Wednesday, January 7, 2009

That's so cool (but I wouldn't want to do it....)

First, a quick accountability note: I spent a solid 4-5 hours yesterday on the reagents. They're almost in shape to hand over. I would have spent more time, but yesterday I attended two great seminars, which brings me to today's post...

Our institute has a regular seminar series Thursday afternoons that brings international scientists to campus to tell us all about the latest greatest things they are working on. It's usually quite impressive, but more often than not the invited scientists work in fields related to those already present on campus. I'm sure it works the same in many places.... PIs tend to invite their friends and responds to invites from people they know. It makes sense. But still, every once in a while it's nice to get beyond the same topics and hear something completely new. So, a new seminar series started specifically to bring highly influential speakers from other scientific fields. Yesterday was the first of those lectures for 2009, and the topic was pretty distant.... a kind of molecular anthropology lecture. And the hall was PACKED. We were treated to a sweeping view of the field, from the methodology, to quality control, to large scale data set generation and bioinformatic analysis, to specific experimental models. It was fascinating. It was so cool. But I left the lecture hall with the unshakable knowledge that I wouldn't want to work on it myself.

I find this happens to me a lot. Some of the problems or questions that I find the most interesting in science just can't get me to the bench like others. I guess that's a good thing in that it confirms the fields I actually AM working on (or would like to enter for my next "real" postdcoc) are a better match for me. But if I sit down with a cup of coffee to read a journal or have to select which of the many seminars I can fit into my day, I'll nearly always pick something outside my field. I always feel like this can't be a healthy (or sustainable!) practice (but might actually be good practice if I eventually have a career in something like professional journal editing).


  1. I'm the kind of grad student who would love to attend talks and seminars just for the fun of it -- to learn something entirely different/new, to meet new people (speakers), to catch up with friends (and juniors) but unfortunately, I am only one of a handful of people who think along the same lines.

    Students these days usually don't attend talks/seminars organized on campus because they think that these events are time-wasters. They think that they will not benefit (in any way) from attending the talks/seminars.

    I think that as long as you leave the lecture hall with a new thought, or a new realization, or a new idea or with a new friend, that talk/seminar has benefited you :)

  2. That happens at our institute too sillyconservationist. They really only come out in droves for the exotic big shot people. I'd rather attend a seminar nearly any day than spend more time crunching data... plus, sometimes, they have cake :)