Category Archives: SfN

Introduce people to each other!

My most awkward experience at the Society for Neuroscience meeting was the following: I was checking out posters and walked into one of our collaborators. I wanted to have his input on my work so I showed him some of my data and asked him what he thought. Before he had finished another person from the same field showed up. He’s a friend of the collaborator, but I also know him because he was at my old university. So we talked for a bit about how things were going, but I was still sort of waiting for our collaborator to finish what he had to say about my data. Next, another big shot in the field showed up and said hi to the two men I was talking to. They slapped each other on the back and started talking. I was kind of waiting for either the collaborator or the guy from my old university to introduce me but that didn’t happen. And I now realize that I should just have introduced myself, but they kept talking and I didn’t really know when to say something so in the end I said nothing. I was still kind of hoping to finish the conversation with the collaborator, but after some time it felt like I was obviously not part of the conversation anymore. I excused myself, left and kept feeling pretty awkward and regretted that I hadn’t said anything. 
So the point of this story is that it’s a small gesture to introduce people to each other, but that it makes a huge difference in how you make people feel. I’m glad that my advisor is really good at this and has introduced me to a lot of people he knows in science, and I try to always introduce people to each other too, because it just sucks to feel so left out.


Filed under meeting, networking, neuroscience, SfN

Slutty secretaries

Why is it that many girls feel they need to dress like slutty secretaries when presenting their posters at scientific meetings? A girl I know who normally wears jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt to the lab has a designated poster presenting outfit, which consists of a pencil skirt, high heels and a button down shirt that is supposed to show just a bit too much cleavage. No wonder you think people are looking at your boobs instead of at your name badge
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Just look around when you’re checking out the posters at SfN (or any other conference for that matter) and count the girls who are wearing their slutty secretary outfit.
You may wonder what I will wear when presenting my poster? For sure something that will match the colors in my poster. I’m thinking my green short dress (not too short, and not too much cleavage), grey leggings and grey nail polish (don’t forget to have your nail polish match your poster!) and my new boots.


Filed under outfit, poster, SfN

To a conference in baby-detach mode

At last year’s SfN BlueEyes was still very little and portable, so I stuck him in a wrap and brought him with me on Saturday and Sunday. This year’s SfN is going to be the first time that I’ll be away from him for 5 (FIVE!!) nights. I don’t think I’ve ever had more ambivalent feelings about anything. On one hand I’m super excited to go to SfN, travel by myself without having to watch and entertain BlueEyes, see friends and science and be able to hang out, but on the other hand the idea of missing him is almost physically painful. And then there’s my worry whether Dr. BrownEyes is going to be okay taking care of BlueEyes by himself for five nights. At least the freezer is full of milk so I’m pretty sure they will be fine.
So, I’m very excited to go to SfN, mainly because it is in New Orleans this year. The last time that happened was just before I started as a graduate student, and the whole time in grad school I kept hearing all these awesome stories about SfN in NOLA, as the city is lovingly called. Back in grad school, going to SfN was a very big deal, first because it was so far away for us, and thus much more expensive to go, but also because my advisor only allowed us to go if we could present data from a paper that was already submitted somewhere, because he was always afraid we would get scooped at SfN.
So what else do you need to know? Doc Beccaand Scicurious have excellent posts with tips for surviving SfN so I’m only going to add to that that what I usually do at SfN when I don’t know where to go is to stroll around the posters in the hopes of meeting people I know or unexpectedly seeing posters I’m interested in.
Also, RXNM has four posts about where to eat in NOLA, go check itout!
And my fellow blogger and electrophysiologist TheCellularScale is one of SfN’s neurobloggers, so go read there to hear all about the latest neuroscience.
And last but not least, this year is going to be my first time going to SfNBANTER!


Filed under drinking, eating, meeting, SfN

The relevance of my research

The other day one of the undergrads in our lab said that ze didn’t get what the relevance was of the research that I am doing. At first I was kind of annoyed by this, but later I started thinking about the relevance of my research and how to better convey this during lab meetings perhaps. Not to go into too much detail about what I do, I think it’s enough to say that I use animal models to study aspects of psychiatric disorders. And to be honest: on a daily basis I find it much more interesting to find out little pieces of information about how the brain works, then to find the cure for depression for example. But I do realize that to the large public, most funding agencies and to the undergrad in our lab the latter is more important.
But some days I realize extra how important it is that we do research. One of those moments was when Glenn Close talked at SfN in 2010. She talked about how several members of her family were suffering from psychiatric diseases and how this affected their lives. It may have been because I was pregnant, but I was very moved by her presentation and the fact that all those thousands of neuroscientists were there realizing what they are working for. (I know this sounds extremely cheesy, but remember people that I was pregnant and very easily moved to tears).
Yesterday night was another one of those moments. A couple of colleagues and I went to a psychiatric hospital to play bingo with the people who live there. This was initiated by the church that one of my colleagues goes to, but we are planning to do it more often with the lab now too. Before we went we were all kind of nervous; what was it going to be like and what were the people going to say or do? It’s awkward realizing that you can talk about psychiatric disorders on a daily basis, and write in papers what a devastating illness it is, but almost never see an actual patient.
I got there kind of early yesterday and the psychiatric hospital looked a lot different than I thought it would: it was more like a college campus with small buildings here and there instead of a real hospital. It started to get dark and it was quiet and kind of eerie. After everyone had got there and we went inside, the place looked a lot like the psychiatric ward in “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. It was a pretty old building and we gathered the people in their dining hall, which had very simple tables and chairs. The people were very happy and excited that we were there, and immediately it wasn’t scary anymore; we started talking to some of them about normal everyday things. Other just sat and stared. 

