Monday, August 11, 2008

Uh, Welcome Back?

Well, I did it. I survived my week of forced socialization with my peers (it was even kinda fun). Those of you who have read previous posts, you'll be glad to know that I did not (only) hide in my hotel room, but did some good networking. I have a tentative invite to give a talk at a major university, students are already contacting me to join my lab, and I feel like I have a solid feel on the research pulse of my field for the next year. Oh, and I ate some fantastic Ethiopian cuisine! What more can a girl want from a meeting?

The meeting was the smallest I have seen in almost a decade - only 3000 people. It felt small....and comparison to other meetings. I suspect the small was a combination of people not being excited about Milwaukee (though I really enjoyed it as a conference location) and the higher travel costs. The subdued part....I'm not sure, but I suspect it may be correlated with the fact that there was a lot of worry about NSF funding rates which apparently hit a new low of ~7% this past cycle. I talked to a former NSF program officer who talked about how exceedingly depressing it was to be making funding decisions under those doubt! As I have mentioned before, it isn't a job I would want!

I also got some good fodder for future blog postings, so in the not so distant future look for such gems as: "When you ask current students of a lab that you want to join what it's like to be in that lab, actually listen to what they say", "When the peer-review system breaks (and I think it will), then what?", and "The Young and the Restless: why are so many assistant professors jumping to new universities?".

Finally, for those of you who enjoyed the academic bully posts, I caught up with a number of my former academic bullies. Only in one case was this because I couldn't find a lamp-post to hide behind in time. Strangely they have mostly mellowed with time (or perhaps my miracle academic bully serum has resulted in permanent 'remission' in my presence). My favorite moment occurred when one of the bullies who tried to force his way on to a project of mine and "permanently borrowed" one he was collaborating on with General Disarray complained about people doing that to him. Made me believe in Karma all over again!

So, hyper-stimulated by our time in Milwaukee and antsy to get back to work on our research, General Disarray and I came in early this morning only to have our extra morning time (and motivation) eaten by a bewildering array of university-level clusterfucks that should never have happened, are not our fault,  we have no control over, but take substantial time from us to fix. Sigh, welcome back. I'm sure my love-hate relationship with my university is something I will spend more time on in the not so distant future. For now, I will simply say that Professor Chaos is exhausted but back on-line. Thanks to everyone who left comments while I was away, I'll make my way through them shortly and start making the rounds to my favorite blogging haunts! I'm sure I've missed some great stuff while I've been away!


Nat Blair said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a good meeting.

But ugh, 7%! NIH isn't much better, but it's better than that. How sucky is that!

Anonymous said...

I just learned another networking trick - totally by accident. A guy in my field jumped to rockstar status recently. We've never met but I have reviewed past papers of his. With all the press coverage he got and a reaaaallly nice paper, I thought I would email him a congrats message. He replied with an invite for me to give a dept seminar at his school! My first invited non-job talk!

So, email some of the people you met or went to their talks and tell them how great their talk was, or if you just read a paper of theirs or saw them on the news, let them know. It's definitely an ego boost for them, but it go a long for collaborations and invites for you.
Best wishes.