Day: June 6, 2016

Notes from the Road 06-07-16

— Man, I love driving. I think I should increase the distance which I decide to drive (as opposed to fly) when going to a conference. How’s 1000 miles?

— Pro-tip: When driving in the middle of the night, find a truck and just stay behind it. It shields you from the wind and rain and helps with poor visibility, let alone with the creepiness factor when you are the only car on a poorly lit road.

— The conference has been all that I want in a conference thus far. Great talks, plenty of room for discussion, conference venue close to lodging and food, good food (included in the registration), a somewhat secluded location that further facilitates interactions among attendees.

— This particular conference places extraordinary weight on the free exchange of ideas. There is a lot of interaction among attendees in the morning and evening sessions and the afternoon poster session. All the face time is leaving me completely exhausted, so the free time in the early afternoon (where we are supposed to mingle further) I spend — napping. I am a total baby. Or an introvert, expending a lot of energy to simulate being more extroverted than I am.

— I got to see my former postdoc (FP) who is midway through the tenure track and doing great. We had a nice evening yesterday catching up with some local beer and peanuts. I am so happy to see he is well supported by his department and generally quite content, both professionally and personally.

— Which got me thinking… How proud do I get to be of FP as my intellectual offspring? I know that FP’s PhD advisor gets to claim that his PhD graduate is now a prof. But in reality, FP would not have been competitive for faculty positions at all without the 4-year, very productive postdoc he had with me. I have one former PhD student who’s doing a postdoc elswehere and who I think will eventually be faculty; do I get to be proud of him? Or does his postdoc advisor get most of the credit for the success? Or do we all (PhD advisors and postdoc advisors) all get to be proud and brag about our intellectual offspring doing well?  But even in the eyes of the NSF, FP was “just” my postdoc; NSF considers a PhD advisor-advisee relationship to be a lifetime conflict of interest, while the postdoctoral equivalent only for  5 years. So PhD advisors are forever, postdoc advisors are chopped liver?

— There’s this upper echelon of scientists who don’t seem to operate like the rest of us plebs do. When I look at the literature, I read and cite broadly, regardless of who the authors are. These creme de la creme folks seem to only look at what their equally stationed buddies do (they know everyone worth knowing, amirite?), so the work outside of this network is completely invisible to them. Even if you do good work, careful and thorough, you cannot get them to notice you because you are inherently not noteworthy (if you were noteworthy, they would already know you; the fact that they don’t means you are not worth knowing).

— Maybe you don’t penetrate the in-crowd, but there are plenty of other smart and hard-working people who do good work, who do look at the literature, and who will find your results, appreciate them, and build upon them. So put your head down and just do good work. And keep reminding yourself that we should really all be in this for the science, and that science does eventually self-correct.

— Some people give their talks titles that are a complete snoozefest. I almost missed a couple of presentations because I thought they’d be totally irrelevant to what I do (no abstracts). It turns out, they were both great and relevant, but poorly named.

— It’s “how something looks” or “what something looks like”; it’s NOT “how something looks like.” Ugh. This is one of my pet peeves; I heard one speaker use “how something looks like” 5+ times in a talk today. Ugh ugh ugh.

— Note to self: Never again go to a conference where you are not genuinely interested in a topic. It’s a waste of time and money. In contrast, a conference like this one, where I really am passionate about the topic, is a fountain of excitement and inspiration. Even if I have to nap midday, like a toddler, in order to process everything.