Last month, I was lucky to go on a work trip to Dublin / IRE, to present a poster at the 2016 MicroTAS conference. My boss Chuck, and my work friends Kat (not to be confused with wife-Cat) and Jaruwan also came along to present posters, and they were especially excited, having never been to Europe before.

Kat is in the middle, Jaruwan the back right, and the conference centre is the background

Our boss Chuck does lots of traveling to conferences, which is awesome as he can get extra people in to the fancy United Airlines members lounge at airports. It’s surprising how much of a difference it makes having comfy chairs, free wifi, free drinks and free food when waiting for a flight. Our original flight ended up being cancelled due to a hurricane down in Florida at the time, but Chuck managed to get us on the next flight AND get us upgraded seating (more legroom) which was very kind.

However, this is where it all went wrong…

For some reason, 50% of my flights for work conferences involve sitting by enormous people. I don’t know why, and the stereotypes of ALL Americans being obese are very untrue, but this is a genuine problem for me now. I think these two pictures below sum up how much space I had and my expression for the 8 hour flight that I couldn’t sleep on, as the person next to me was about 4 inches over our shared arm rest:

We arrived early on the Saturday morning and as the conference didn’t start till the Sunday night, I got to spend some time with Mum and Dad who flew over to see me. Unfortunately, they didn’t get my message about the flight being delayed, so they waited at the airport from a stupidly early hour of the morning before I actually arrived, but they were still happy to see me.

We did lots of exploring, and saw castles and parks, though the highlight was probably having an Italian dinner with them, my work friends and a Professor (Barry Lutz) from Washington DC. Barry, Barry and Margaret spent the whole evening learning about each other’s countries (such questions as why don’t you swim in Washington DC? Because the sea is too cold). I think Professor Barry was impressed that English Barry new about American football, and English Barry was impressed that professors are very easy to talk to and have good social skills.

After a few final coffee / pub breaks, they went on back to England and I went to the conference.

The conference itself was awesome. I saw some great talks, (particularly Sam Lunte (University of Kansas, USA) and Christine Klapperich (University of Boston, USA)) and successfully presented and defended my poster.

Posters edited for copyright reasons

I also got to do some outreach with local school kids from around Dublin. My experiment, was a simplified version of the pregancy test, where the student put samples (water or lemon juice) on a paper test strip and if the sample turned orange (lemon juice pH reaction), they were ‘pregnant‘.

Even slightly grumpy Irish teenagers think it’s fun to play with crayons, paper and lemon juice to make paper-based microfluidic devices

The first group of students were all 15 year old boys and all accidently put lemon juice on their test strips, and looked quite scared / unimpressed when I informed them they were all pregnant. I wish you could see the looks on their faces, it was very funny.

We did lots of socialising with different students and professors from around the world in the evenings after the conference. My two highlights are probably taking some Americans and South Africans out for a proper English curry, and getting kicked out of the famous Temple bar at approx. 2 am due to them closing early, whilst we wanted to carry on drinking whiskey and chatting, followed by post-drinking ice-creams and biscuits.

We also met up with David, a previous student of Chuck’s at the conference, and did some great sightseeing, including a whiskey tour,

… a visit to an Irish pub, run by a man from Bristol that served Fort Collins beer,

… a visit to a nice old cathedral,

… and dinner by the canal at sunset

All in all, a cracking conference / holiday.


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