Soccer) the day after Iceland knocked England out of the Euros (leading to many good jokes like the Italian professor diving, the German Postdoc pushing other guys of the ball, and every time I managed a pass / save, i’d get comments like “Hey maybe you should drop Roy Hodgeson a call, he could do with people who know the basics of Football”)
Best of all, I went for a swim in the sea with some Postdocs and Professors from around the world. It’s strangely nice to have swam in both sides of eth Atlantic Ocean, and given that Fort Collins is 15 hours from the sea, it was very refreshing.