Traveling with colleagues and students to one of the major scientific meeting in our field.
Year after year, one word come to mind: exciting!
“Practice is the best of all instructors”
Publilius Syrus (Roman author, 1st century B.C.)
Back from the AAPM scientific meeting, and kudos’ to the organizers for an excellent meeting. Over the past few years, they have set-up a “Best in” category regrouping the 5 highest scored abstracts in each 3 broad categories of the meeting. Not only do they get oral presentations but they also deserved a special poster viewing session. An extremely interesting and exciting session!
Our group is well represented at this year AAPM meeting. 2 Faculty and 7 graduate students for a total of 11 oral presentations and 2 posters.
For a number of these students, it will be their first experience presenting at such a big event (over 3000 participants). Also for many of them, it will be their first scientific presentation in English. Hours of preparation and rehearsing for 5 minutes (snap oral) or 8 minutes (regular oral) presentations. While, I do tell them that the shorter the talk the more time (usually many hours!) is needed to select and organize the visual materials (aka slides), they do not realize it until we do the general repetition during our weekly group meeting.
For each talk, we can spend between 10 to 30 minutes going over the slides, suggesting modification, addition, removal, asking questions such as: what are you try to say? What is your main message? What do you want the audience to remember from this or that slide, …
Of course, senior grad students have it easier as they already know what to expect and prepare their presentations accordingly 😉
For my friends and colleagues in the medical field, see you in Indy.
I realized it has been sometime since the last post (over a month in fact). Well during that time, I traveled over 50 000 kilometers. That is right, it is more than the equivalent of a long trip across the globe at the level of the equator (25% more in fact!). Before getting into the details, let me step back and explain where this is coming from.
Research is viewed as a competitive venture. At each point you have to prove yourself, your ideas and projects. Most of the time, this is done via reviews by your peers and, sometimes, justification to your administrators!
- Granting agencies run “competitive” funding programs in which your project or program get to be peer-reviewed, scored and financed or rejected (with various levels of feedback).
- Manuscripts are peer-reviewed, sometimes going through multiple rounds before they get published (or rejected).
- Conference abstracts / papers are peer-reviewed before being accepted at the various scientific meetings, either as oral presentations (the minority) or posters.
- Getting the best students is a competition between you and your colleagues in your department.
- Getting promoted to associate and full professor is also in itself a competitive process involving a review process.
If you ask, most researchers will tell you that the grant part is the tough one, takes a lot of time and for most program is met with relatively low success rates (quite often below 20% or 1 grant written in 5 (or worst) being financed.
There are however perks in conducting a successful research project or program. The first one is the fun and excitement of being at the front-front of your field, driving it and as a side effect (for me and my students at least) getting to play with the latest technologies. The second one is certainly the trill of having young scientists progressing, graduating and applying their knowledge, know-how in industry, hospitals, teaching and so on. Conversely, having these persons to interact with, pushing you to discover new things (even when it is only tweeter or Facebook. Yeah sometimes it does feel like I am old!). The other category are being accepted for presentations at meetings and getting to go. This tends to be a big thing for students… but also for the supervisor.
Presenting at a scientific meeting is the reward for having spent extra hours in the lab or in front of a computer to validate this experiment or that specific result. It also provide a new level of stress, that of presenting your new result or idea in front of an audience of specialists and survive! The bonus here is that you get to refine you message afterward, do a few more measurements or simulations. The likelihood that someone in that room (if you are going to a key meeting) will be a reviewer on the ensuing manuscript is quite high in the end.
In the past months, I have had the chance to present our works in New Orleans (USA), Geneva (Europe), Melbourne (Australia) and finally, Philadelphia (USA). Some of these were invited talks i.e. my peers across the globe finding works we have done interesting and cutting-edge enough to have me as invited speaker or plenary speaker at their meetings. I take this last form of scientific dissemination of works as a pat in the back, an open congratulation that we did something good, exciting and useful in our field.
Notice, I used the “we” in the previous paragraph and not “I.” This is because in these presentations I never forget that getting from an initial idea to the final result involve numerous iterations and works of many, especially students, postdoc and colleagues depending of the type of projects.
So this is what happen since my last post. I also had the chance to visit CERN while in Geneva. So look-out for the dedicated blog post on “big science.” I am leaving you with a few travel pictures. One does not do some many kilometers without taking one or two days off to look around – another perk of the job 😉
Left to right (click on each to get the full resolution): Geneva, ATLAS detector at CERN and a view from Gruyère medieval castle.
Left to right: Melbourne river-view, Graffiti alley, the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road by mid-afternoon.