Just before my Indonesian adventure took off, I got to present my Tus work to an audience of DNA replication specialists. The thought of going to Egham did not particularly excite me – as google maps quickly taught me the town was situated practically on top of Heathrow’s runways. However, England would not be England were it not that even these kerosene fume filled outskirts of London somehow still have the air of being a Harry Potter movie set. Egham turned out to be home to the Royal Holloway University of London. Never heard of the place, even though it seemed to want to compete with Oxbridge in appearance. Besides this, Windsor Castle turned out to be around the corner and, more importantly: Great Windsor park.
Remember me writing about how stressful life as a last-year grad student was? How many of us walk around sleep deprived, nervous and pale in the face? Forget about all that, life as a final year grad student rocks!
Let me tell you why. For the better part of 3 years you have spent an innumerable amount of time trying to figure out why you are the right (wo)man for the job, messing up, experimenting with flexible working hours, procrastinating, doing useful and less useful experiments, isolating yourself from family/friends/daylight, feeling insecure about your future and ignoring important e-mails from department secretaries. You may even have contemplated quitting, or at least pondered what life would be like as a diving instructor, mountaineering guide or Buddhist monk. But now all of a sudden the mist that clouded you so hopelessly has cleared up as if being burnt away by the morning sun: now you have a story to tell. This means it’s conference time!
Those outside academia might now be wondering whether the clearing of the above-mentioned mist also took away my last bit of sanity, but those in science know better. For scientists may not earn six-figure salaries, they will not find themselves surrounded by groupies on a regular basis, and they may have to spend days on end measuring in a basement, but I have to say: they sure know how to treat themselves to a proper intellectual retreat.
Imagine the following: You’re a Ph.D. candidate (Well, that shouldn’t be too hard for many of you…), the project you have spent the past 12 months working on seems to produce some interesting results. At a national conference they have recognized and acknowledged this by letting you give a presentation. Then you sign up for a large international conference, THE yearly conference of the field so to speak, and even there you are selected to give a talk. That’s great news! Right?
But wait, you also have a sister. She is a professional snowboarder. She has spent the past 12 years training her (pardon my French) ass off and seems to be getting some interesting results. She’s the straight-A student of the national competition so to speak. And she shows this by winning the national championship in her discipline for 5 years in a row. Then she signs up for international competitions, and this seems to run pretty well. So well indeed that they have selected her… – okay, this is where all resemblances stop I am afraid – to head for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Now that is what I would call great news!
Dat het leven van een promovendus niet over rozen gaat wisten we al. Wat uw correspondent heden ten dage heeft meegemaakt kan wederom als een mentale en fysieke beproeving worden gezien. Een congres vormt zoals bekend een platform voor wetenschapper om zijn bevindingen wereldkkundig te maken en die van anderen aan de tand te voelen. Daarnaast (en vooral), zijn congressen het moment om te netwerken, je kennissenhorizon te verbreden en nieuwe samenwerkingsverbanden te smeden.
Na ruim twee-en-een-half jaar voornamelijk onder NAP te hebben doorgebracht toog schrijver dezes terug naar de plaats waar het bij het oprichten van dit virtueel dagboek allemaal om te doen was. U raadt het al: op naar het perfide Albion, op naar Oxford. Een kort verslag in woord en beeld.