Friday, May 11, 2007

Drunk dancing scientists

I’m attending a conference this week. Yes, I am one of those people who stands at a booth trying to make sure that I get something back for all the free pens I give away. At this conference that means simply talking to delegates to see what kind of work they are doing; this is our first venture into this particular field and it’s primarily an information-gathering exercise.

I was going to post about the conference experience as seen from an exhibitor’s point of view. However, a sore head puts that task beyond my current capabilities. The reason for this minor incapacity is the infamous conference social event.

The conference social is an interesting experience. The best ones I’ve been to were as a PhD student, at small meetings when my boss was thousands of miles away and I’d had the chance to meet lots of other delegates. These days I travel with colleagues and have to be on my best behaviour*, which gives me an opportunity to observe that fascinating species: the drunk dancing scientist.

Last night’s affair was an open air seafood buffet (with open bar) at a pedestrianised shopping area just off Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills. It was one of the better conference socials I’ve ever been to, no doubt due to big pharma sponsorship. The wine was flowing, people were mingling, and a live band was playing.

How to describe the dancing? The professorial types letting their hair down and flinging their embarrassed junior colleagues around the dance floor… old friends at their annual gathering, all
dancing like Elaine Benes… the crowd of young, social PhD students whose bosses are thousands of miles away…

Any of these people can take a free pen today, no questions asked. You can’t put a price on that kind of entertainment. Besides, I’m probably not up to detailed conversations about science this morning. Thank goodness for a later start today – a true sign of well-planned conference social.

*Yes, my best behaviour still sometimes results in a sore head.


  1. I was semi-chastised after a Keystone conference as my former PI told me that people are always watching, watching what you do.

    Fuck 'em, I said.

    (I eventually quit grad school to have a sane life).

  2. Keystone conferences are the best. Your former boss doesn't sound like much fun - doesn't he/she know that everyone gets wasted at Keystone?


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