Welcome to B(altimore)PS!

In my lab I am notorious for taking a few extra vacation days after every conference to explore the local city. I took 4 weeks to backpack through the Bolivian countryside after my talk at La Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia. After my 3-month research internship at Osaka University, I took two weeks to travel by Shinkansen to the volcanic southern islands of Japan. After the Lindau Meeting in southern Germany, I took a week to travel around Europe. After last year’s BPS meeting, I took a 3-day trip to Sonoma and Napa valley. My PI is a very understanding person, and he is well aware of my love of travel. So when he asked me how many vacation days I was going to take this year, he was surprised when I said none. Until he realized BPS is in Baltimore this year.

I am Markita Landry, a 4th year doctoral student in Chemical Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I opened this post with travel because aside from science, it is my primary activity- probably in part because I grew up in a culturally eclectic family: part French-Canadian, and part Bolivian. I hate to be one of those people who snubs the 2011 BPS city, particularly after having attended last year’s BPS meeting in my favorite American city: San Francisco. Yet, as the conference date has approached, I have become more aware of the sites, attractions, and activities Baltimore has to offer and I wish I had taken a few vacation days, after all.

I chose to blog for BPS because I really enjoy science, and I really enjoy writing. When I first began graduate school, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into: Late night experiments, data analysis, exams, writing manuscripts, all culminating in a defense. Back then, my view of a scientist’s day-to-day wasn’t too different from how scientists are viewed through the public eye. Scientists aren’t stereotyped to be the most outgoing, social, or extroverted segment of the population. Yet as I progressed with my graduate education, I found that both science and science communication alike are needed to optimize the productivity of the scientific community. The more I fell in love with science, the more I found myself falling in love with science communication as well, and its role in enriching both the scientific and general community. What good is a scientific discovery if the scientist is unable to communicate its importance to other scientists and also the general population?

As a result, I’ve found myself becoming active in science communication. As a participant in last year’s Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates, I blogged about my experience there, produced a few video diaries, and interviewed 2008 Physiology or Medicine Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi for Nature magazine. After my research experience in Japan, I wrote a book chapter for ACS and a few online articles about graduate research abroad programs. I also try to keep scientific updates on my personal website to explain my research publications for lay-audiences.

This week, I look forward to contributing to the 2011 Biophysical Society blog from the perspective of a senior graduate student contemplating the pursuit of an academic career. I plan to highlight scientific talks and posters that I find particularly interesting, as well as any career workshops or post-doctoral opportunities I come across. And- believe it or not- I look forward to discovering the city of Baltimore as well!

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