10 March 2007

Back from NSF

Unexpected fact: The outside main floor of the National Science Foundation building has a Quiznos and a bagel shop.

Despite the ugly early start for my flight to the NSF, everything went about as smoothly as could be hoped for. I got there about on time. I got to have lunch at Ruby Tuesday (which we don't have locally, but see ads for all the time).

I got my PocketPC successfully set up for NSF wireless internet access – in fact, the staffer who help me told me she had fun doing it, because she'd never tried to set up their wireless system on a Pocket PC before. I got a tiny bit lost, because the initial poster session was not on the room written on my badge, but again, found the starting poster session in time.

The featured speaker at dinner, Elaine Seymour, was very good, very thought provoking. And just to prove that the scientific community is way too small, met someone at dinner and found we had one degree of separation between us: he knew someone in our department, my buddy Fred.

I never sleep well in hotels, particularly the first night, so I wasn't real pleased that the next day started early and went long. But heard quite a few important things, and had no shortage of things to think about. Another keynote speaker, Tyrone Hayes, was awesome. Although he said to me later he is normally a "PowerPoint maniac," he made absolutely the right choice in ditching all that and delivering a fairly personal talk about his experience being a minority in research, and some of his success in mentoring minorities in research.

After the afternoon sessions finished, I just walked around some of the stores in a nearby mall, and ran into a few workshop participants for dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery. (They'd been told there was a Macaroni Grill in the mall, but it had shut down!), and ended up talking with several of them in the hotel bar for even longer after getting back to the hotel.

It was really a stupidly long day. But in the morning, I was able to find a place with good croissants for breakfast, which I appreciated. It's so hard to find good croissants in southern Texas...

And since getting back, I've been trying to get this undergrad research program up and ready to run. Many meetings, many emails, many things to plan. I'm quickly finding that I have to be thinking about things that are years away, which is not easy for me. So I look forward to receiving the massive wall calendar / planner I asked for.

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