The reason that we were playing bingo with them is that it is an excuse to give them simple things. Apparently if you are in a state psychiatric hospital, you don’t get toiletries other than hand soap (so no shampoo, no deodorant, no tooth paste) and you barely get any clothes. Many of these people didn’t get a lot of visitors to bring them these things. So we played bingo with them so that they got these things as prices. And we ate cheese puffs with them, because many of them didn’t have enough teeth to eat other snacks. It was both great and sad to see how happy they were with tooth paste, deodorant and our old clothes. And it made us realize that this is what we do our work for: to understand how these people develop psychiatric disorders, and more importantly to maybe one day develop a cure for them.


Filed under relevance, science, SfN, society

Musings on pseudonymity

Today I got an email asking if I wanted to write for the Guest Blogge at Scientopia, and I was really excited about that. I haven’t been blogging for that long and it’s really cool to me that people read my blog and apparently like it too. When I first started blogging Dr. BrownEyes said that it was all nice that I wanted to do that, but that I was probably going to stop blogging after a couple weeks. He said that because I usually don’t finish stuff; my parents’ house is full of unfinished crafts projects and in that respect it’s a small miracle that I finished my PhD. I also really didn’t feel like finishing child birth but it seemed like there wasn’t really any other way at the time.
So I was almost as excited about this email from Scientopia as about an email saying that a paper is accepted, but quickly realized that I couldn’t dance on the table in the lab because nobody here knows that I write this blog. So I told Dr. BrownEyes who (to my knowledge) is the only one who knows who I am and he was happy for me.
But both this occasion and the impending SfN meeting made me think about using a pseudonym. Because if I want to go to a tweetup at SfN what am I going to say to the people that I am with? Anyway, so I asked on twitter how other people handle this and how many people know who they really are. The answers varied from zero to lots and lots, so different people handle this whole pseudonym thing quite differently. This in turn made me realize again that obviously I can think that nobody knows who I am, but maybe people do. And I guess that’s the lesson for today: that I shouldn’t write anything that I don’t want to say to someone’s face.


Filed under blogging, SfN, twitter

To a conference in baby-attach mode

Last year’s society for Neuroscience meeting was right when I went back to work after my maternity leave. And since I had patched a whole bunch of cells while very pregnant, I even had something to present there. The meeting was right around the corner from where I live, which is why I decided that even though BlueEyes was only 4 months old, the whole family was going to the meeting (and in this case, with meeting I mean the actual science-part, and not so much the social and drinking part). So on Saturday and Sunday I put BlueEyes in a baby wrap (Girasol Chococabana for those of you interested), and walked around the conference.

Something like this, plus a couple thousand posters in the background

SfN turned out to be very baby-friendly, since they even had a specific room for infant care, where you could nurse and change your baby. The only disadvantage was that this was kind of far away from the poster hall, so after I had checked out a poster or two I had to walk back there to nurse a hungry baby or change a diaper. Oh well, most people walk around the poster hall to meet people they know instead of actually look at the posters anyway, right? A major unexpected disadvantage was that when you show up at someone’s poster with a baby attached to you, they automatically assume that you’ve come to show your cute baby instead of ask a serious science question. So not much science talk for me that weekend…

On Monday BlueEyes went to his usual daycare, and I traded the baby-in-wrap for my breast pump. This was potentially even bulkier and certainly more annoying to drag around all day. The same sort of thing as before happened where I would check out a bunch of posters (at least now I got to ask science-questions and have people answer them), and then have to walk back to the infant care room to pump milk. And after I presented my own poster I realized that whoever thought of four hour poster sessions had probably never lactated him- or herself….
A last thing to note is that the night after we took BlueEyes to SfN, he had his longest night sleep so far (a 6 hour stretch of sleep!). And mind you, this was in November… So I guess nothing puts our baby to sleep like a couple 1000 neuroscience posters!


Filed under baby, babywearing, neuroscience, pumping milk, SfN, sleep