Golden Gate Bridge at Night. Source.
I recently returned from the ASM yearly general meeting in San Francisco. It happens to be 61 years, no less, since I attended my first such event, that one in Chicago. In those days, many members attended a giant banquet as part of the event, I well remember. As a poor graduate student, I couldn't afford the few dollars it cost, so I ate elsewhere. Lucky me; the entire assemblage of microbiologists came down with food poisoning!
This meeting coincided with the announcement of the first large-scale human microbiome project. Unveiling of the results received considerable attention. I confess, I stayed away from these sessions. Not that this isn't important work. Au contraire, it’s essential for progress in our science and for understanding the role of microbes in our lives. However at this stage of development, the presentations tend to display large tables of data, usually the names of bacterial families or phyla in fancy visual array, or recount mindboggling clever new strategies. This also applies for sessions on synthetic biology, which I did attend. The presenters were not always imbued with modesty. Not that I blame them, but some of them sounded like Columbus giving his first seminar after his return. This impatience of mine is nothing new because science in the making is not always satisfying to the listener. In time, all of this will be assembled into conceptual bins (hey, there is a new term, binning) and become easier on the ears as the meaning of the results will be better understood. But do consider attending these meetings, or coming back to them again. Missing them is missing great science.