A day of connecting. Of pushing comfort zones. #plantbiology15 day 1.

I went for a run this morning at 6:15am. It is now 20 past midnight. In between was day one of Plant Biology.

And yes, I was there the whole day, or interacting with people at the conference that whole time.

I’ve been getting known more and more for being the “twitter person” at Plant BIology and today was no exception. Right at the registration booth, one of the volunteers helping register people said hi to me and caught me a little of guard. She was perfectly nice and I feel like I was a bit off because sudden approaches by people tend to throw me a bit. Especially when it’s peopel from labs that are known to do truly outstanding and innovative science (don’t we all wish we were that!). But it was a nice welcome to Plant Biology.

For me the day started with presenting some data from the plant science career survey that Molly Hanlon (@molsarity) and I developed to a full audience of mostly early career researchers. We talked about the results of the survey and helped Sarah Blackford (@BiosciCareers) run the workshop and provided input into some of the discussions.

One of the valuable things we did was a SWOT analysis of plant scientists. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s a way of assessing a career path and thinking about where you are and where you want to go next and just how to achieve that.

I got to advocate for plant scientists being on Twitter, and I even convinced a few to sign up and start tweeting! Which I think is great. More digital media plant scientists!

Concurrently to the career session was one on communicating biotech. I couldn’t attend, but from what I heard, it was a really good workshop on science communication around biotech products. It’s something scientists certainly need to do better with, and it seems like getting the facts out there, getting the science to the voices of influential community members is a real key to communicating science. And as an aside, one teaching technique is to start with the misconception and then correct it with data, engage their mind in resolving new information with the old.

I got to take a little downtime by volunteering at the membership booth before heading into the symposia for the afternoon.

I missed the award presentation, but saw most of Libo Shan’s talk on plant immunity, and just how complex recognizing self from non-self is; a key part of plant immunity.

Then Mike Thomashow talked about his life in plant science and how he got to where he was. It was a good talk, and he emphasized that it was possible to be a two-career family having household (his wife is an MD and a researcher as well). It’s just a decision you have to make and then make work. Though I’m a bit skeptical that his life in science mathces today’s realities, his advice is sound. Adopt and use the latest technologies as much as possible, ask good questions, pursue curiosity, and make decisions at forks in the road. It harkened back to the career workshop where it’s true that the happenstance model,t the chaos and uncertainty, can really drive innovation and career choices. But the key is to keep growing, not be held back by others. A key question is “Are you growing?”. if not, it may be important to find a new place where that can happen.

The next session was on hormones, my field! And even a lot of talks on auxin and cytokinin; two of the hormones I actually work on. A lot of the biology was fascinating. From the establishment and function of the shoot meristem, to leaf veination regulatory pathways, to root vascular development, to apical dominance,  to epigenetic switches activating hormone responses, the talks showed a lot of subtlety and complexity of plant hormones coordinating various developmental and plant pathways.

I also ran across a new campaign to get Barbara McLintock onto the $10 bill. I think it’s a fantastic choice, as her work really was influential in so many areas of biology, not just maize genetics. And scientists are certainly worth celebrating in many ways.

tthe opening mixer and first vendor show then happened. There was a tweet-up, lots of me connecting to people old and new to me, a fun night out where I got to know people again, both old and new, many meeting face-to-face after tweeting with them for various amounts of time.

So many great and clever people at Plant Biology. It didn’t really induce my usual impostor syndrome though. I felt pretty comfortable most of the day. Perhaps I’m finding my place within the plant science community. Hopefully it’s sharing great content and being a connector of people to ideas.

Search the #plantbiology15 hashtag on Twitter for more about the day’s happenings. This was a really good opening day of the conference and I look forward to the next few days of Plant Biology.


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