Category Archives: idea

DC Part Deux: Really, there’s some sun. Probably.

Slept late, and barely kicked myself out of bed. Getting dressed revealed that somehow, I had lost my left glove while retaining my right. Interesting how the human mind can be fallible, but only by half.

Breakfast was continental-style – there is bread and toaster, butter, jam and other usual bits in the fridge. I limited myself to snagging some of my juice from the fridge, anticipating conference food. Said hello to the other resident who was awake, then headed out to hunt for the glove, retracing most of the path to Harris Teeter. No dice on the glove, so took the Metro from Pentagon City Station to Crystal City. Had to wander around unnecessarily outside – turns out the Metro is connected to the Crystal Gateway – but after finding a highlighter on the ground, got into the conference. A slight hiccup at the coat check, but was eventually pointed to upstairs. Only took a minute to claim to be me and get my package, and then I was off to the races!

Looking over my note, I’m starting to realise that you feel a lot smarter immediately after going to talk – looking at the notes I made afterward, most don’t exactly make as much sense anymore. Brilliant insights fade once you put them to objective tests – I guess I’m easily swayed by presentations. Gotta practice the old “sweat and think of at least three questions” thing they used to make you do in pre-university – these days I tend to coast along, nod my head and agree.

Still, came out of it with a broadened horizon – having my nose buried in bioinformatics the last year really made me forget all the other cool things you can do with computers – and this conference was only really about manipulating images. Only, of cousre being the delimiter for a huge area – you go from 2d to 3d to 3d + time to 3d + time+flow, from the scale of moving molecules between cellular compartments to single cells, to entire organs. All the fun effects of dealing with real data start coming in – everyone complaining about the noise in their data – to dealing with the ridiculous amounts of data – things start adding up when you have high resolution images (not so bad) multiplied by the depth of a 3D image (lots of slices) multiplied by multiple times per second … now how many seconds of info did you want? Some pretty fancy slice and dice image analysis techniques – I sure hope they’re already being used image analysis of SAGE and ISH data. Do I smell more ideas?

Downside of a conference, I discovered, is the total lack of time to do the usual tourist things — stuck in the hotel, 8am-6pm, and guess what — all those great museums (with free admission!!) tend to close at 6. Well, it wasn’t a complete bust — made a mad dash on the last day to the National Air and Space Museum, and got to wander around and look at the cool giant flying machines. The Slovenian cohort (Peter Rogelj and Andrea Jarc) both gave a thumbs up — actually, I had said goodbye to everyone and planned to go to the airport, but had a sudden change of mind and dashed to the Metro to go see something — anything touristy really. I ran into Peter on the platform, and he was great — found the museum, pointed out the Capitol building in the distance — Capitol is not the White House, but it’ll do — and then got yanked around as I dashed from exhibit to exhibit trying to see the most I could in the 30 minutes left before I absolutely-totally-had-to got catch my flight. Next time, I’ll have to make time to sneak out to the companion site out near Dulles airport, where the really big machines are stored.

Anyways, a good chunk of the conference was directly related to my research, I had lots of time to safely experiment with conference attendance experience optimisation. I quickly realised that the best way to get a feel for someone’s research is in front of a poster — you get one-on-one personal face time, and instant naswers to your questions. People tend to be less defensive and agreeable. And everything happens in about 5 minutes, so you can see tons and tons of posters in the usual hour and a half timeslot. Presentations are a completely different beast. Since things are longer, the results are more variable — when things are good, you’re in for a roller-coaster ride of information.

Anyways, for the first bit, I tried a couple tried and true techniques of choosing talks. There was the selection via title — the results were pretty variable, and I always get the feeling that I’m missing out on the big names. What I think is more reliable is making friends with intelligent people with specific interests, and letting them lead you to the tasty talks (initially successfully implemented via Kim Khalsa,  who turned out to also be related to the organisation bits.  Talk about lucking out and finding someone in the know!). Either way, I got the chance to see tons of great talks, and made sure I got a whole range of topics.

Oof…looks like I also forgot the usual aftermath of these things – namely, the chasing after money from the various people at UBC. Still, the couple seconds of fame and fortune, and the addition of a manuscript to my CV was definitely worth it.   Maybe I can use some of the experience and turn it towards CSCBC 2008…