Interview with Jane Richardson


This is my first blog post for the 2012 Biophysical Society meeting.  As a brief introduction, my name is Jeremy Block and I’m a postdoc in the laboratory of Guy Montelione at Rutgers working with the NorthEast Structural Genomics Consortium.  This is my second Biophysical Society meeting and I’m excited to be heading to San Diego to enjoy some warm weather (NY/NJ can get pretty dreary in the winter!).

I decided to start things off a little differently.  I chose to do an informal interview with the incoming President of the society; Jane Richardson.

What follows are a few questions I asked Jane and her responses.  I encourage any and all of the folks who read this to consider asking these kinds of questions of others at the conference.  You never know what you might learn or where it might lead.  The more senior researchers and members of our fields are resources we shouldn’t be afraid to tap.   Also, if you want to know a little more about Jane, check out the page about her on WikiPedia! (Jane RIchardson)

Jeremy: How long have you been a member of BPS?
Jane: Since 1977.

Jeremy: How do you think the fields represented in the society have changed over time?
Jane: We still apply physical approaches to answer the same general biological questions – although we now know RNA is exciting, and we deal with far greater complexity.  The biggest changes have been driven by new methods that enable new kinds of insights.  Around 1980 macromolecular crystallography and molecular biology were revolutionizing biophysics.  Now it’s genomics and single-molecule methods.

Jeremy: Describe an interesting memory you have from a BPS meeting you attended? (whether it be an interesting conversation, an inspiring piece of work that was presented, etc.)
Jane: Running into BPS folk at jazz or midnight beignets in New Orleans; recognizing friends last year in the otherwise dehumanizing but remarkably effective countercurrent distribution down the long main hallway.  Being so psyched for the National Lecture in 1992 that time slowed down for me and made the presentation easy.  Seeing a great diffraction pattern from exploding nanocrystals last year.

Jeremy: As the incoming President of the Society, what are you looking forward to getting done during your term?
Jane: I’ve already, with others, gotten methods workshops equal treatment to regular sessions and a bit more of the program decided less than a year ahead.  I hope to see adoption of the streamlining proposal to make Council more effective.

Jeremy: If you could enlist the help of all the members of the society to do one or two things, what would you ask people to do?
Jane:  Two things….
1) Join WikiProject Biophysics ( and improve the relevant Wikipedia articles by thoughtful editing and by uploading free-license images.

2) Jointly work out innvative new approaches to let us enjoy excellent BPS meetings with less drain on our hard-won grant money.

Jeremy: Are there any sessions this year that you’re particularly looking forward to attending, and why?
Jane: I always enjoy New & Notable, Future of Biophysics, Awards, National Lecture, and workshops – this year especially biofuels, specificity, and structure excursions.  I look forward to the sessions on large complexes and on RNA dynamics.  And of course the Wikipedia gathering.

Jeremy: What kinds of things can students and postdocs do to get the most out of a big meeting like this?
Jane: Come with a friend, or make a new friend, and go to sessions together. Take notes.  Once or twice, think of a good question to ask a speaker after the session.  If you find questions hard, go to the Wikipedia session, and ask the speaker to make an especially useful slide available free-license so you can use it to illustrate an article about their area of biophysics.

Jeremy: What kinds of things can young investigators do to get the most out of a big meeting like this?
Jane: You need to get known by the major people in your area(s), and getting advice from them is also good.  Look through the program to find sessions and posters closest to what you’ve done or plan to do;  look up people’s web sites for more info and to recognize them.  Think up good questions, and ask them at posters, at the end of talks, or at social functions.

Jeremy: It’s not likely that you’ll have a great deal of free time during the meeting, but what would you want to do in San Diego if you had a free afternoon?
Jane: Visit with former students who live & work here.

Disclosure: Jane and David Richardson were my PhD advisors at Duke.  Though as anyone who has met either one of them knows, that conferred me no particular advantage to get them to answer these questions.  They are, without a doubt, two of the most approachable people in science.

Also, for any students or postdocs who are looking to meet some new people a the meeting, feel free to shoot me an email and I’d enjoy meeting up with you and/or helping you hunt down that one person you’ve always wanted to talk to… (below is a photo of me, certainly stop me and say hello if I wander past you!)



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