The first in-person conference of my Ph.D. is now over and I am back home. Unfortunately, even though I am triple vaxxed, had COVID in January, and wore a mask for the entire conference, I tested positive for COVID upon returning home and I am feeling sick with a headache and fever for the past few days. To distract myself from focusing too much on being stuck at home sick, I will reflect on all of the amazing memories from the conference.
We flew into Edinburgh two days before the conference started. We stayed right in the city center in a really cool hostel that used to be a prison and courthouse. It was definitely haunted! We went to a comedy show at the Monkey Barrel comedy club, visited lots of used bookstores (I bought 6 books on philosophy and poetry), hiked to the top of Arthur's Seat, went on a ghost tour, watched street performers, heard lots of bagpipes and saw a lot of people wearing plaid, walked around castles and graveyards, and ate delicious food (Mexican and pizza since we are vegetarians and Scottish food is not really veg-friendly). Edinburgh was a beautiful city with a lot of interesting history. Two days was definitely not enough time, and I left feeling like I will come back soon.
Walking to lunch in Edinburgh.
We took the Megabus to Glasgow on Sunday morning (there was a train strike happening in Scotland) and went straight to our Airbnb where we met up with the rest of our lab. We had just enough time to drop off our bags and change before heading to the conference venue to pick up our badges and attend the opening reception. The opening Talairach lecture by Andres Lozano on clinical success with deep brain stimulation was so inspiring. After the lecture, I ran into Martin Lindquist outside and we walked along the Clyde river to the Glasgow Science Museum. Martin was one of the last in-person talks I saw pre-pandemic in January 2020! There was a lot of Scottish music to welcome us (lots of bagpipes, drums, and kilts). The opening ceremony was the highlight of the conference for me. There was just such a synergy of being together again. I saw so many old friends, met so many people who I had met online during the pandemic, took silly pictures, laughed a lot, and talked about science. It was also so wonderful to be at the conference with my boyfriend. This conference was sort of our debut as a couple working (together and individually) in the same scientific field, and it was very special to share this experience together.
The next days were filled with tons of interesting talks and posters. There were far too many to describe here in detail, but some of the interactions that stood out to me were: 1) Talking to Gael Varoquaux at his poster about his failures working on machine learning + neuroimaging. We both agreed that we cannot describe cognition and mental health with a single number and that we really need better phenotyping if we want to predict any real behavior. I also told him about Brene Brown's work (in particular this episode of her leadership podcast, and her recent book on mapping human emotions https://brenebrown.com/book/atlas-of-the-heart/). 2) Catching up with Angie Laird (one of the nicest people I have ever met) and Katie Bottenhorn. Also, Angie's talk on analytical flexibility gave me a renewed faith in the field that I desperately needed. 3) Talking to Mandy Meija several times throughout the conference. Her work is so inspiring to me, and we also got to talk about being a mother in academia.
The Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow Necropolis.
We attended a talent show on Monday night, that was a bit strange in terms of the music (not really dancing/party music) but we danced until 1:30 am and made it fun anyway. Tuesday was Christian's lab dinner which was really fun and it was nice to bond more with people in the SIN lab. Even though I have been a part of the lab for almost two years, much of this time has been virtual meaning I have not had many in-person conversations with my fellow SIN-ers. On Wednesday it was Andre's lab dinner. Before dinner, I took a long walk along the Clyde river and through Glasgow Green park. After dinner, most of us (except Andre) went to club night, which completely exceeded expectations. We actually stayed until 1:00 am dancing and the place was packed. It felt like the entire conference was there (without masks, this is probably where I caught covid). A highlight of the night was dancing to Smack My Bitch Up by Prodigy. Also shoutout to the British girl who could keep up with my twerking, we had a true dance floor connection.
The botanical gardens in Glasgow.
Thursday was the last day of the conference, and it was obvious that everyone was exhausted by this point. I stayed at my poster for a while and had a few more good conversations about all the practical resources I have created for normative modeling. I bailed on the conference early to see a bit of the city. Despite being in Glasgow for five days, I had yet to see much of the city. I walked to the Kelvingrove art gallery and museum by myself but then friends came to join me. We headed to see the botanical gardens, another book store (where I successfully left without buying another book), the Glasgow Cathedral, and the Glasgow Necropolis (graveyard). Glasgow reminded me a lot of Detroit. Both are underrated cities. Glasgow is more modern and American-esque than Edinburgh and was full of hardworking, kind people. We had to take the Megabus back to Edingburgh at 4:30 am on Friday. I didn't sleep at all the night before. There was a problem with the bus that made us have to switch buses halfway, but we still luckily made it on time. The airport in both Edinburgh and Eindhoven were extremely chaotic and I am happy to not have to fly anymore this summer. All of my holiday plans involve cars and trains! Happy to be home reunited with Charlie-Mop and my comfortable bed.
The Kelvingrove art gallery and museum.