Thursday, September 30, 2010


To a good friend who asked if I was high, “Yes, I am. I so am. I’m high on the weather, the picturesque views, the food, the cheese and ah, yes the wine “

YAY! Today is the last day of the conference. It was a great experience. It was nice to put faces to the big names in the field and actually get an idea as to what kind of people they really are. I always used to think that researchers are simple people but not anymore! They/We really are a complex set of people with different temperaments, just like anyone else.

The conference was also an eye opener. I always knew people work hard and I still think so. But now I can also see “science” in a different light. I can see the competition, the “need” to be famous, the dirty politics and of course the facades behind the goody-goody behaviors. I could clearly demarcate the scientific community into three categories:

1)   The Big Sharks: These are the already well-known scientists that poor graduate students like me ooh-aah about. They may be cool and composed but they can get down and dirty as soon as someone encroaches their areas. Not to say they wont do the same. They have their fingers in every possible pie (any project that is “hot”) and want a piece of the action everywhere.

2)   The Small-time Sharks: These are the not so well known scientists but want to get there. They try all possible tactics to get there too. They are at conferences looking for any possible ideas they may be able to poach. They will do all they can to get at people’s unpublished data and see if they can do something about it, to their own benefit of course.

3)   The last category is of course, the Nobody…poor old grad students like me, who don’t really have much of a say in the on goings. They gawk at the speakers and are awed by being in the same room as the great scientists.

And looks can be very deceptive. You can never tell who’s who in a meeting. The tiny little woman in that corner…no, she’s not a grad student. She is actually a big-time shark who can eat you up whole if she finds a flaw in your data. People actually want to turn and run if she stands up during the Q&A session. And the huge fierce looking guy sitting right in the front is actually a grad student. He just looks fierce but he’s harmless. But the small time sharks, you can actually recognize them by the cameras in their hands. In spite of several announcements that say “No photography”, they will take pictures of the slides with flash and all.

Yes, the conference was really an eye-opener. Good or bad, I’m in this for good.
Right now, I’m a nobody. Lets see where I’ll be in a few years from now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All work and no play

No matter how good the science or how interesting the presentations are, listening to talks from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm with some breaks in between is TIRING, to say the least ! And I am so brain-dead. Seriously, what were the organisers thinking??

Monday, September 27, 2010

Totally in awe!

I’m posting this just as soon as I managed to pick up my jaw from the floor.
Yeah, I am still at the conference and still feeling incredibly insignificant.
Some thoughts on today’s experience:
  • The weather was so amazing today. It took so much effort to get to the conference site without making a detour.
  • How the hell do some people get to be so incredibly smart?? It really beats me. Some of these scientists are amazing people, or should I say amazing thinkers (what kind of people they are?? I really can’t say). Their thought processes are really amazing. I know I’m saying “amazing” too many times, but that just gives you an idea about how amazing they are.
  • How the hell do some people get to be soooo good looking and sooo smart as well?? Some scientists can be damn good looking (total eye-candy). It’s a pity I couldn’t really concentrate on what they were saying for some time because of just that.
  • Some people are so so so smart. I’m so in awe. Can’t you tell? I was totally blown away by some of the work presented today. I wish that someday I could be half the scientist that these people are.
  • Was impressed by this Japanese student who presented his work to 1000 scientists from all over the world, inspite of speaking very little (read bad) English. He couldn’t understand what people were asking him but he was so cool and kept laughing at himself (together with the audience). I thought he had so much guts to do that. Really!
  • Some ideas presented today were really great. I could mention specifics but that may be too boring for some. How people can think of such things is really something I can’t fathom for the life of me.
  • Indians make great speakers. I thought the Indian scientists made great presentations and were incredibly smart too. I’m not biased when I say that today’s most impressive presenter was an Indian. It may sound silly but it makes me proud. 

Witnessed some great scientists present some great science. All in all, a very productive day!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back to Reality

“NEWSFLASH!! This is not your vacation. At least, not yet. You are here for a conference! Even if you are in Switzerland, you are here first to listen to these people talk about their work and contributions to research!” That’s what I was telling myself, sitting at the conference today where I got a steady dose of data and facts about breakthrough research and basically, reaffirmations that I am but a nobody.

I felt so small, sitting with the likes of Ralph Steinman and Ken Shortman. (For the uninitiated, these are the leading scientists working in my field of research). I was even breathing the same air as them. You would think it would be inspiring. Not so much! It's actually intimidating, scary even.

Will I ever be in the same league as them, or even come close? I don’t know. But right now I’m feeling so damn insignificant. How the hell am I going to present my work to these people. I just want to curl up and hide someplace where I won’t be seen for the rest of the conference.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Impressions

After dreaming about it for a long time, watching it on endless Karan Johar movies and contemplating for the last six months, I’m finally here!!! I’m in Switzerland! I’m not on vacation as I’m here on a conference but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Just landed here this morning. I’m supposed to be jetlagged but I don’t think I can sleep. I’m so excited!

Some random thoughts:

  • I had my first vision of snow (yeah, I’ve never seen snow before)I could see the snow on the Alps today but it’s still so far away. I will be going there soon, in about a week’s time. I can’t wait!
  • The weather here is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Anywhere you look, there’s a beautiful picture-perfect, postcard-view! That reminds me, I need to buy a few (postcards , not views)
  • My room in the hotel overlooks the Lake Lugano and It’s amazing to sit out and watch. I could do this for hours.
  • I can actually wear my Harvard Sweatshirt without having to take it off in a minute because I’m feeling hot.
  • I have been here for one whole day and I haven’t had a bead of perspiration.
  • There is SOOOO much time on my hands. Maybe I’m jetlagged and that’s why I can’t sleep too much but works for me.
  • The people here are so beautiful. The men are total eye candy. Even the women are so hot, even if I say so.
  • The dogs here are incredibly cute and there are so many of them. It seems like they are allowed anywhere, even on buses and in departmental stores!
  • The birds are fat, Trust me, a sparrow is twice the size of any sparrow I’ve seen.
  • The cheese is great and is present in every possible food you decide to eat. Actually, so is meat. I guess a vegetarian could live just on the cheese. But I wonder how the people here stay so fit.
  • There was a marathon here today. Felt good that I was watching instead of running it. J I guess I just answered my own question (on how people stay fit). People are actually running in sweatshirts! After running in Singapore, where I cant imagine running in anything but shorts and singlets, it’s amazing to think you can actually run and not feel hot in sweatshirts.

I will post pictures soon, just not today. I’ll be here for some time even after the conference is over. I hope I do get time to blog and share a little :)