String Notes Rotating Header Image

True confessions of a scientist

This is a string blog, so I try fairly hard not to talk about work here. Still, I think anyone who reads this regularly would agree that I work very hard sometimes. It may not be so obvious that I work reasonably hard most of the time, though I do. (And sometimes I’m a complete slacker, but I really hope that isn’t obvious.)

I’m in Madison right now, and it’s one of the working-very-hard times. I left my hotel at 7:30am, and just now got back at 10:30pm. Long day, and I’m tired. Still, there are compensations. This was the first full day of the conference, and I got to listen to many people tell me how wonderful I am. You see, I’m Program Chair of this conference, which means I’m in charge of the scientific sessions, and it’s very much like herding cats. Six months of herding 350 overeducated and opinionated cats, to be specific. This is the second time I’ve done it, and I’m good at it. It requires extreme organizational skills and a strong control-freak attitude, and I can provide both. It’s nice to be appreciated though.

I didn’t go to many talks today (somehow I’m kind of bored with the program, almost like I’ve spent the last six months looking at it), but I got most of my own talk done, plus another chunk of the major project that should have been done before I left for Madison.

The software I wrote is used for teaching multivariate statistics at the University of Wisconsin, a school I have no affiliation to (also used at Duke, but that’s unsurprising since I did my PhD there and worked with the prof who’s using it) and I have software groupies. (I didn’t know such a thing existed, but this would be the place to find it.) A random grad student I’ve never met came up to me and told me how much she used my software and for what a variety of projects. Then she asked me some very detailed questions about how particular things worked, and why they didn’t do exactly what she wanted, but the first part was fun.

I had a drink with a couple of world-famous big-name people in my field. We didn’t talk shop, but I would really like to discuss some things with one of them, since I’m relying heavily on his work, but it a way he may never have anticipated and might be entertained to hear about. Plus, he’s Australian, so the two of us are rarely at the same meetings. Hopefully I can corner him sometime in the next two days.

As program chair, I was an invited guest at a sponsored dinner for the student awardees. The point is to get the grad students to interact with the above-mentioned big names and other important people in their chosen field. I’m not a big name, but I do a lot of work for the society so I’ve become someone worth knowing (even beyond the software groupies). The dinner is nice, but extremely long. And, well, I may have drunk half a bottle of wine or so over the course of the evening. Working really hard does have some recompense.

Bonus: I got to knit during the after-dinner speakers.

Un-bonus: I got back to my room and my key wouldn’t work in the door. I had to go downstairs to the bar and ask the bartender to let me back in.

2 Comments on “True confessions of a scientist”

  1. #1 Laura
    on Apr 9th, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I’m glad there is some recompense. ;)

    Your key was one of those magnetic cards, wasn’t it? The three of us who shared a hotel room in Seattle had to have our keys fixed I don’t know how many times.

    How’s the knitting going? Is it the cabled one, or more socks?

  2. #2 Laura
    on Apr 9th, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    P.S. It’s cool you have software groupies as well as string groupies!