I am currently in Baltimore for the March meeting of the American Physical Society. The APS meetings are a blast. It is my third year going to them and every year I get a little more confident and, sadly, fit in a little more. It used to be that I could barely contain myself from laughing at the geeks here, but now that I am one (more so than before) I just smile at the over-the-top geekiness. The APS meetings are where you can hear the worst jokes, see the worst dressers, the most socially awkward. You can walk down the hall and literally see people perform back-of-the-envelope calculations.
One thing I love about going to the meetings with the boys in my lab is that they really like to explore the city where the meetings are held. We see it as a free vacation where we have to put in 40 hours of work and the rest of the time is ours to get into trouble. We like to check out the local bars, eat the requisite foods, see the local sports teams. Unfortunately the Orioles are still in spring training. From what I’ve seen of Camden yards, it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. We have, however, had our required Maryland crab cakes and had some drinks at the Harbor Way Inn, where the signature liquor was their own. A lethal combination of vodka and Lithuanian cough medicine. I tossed it back like a trooper.
One of my favorite things about these meetings is catching up with people you only see at these meetings. For instance, at my first meeting (in Montreal) I literally ran into my Physics I lab teacher from the University of Minnesota. His name is Andy. He was so proud to see someone he had once taught at an APS meeting, presenting her own work. We caught up over lunch and since then have made it a point to see each other at the March meetings and see each other’s presentations. Coincidently, our research area is remarkably similar. I found out yesterday we even share a collaborator (Yep, this guy. I’m meeting with him tomorrow. I’m nervous already.).
Unfortunately, these meetings also contain a lot of ass-kissing. Something I’m not terribly fond of but something Dr. Hari can’t seem to stress enough. I know, I know. Everybody has to do it. But it just doesn’t seem like something you sign on for as a physicist.
For example, I was listening to a talk when Dr. Hari came in the room, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “C’mon! C’mon! We’ve gotta go! Get J!” I snagged J and we ran out of the room. Dr. Hari was walking at a fast clip. “Dr. So-and-so and his grad student from MIT want to go to lunch with us!” I had no idea who these people were. And Andy’s talk was in an hour. I was worried about missing it, but I guess if a collaboration from MIT came out of it, Andy would understand. As it turns out, Dr. So-and-so was an acquaintance of Dr. Hari’s and he just wanted someone to eat with. His grad student, fearing boredom, requested Dr. Hari to ask a couple of his grad students with to keep her company. I was irate of the politics running rampant at the situation. Fortunately there was a talk she wanted to see as well so I made it back to see Andy. I am in store for more politicking tonight though when we meet for the Florida University dinner where we are the little guys compared to UF and FSU. At least we can brag about being the ones on the beach.