I have acquired a cat – so can I have my official internet membership now?
I’m going to let you in on a “secret”. Scientific conferences aren’t actually about science. Because you’re a good little scientist, you already know about all the latest advances in your field (because you do the reading (well, you download the papers and read the abstracts at least)) so the talks don’t say anything new. You should go to the talks that aren’t directly related to your field to expand your knowledge – but everyone just uses these sessions to check their e-mail (or draft blog posts). You haven’t actually seen your supervisor at a session, except the one that he chaired.
It is really all about “networking”. That translates to beer drinking if you are a student, or wine drinking, if you are an academic. The established academics pat each other on the back, complain about their useless students and plan future, unrealistic collaborations while charging expensive dinners to their grant credit cards. Students drink beer, complain about their useless supervisors and talk about anything but science, while trying to find the cheapest restaurant in town.
Of course, this is important because success in science depends more on who cowrote your paper than what is actually on it. And I’m not complaining – I had a lovely time “networking” over a few beers this week, and made some valuable connections. However, on the last day, we didn’t exchange e-mail addresses or phone numbers, but all became friends on facebook.
Now, while I’m not an avid facebooker, and keep my profile free of drunken photos, annoying applications and inappropriate comments, it still reflects me in a relaxed, social sense, not in a professional or scientific way. So, is it entirely appropriate for us, in an early stage of our careers, to be using facebook as our main communication tool to our colleagues and future collaborators, referees and reviewers? Do they need to know what music I like, what my friends write on my wall or any of the useless status updates? Or, is making these networks less formal going to encourage more frequent and relaxed communication and collaboration in the future?
There is nothing quite like waking up in a foreign country to an SMS from my good friend and “political correspondent”, Rob, telling me that we have a new Prime Minister.
What is even better is waking up to an SMS telling me that our new Prime Minister is Julia Gillard.
I don’t know whether her policies will be an improvement on KRudd’s, I don’t know whether she’s going to blow them all out of the water, as everyone hopes. What I do know is that I’m damn proud to have a female PM, especially one who has copped so much crap from the media for being unmarried, childless, red-haired and not-religious. These things don’t matter, (do you hear that newspapers? They DON’T MATTER). Gillard has shown herself to be clever and competent, and I hope she can keep it up.
As for Kevin Rudd, yeah, things started to unravel a bit this year. But he wasn’t all bad, and he didn’t deserve to be so brutally removed from office, (yeah, yeah, I know he stood down without a ballot. But under a lot of pressure…).
So I raise my glass of beer to Julia – may you smite Abbott in the election, get rid of internet censoring and do something about the environment.
Ah, the perks for doing a PhD. They are few and far between, but they make the 60 hour weeks, the stress, the constant awareness of your own inadequacies worth it.
I say this because I’m writing this from (not-so) sunny Europe. I’ve been sent over here to do some serious science, network and renew my enthusiasm for my (thus far) failing project.
Anyway, because I’m too busy eating, drinking and doing science, I won’t be able to post much over the next few weeks. Just warning you.
In other news, I’ve been absent for some weeks due to a deadly, deadly sinus infection that was not cured by me snorting vodka, (incidently, also not recommended by health professionals, or me) but by a series of antibiotics, tea and frequent naps. But I’m back now!
It is a beautiful Saturday today. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the zombies are wandering the streets (and you thought I was joking…). I am not outside, enjoying the weekend. I am in my lab, working. Because I’m a sad, obsessed PhD student.
So, while I sit in here, waiting for my samples to degas, I did what any normal person would do… I looked up some journal articles.
What did I find? Well, I found a paper that will change the lives of university students everywhere. No longer will we be forced to keep our habits quiet, for fear of judgement. No longer will we feel guilt for doing what comes naturally. No longer will we be oppressed by our demanding supervisors!
Because naps are good for learning, damn it!
Of course, this isn’t news, but this paper  by Wamsley et al shows that if you dream about what you’ve been doing, you’ll perform better at the task after your nap.
I take two things away from this:
1. All naps should be long enough for you to dream. Excellent.
2. Dreaming about my work isn’t necessarily a sign that I’ve been working too much. Right?
 Wamsley et al Current Biology; 20, 9, 1-6
A ten year old girl in Mexico was raped by her stepfather and is now 17 weeks pregnant… and they won’t let her have an abortion. Apparently, “the girl and the fetus are in good health”. Yeah, sure, but for how long? That girl is not old enough, physically or emotionally, to have a child. By denying her right to an abortion, they are putting her health at risk.
Someone should be stepping in and looking after that poor child. Her life matters too.