Wednesday, April 6, 2011

OIST Developmental Neurobiology Short Course

I'm very pleased to announce that I will be spending two weeks of my summer in Okinawa, Japan to participate in the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology's Developmental Neurobiology Course. Given how much fun I had at last summer's Gordon Conference on Neural Development, I'm sure I'll return with a head full of ideas for exciting new experiments, just in time to have them shot down at my next committee meeting. No, but seriously, it sounds really cool. And as a bonus, all my travel expenses are covered by OIST.

I have to admit that I am a little hesitant about traveling to a far-off location for several weeks by myself. It's not like I'll be wandering around lost in a foreign country -- science conferences and courses are very structured, and all of our sight-seeing will be supervised. But I've never traveled to a meeting without classmates or labmates before, and I've never traveled internationally for work at all. My nervousness has reminded me that I'm privileged to live in close proximity to most major scientific conferences. I don't envy the jet-lagged folks from around the world at SfN each year, and now I'll get to walk a mile in their shoes.

Despite my qualms about the travel, I'm excited about the course. I'm especially looking forward to the lectures and labs on invertebrate development, since most of my research experience is in mammalian systems. I have wondered if I should try to do a postdoc using flies or worms instead of mice, but my only experience with Drosophila was in sophomore year bio lab, and I've never even seen a C. elegans nematode in person. The course will provide some hands-on experience and a lot of interaction with experts in these systems, so I hope to come away with a better idea of what it would be like to work in an invertebrate lab.

In general I'm left a little stunned that someone wants to give me an all-expense-paid science vacation. I'm pulling a 13-hour work day today (not typical; it's a long story) and haven't had a work-free weekend in quite a while, but I have to say that the perks of being a grad student are pretty cool.

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