Presenting your work at national and international conferences is a major part of being a researcher in general and a PhD student in particular. This time I got the opportunity to visit the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu and present some results from an EcoChange project that I’ve worked on at EEMiS about spatio-temporal data of marine bacteria in the Baltic Sea.
When I present at conferences I’m always nervous but I have never been as nervous as I was this time. I don’t know if it was all the clever American big-shot scientists that contributed or if it was the big thing about being in Hawaii on the other side of the world at a huge conference. Maybe it was that I didn’t know how my presentation would be met by the audience since I use motion-charts like Hans Rosling and music to make it more alive and fun (Click here). Anyway, I said what I was supposed to say and I got really nice comments and response afterwards, especially by the PhD students and post-docs of the scary American big-shots and others thought it was fun and wanted to learn how to use the motion-chart.
Overall it was a nice conference and a nice setting but few “news”, except for a “new” method called oligotyping that could potentially be used for our data and unmask differences in sequence data shadowed by the amount of sequences and the programs interpreting them. Some important lessons were learned, for example that it is important (even for senior scientists) to find and read older literature before getting supposedly new fascinating results and before making conclusions about them. Also, other senior scientists apparently feel somewhat attacked even after years of data and now felt the need to make analogies to dinosaurs as defense. In other words, even senior scientists are sensitive souls and are under as much pressure or more than PhD students (even though I believe more tears fall off the face of PhDs). As I said the conference contained very little “new” science. The last couple of years have been very “We used this fancy new sequencing machine to squeeze out *insert number here* billion of sequences and found bacteria x here and bacteria y here” with few or non-existing conclusions and ecological implications for the ecosystem. Many talks where like this as were posters and maybe it will still take time for the sequencing efforts to stabilize and until it’s not about the numbers anymore, but instead about what really matters; the ecology. I also kept busy by networking, perhaps the most important thing for a PhD student during a conference and especially towards the end of the PhD when new career steps need to be considered. But even more important is the inspiration you get and the feeling that you want to go home and write, write, write and produce science! And even though you will likely have to defend your research and make analogies to dinosaurs and read all those papers so you can produce actual new data and have a few tears, it is worth it, because god damn our science is beautiful!
ps. Hawaii is also quite beautiful: