Today was one of the better days of the conference for me, which could be due in part to the fact that I only attended a few platforms or symposia. Instead, I took up the opportunity to go to the sessions – you know, those activities that have large descriptions after them in the program. Upon scanning them, I saw the word “undergraduate” and immediately knew that I would have to attend this, since it’s rare that there’s something so specifically aimed at helping baby scientists at a conference full of
dinosaurs seasoned scientists.
I sat down at a table that had an overwhelming amount students from BYU (one of them was drinking a Diet Coke, I noticed) and began to make small talk. Small talk led to casual conversation which led way to jokes, and then it was announced that the food was ready. The typical cattle-call scene occurred, and everyone returned to their seats with a plate full of calzones and pizza… strange for a lunch that was advertised as “Breakfast at Noon.” Nonetheless, I was very happy we weren’t eating pancakes.
A man that was obviously older than we yungun’s at the table sat down next to me. As we were introducing where we were from, he scoffed when it came to my turn. The reason was soon made apparent: he graduated from KU, and I am a K-State student. For the majority of you who know nothing about college rivalries, hardly given state-by-state rivalries, the KU-KState rivalry is rather strong. Neither of us were too ardent in our bashing of one another’s schools though, so I decided to figure out if he was from Kansas. Turns out that the stars aligned, or misaligned, again, as he attended Shawnee Mission South, my high school’s rival in Kansas City. After trading the obligatory remarks, we continued on to science.
ONCE AGAIN, a connection between the two of us emerged. I began to feel bad that everyone else at the table had to hear connection after connection, but, that feeling quickly subsided. He turned out to be a cystic fibrosis researcher, something which I had done a bit of time teaching about and researching about at a small lab in Maine called the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.
Turns out, he had been courted by that lab for a summer position, and moreover, knew all of my favorite researchers from that lab as well! Not only did he know them, but he was so close as that he nearly post-doc’ed in one of their labs. It was incredible, and we stayed long after the session talking about his research, his career path, my [projected] career path, and the people that we had in common in our lives.
Just another one of those crazy times in life where a million different things had to go just perfectly right for you to make a connection, but against all odds, 100% of those million different things happened to go just right. May we all be so lucky, and may we all continue to make great connections such as these.