Thermostat

It’s one of the things I think I like about America. The seasons change quickly and clearly. I think I could point to my calendar and say “That was the day we finished summer and moved into fall.” One week I lay uncovered in my bed at night, coated with a thin layer of sweat. Getting to sleep during summer is an act of exertion in itself: I’d occasionally move onto the cool wooden floor at 1am to re-try. One week later (or so it seems) I’m snuggled deep under my thick duvet. We’re now in autumn.

***

The ACS conference in Philly went well for me. The one thing I didn’t do beforehand – which I really should, and can’t be the only person who should – was cut my toenails. Scientists at conferences have to squeeze into fancy shoes. You then proceed to cover several miles on foot over the course of 4-5 days rushing between sessions at the inter-galactic conference venue. Some of the halls you can barely see the other side of! A single rogue serrated toenail pressing into its neighbour can wreck havoc upon your gait and in fact your whole enjoyment of the conference experience.

I presented my research in a ~15 min talk early on Sunday morning. Attendance wasn’t too bad, and some folk came up to me later and said they’d enjoyed it. So, thank you to those people: I appreciate your taking the time to tell me (as would most graduate students).

Clearing my schedule of that key obligation first thing left me able to stay busy throughout the rest of the conference. I managed to chat to several folk at the Expo in a bid to tackle my most pressing career questions. I saw a lot of cutting-edge research from the hottest researchers in my field. I fitted in lunches and coffees with my SciFinder Future Leader friends. I attended a feedback panel on an ACS product, which was an always-welcome chance for me to talk at lengths and get paid for voicing a steady stream of opinions. I know that I need to attend a smaller conference next summer. You can’t engineer much low-key intimate networking at these behemoth events: everybody is either rushing around or crashing someplace quiet due to exhaustion.

Still. I came away with fresh enthusiasm and motivation to push on through the next 2 years of the PhD. Seeing other grad students present talks helped me calibrate. What do I admire about their research? What do I feel is missing from my own work when I see theirs? With 2 years I have enough time to make corrections, so it isn’t an exercise in frustration.

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