Hi again everyone,
Technically, I'm not supposed to post on the same topic more than once, but I figured this was worth it, since people seem very interested. My apologies in advance, because I think this is going to be a very long post!
Day 1 (Saturday, December 1): It begins
This day started very early (6:45 AM), especially bad since I didn't finish printing my poster until 1AM that morning, and didn't fall asleep until at least 2:30. We were into our hotel by around 11 after having taken a shuttle from the airport, but I did not manage to get a nap in before it was time to head to the Washington Convention Center. Unfortunately, they are very strict about not allowing us to take pictures, so I can't post any here from the actual conference. After figuring out where we needed to put up our posters and getting some food, it was time for the poster session.
This session was actually a ton of fun. For the most part, it was only undergraduate students (since it was the Undergraduate Session), but there was at least one person I saw who was not an undergraduate student, but said that she purposely signed up for the session in order to meet undergraduates this year, so she was awesome to talk to.I spent the first forty five or so minutes walking around other posters, and it was amazing to see how many different topics before. There weren't that many repeats that I noticed, and no one was studying the same tumor suppressor protein (RASSF1A) as Karen and I have been.
After this, we headed out to the keynote symposium, with the theme "New Biologists for the New Biology". After a very long introduction, the first speaker, William Bialek of Princeton University took the stage with his talk entitled "The Other Half of Western Civilization: An Experiment in Freshman Science Teaching". This was actually a very interesting talk to go to, being an Olin student. He was is actually a physicist, and was talking about the need for more integration in the world. He talked of biologists as an example of people who traditionally study in a more qualitative manner, and physicists as a representative group of people who generally study a more qualitative, mathematically intense set of courses. And, it turns out, that he sees the need for biologists to be more quantitative and physicists to be more qualitative, and is doing something about it. At Princeton, he has been behind a new program that teaches first years who choose to participate and have appropriate previous experience (they require Calc BC) an integrated course that combines physics and chemistry, and then a follow up course of biology sophomore year that relates to the first course. In addition, they stress hands on problem solving, and even require students to use MATLAB. Currently, this program is a little younger than Olin, in that its first students are, I believe juniors this year. I am not absolutely positive on this though. As I said, it was a lot of fun to listen to this talk.
The second keynote speaker was Shirley Ann Jackson, the current president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is actually also a physicist, and spent four years as the chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Her talk was entitled "Discovery, Innovation, and Policy in Human Health." While more wide-reaching, her talk was also very interesting, and she addressed the need for more interdisciplinary approaches to science and engineering teaching. With this idea, she provided many great examples of innovations and research going on at Rensselaer that support this need for integration.
Day 2 (Sunday, December 2): Recovery
On the second day of our trip, weather was not fantastic, which, I guess is to be expected in December. (How did it get to be December already?!). I'm not going to lie to myself and say it was only the weather, but we were so tired that we stayed inside all day. Not much to report, but lots of movies were watched, and appropriate rest was achieved.
Day 3 (Monday, December 3): Sight Seeing and Fun
For the third day or our trip, we decided that we had to get out and actually do something. Having never been to D.C. before, I really wanted to get some sight seeing done. We ended up seeing the Washington Monument, World War II monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and all those buildings. This was all well and good, but it was ridiculously windy which was making everything fairly cold, so we decided to spend the last hour we had free for sight-seeing inside the Smithsonian. With so many museums to choose from and so little time, we settled on the Natural History museum because I really wanted to see the Hope Diamond.
Here's a picture of me at the Washington Monument.
After, this, we made a mad dash to the hotel and grabbed our poster, which needed to be up that evening for our presentations the next day. After putting up our posters, Karen and I decided to try to find whichever mini symposium Sadie and Joanne were in, listen, and then try to catch up with them afterward. The symposium we ended up sitting in was actually to help people navigate a program for searching a gene database that we used in Joanne's Biology class, so that was interesting. Then, we went out to dinner with Joanne and one of her friends and a really delicious Italian restaurant. That was very interesting, and we got to talk about what it is like to research in a laboratories and deal in office politics.
Day 4 (Tuesday, December 4): Last Presentation and Flight Home
Waking up on Tuesday, we were facing another long day. After getting ready and checking out of the hotel, we headed over to the Convention center for our last round of presentations. While Karen was presenting in the first session, I tried to walk around and visit some posters, and get some work done because of all the time I was missing at Olin. Then came my poster session, which went pretty well. I had an interesting time talking to various professionals, including some in different fields of study. In addition, we had the privilege of meeting a parent of an Olin student, and getting visited by Timothy Smith who had been interning in D.C. this semester. And then, just like that, the conference was over. We headed to the airport and, after a couple hours worth of delays and problems transferring airlines, we were finally back and ready to hit the ground running at Olin for the final stretch.