A rare occurrence

It’s only rarely that I attend a scientific seminar. Plunging into a dense jungle of cryptic terminology and unfamiliar concepts in the hope of seeing light at the end of the tunnel (to mix my metaphors) can be unproductive and often results in slumber. I make the effort from time to time as it seems such a waste not to hear some of the eminent speakers who come to talk at Mill Hill. I try to choose those that have more general appeal, e.g. Andrew Brown talking about J.D. Bernal, or our own Doug Young talking about mycobacterial research, or those given by high-profile speakers such as V.S. Ramachandran on neurology and human nature. I don’t always choose well and can find myself after 15 minutes struggling to make any connection with the subject matter and wishing I were back in the Library.
Today I thought it would be wise and possibly worthwhile to attend a lecture by our future Director, Jim Smith. It seemed like a historic occasion and I have a keen sense of history so I went along. Although it turned out to be fairly hard-core developmental biology (well, from my point of view) Jim had clearly worked hard to beat a path of comprehension through the jungle. After a brief introduction to mesoderm induction he proceeded in gentle steps before showing a scary slide of signalling pathways. As usual there came a point when a few moments of inattention caused me to drop into a deep pothole of unknowing, but I managed to clamber back out quite quickly.
It was good to hear a little bit of science history – all the way back to 1984 – and to discover that ChIP on Chip is not some kind of incestuous chip butty but a fiendishly clever assay technique. The best part was the question session. It’s good to hear questions from immunologists, structural biologists, mathematical biologists with an evolutionary bent, and of course developmental biologists. It reminds of the advantages of a richly multidisciplinary institute like NIMR.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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