What I Learned at Le Moyne (or The Best Tweetup Ever)

Your loyal correspondent was honored and amused last week to participate in a “Careers in Science” symposium at Le Moyne College.  I was tickled to share a forum with the super-amazing Dr. Isis and the obviously-not-as-amazing yet oddly charming Joshua Drew. After flight delays gave me an ulcer the size of Oklahoma, I got to the talk in the nick of time to hear the end of Josh’s talk before giving my 20 minutes. The auditorium was full and there was even a full overflow room.  The organizers of the symposium Lara DeRuisseau and Hillary McManus deserve a round of applause for a hugely successful symposium that is certain to become a recurring event.

I’ve never given a research talk to an audience of undergraduates before, and their wide-eyed enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air. It made me wistful and realize how grim the intensity of academic medicine has become.  Research is certainly a struggle everywhere, funding is a disaster, but the youth at Le Moyne were an inspiration.  Meeting them afterwards in the pub was a pleasure. Thanks guys.

Jeramiah Ory joined Hillary McManus, Lara DeRuisseau, Joshua Drew, Isis, and I for dinner, which was a riot.  We talked seriously about research and profanely about research and about how to stay in touch with spouses while working and kids together take up 25 hours/day.

Sidebar:  In a particularly painful and ironic goof, given the diversity in science theme of the symposium, I referred in a message to Dr. McManus as “Ms.”  Dr. Isis found out about this and made sure that my faux pas was known by one and all and it became a running joke.  (I’m sorry again Hillary!!)

I finally met Dr. Isis, with whom I have been collaborating over the interwebz for PubStyleScience.  Readers, she is even more amazing in person.  What hit me hard this trip was how much respect I have for the work she and her sci blogging colleagues do who pour passion and intensity into building an on-line support community in addition to the hours they work in the lab on their own careers (and with their families)!!.  Josh’s work itself has outreach and teaching as major goals. Also someone to admire. The theme that emerged from this trip for me was the importance of community to the scientific enterprise.  Josh summed up well during the question and answer session: it’s about sustainability, about doing our utmost to leave the world a little better than how we found it.

Coda:  On Sunday, Hillary ran a half marathon (good job, Doctor!), Lara, Josh, Isis and I ran the marathon relay.  Lara ran the first leg, Isis the second, me third followed by our fast-as-heck-fishboy as our anchor.  When it came time to run, the weather was perfect, but as we waited to start it was cold, cold, cold.  Also, our hotel breakfast hadn’t opened by the time we left, so we had gotten to the race without food, without coffee.  Isis and Josh waited along country roads, cold, hungry and caffeine-free.  Through no fault of my own, my handoff station was in town, so I went in to the B’Ville Diner (established 1950) and had pancakes and coffee and waited in the warmth.  I going to keep this secret, except Josh tweeted a picture of his desolation, so I felt compelled to tweet back a picture of my pancake stack and steaming mug of java.  Boy, my teammates turned on me quick!  It was hysterical.  And, with the exception of Isis getting stranded at the end of her race and nearly succumbing to frostbite, the race was a huge success, great fun and wonderful way to cap off a relaxing and thought-provoking weekend.