I seem to have done nothing but travel and give talks this month. By the end of the week in Aug I will have been to San Diego, LA, Melbourne (Australia) and Boston. I am getting to the point where I dont know what time or day of the week it is!!
I have never been to Australia so when the invitation came in to go to the International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne I decided to go especially given Australia is significantly closer to San Francisco than Cambridge. None the less it was still a long flight and we crossed the date line which totally defeated me mentally (I arrived before I left on the way back!). I flew with Quantus who were really good and made a long flight relatively pleasurable and I even got some sleep which is unusual for me on flights.
Its winter in Melbourne and surprisingly cold, but much like a summer in SF (to misquote a supposed Mark Twain comment). It is a lovely city which sits on the Yarra river which is a beautiful place to run in the morning
The conference started with some 3-4000 people. I was chairing a session, talking then taking part in a debate (more on that later). This is an unusual conference for me as I am not that keen on huge meetings as I find it overwhelming and this trip was no exception. On the other hand I went to a number of lectures outside my main area of interest and learnt a lot, I was asked some very interesting questions after my talk and I was really looked after by my fabulous Australian colleagues Ash, Matt and Kate. I have huge respect for my Australian friends now as I now realise just how far they have to travel for scientific meetings which they do regularly with great grace and cheerfulness. Ash and I sneaked off for an afternoon of wine tasting and we went to a brilliant vineyard (Yarra Yerring) where the wines were outstanding. The Yarra Valley was just beautiful.
One of my buddies, Luke, had, however, dropped me right in it. As I was on the tarmac at SFO (the airport at SF) I got an e-mail asking me to participate in a debate which sounded OK to me. The instructions then arrived and boiled down to a team of 4 of us taking it in turns to argue that adaptive immunity was unnecessary (we work in a different area of immunity- the innate immune system). This would be fine except the instructions specifically stated we had to be funny and entertaining: in other words we each had to do 4 mins of stand up immunology comedy in front of 4000 of our colleagues. Fortunately I did not fully understand what was required until about 2h before hand so after frantically scribbling some notes I had no time to be nervous and I made a few comments about “sledging”. This is a favorite pass time of Australian sportsmen and something I was expected to do about my opponents, but I made the point that GB sport managed pretty well with out it (27 Olympic golds for us vs 8 Australia) so I was not going to do it which got a good laugh from pretty much everyone! It was pretty intimidating but a glass of wine before it started helped and I am pretty glad I didnt know what was involved beforehand so I had no time to get nervous. I am not sure a new career in stand up comedy beckons however!
I found a little time to go to the beautiful botanic gardens and got confused by flowers again. This time there were daffodils and red hot pokers out at the same time: how does that work?!?!??!
I definitely want to go back………..