05 January 2012

The story behind a symposium

Last week, I announced a symposium that I am co-organizing for next year’s International Congress of Neuroethology at the University of Maryland over on my main blog, NeuroDojo. It’s titled “Nociceptors in the real world.”

My partners in this venture are Ashlee Rowe (at the University of Texas in Austin) and Ewan St. John Smith (you can listen to him on the Science podcast talking about why naked mole rats don’t feel pain from acids).

What I didn’t mention on my main blog is how the symposium came together. It started in a poster session.

In particular, this symposium for next year’s Neuroethology meeting started at the last meeting in 2010.

Before the conference, I had checked for other posters on the topic I was presenting on (nociception). Out of several hundred posters, there were four: myself and three others. The good news was that we had been placed together, so we were able to see each other’s work easily. But in the back of my mind, I was sort of chewing on the fact that this topic was not well represented at this meeting.

This poster session was... compact. You were elbow-to-elbow with the people next to you, and because the poster boards were zig-zagging across the floor, it was very difficult to have to facing posters being presented at the same time. This meant you sort of had to cooperate with people who had posters next to you to be able to show off your work at all. And we were so close, it was extraordinarily easy to strike up a conversation. I loved the work that Ashlee and Ewan had on their posters (you can see a bit of Ashlee’s poster behind me in the picture above).

At some point, all this coalesced in my head into an idea. I went over to them and said, “We should do a symposium on nociception at the next congress!”

They liked the idea. And that got the whole ball rolling.

A lot of emails and Google Doc sharing and invitations later, and we’re going to have a symposium at the next meeting, and I’m super excited about it. The meeting is 5-10 August 2012. Mark your calendars if you’re interested in nervous systems, animal behaviour, or evolution!

If we had got up and given three straight slide presentations in a row instead of standing next to each other for a few hours at that poster session, it would not have happened.

And that’s today’s reason why I love poster sessions.

Because stuff gets done there.


Blogging from International Congress for Neuroethology in Salamanca, 2010

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4-5
Conferences and cathedrals

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