Monday, September 23, 2013

Miller Symposium Summary

One of the most unique aspects of being a Miller Fellow is that each year we get to plan a Symposium weekend featuring eight of the most rockin' scientists across all disciplines of science.

The structure of the conference is different than any other conference I have ever attended. Specifically:

Speakers are invited from ALL scientific disciplines. 
Let me tell you, it is extremely challenging, as a planning committee, to agree on what will be interesting to an audience that includes Mathematicians, Earth and Planetary Scientists, Physicists Chemists, and Biologists.

For example, see our speaker line up from last year:

2013 Miller Symposium Speakers

From left to right, starting on the top, our speakers from the 2013 Miller Symposium were:
Pamela Ronald, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center, University of California,  Davis
"Plant Genetics and the Future of Food"
Edward Burger, Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics, Williams College / President Elect, Southwestern University
"Thinking Through the Natural Numbers: A Rational and Irrational Look at 1, 2, 3, 4, ..."
Scott Ransom, Astronomer, National Radio Astronomy Observatory & The University of Virginia
"Millisecond Pulsars: Nature's Gifts that Keep on Giving"
Kevin Laland, Professor of Biology, University of St. Andrews, UK
"Cause and Effect in Biology Revisited"
Seth Putterman, Professor of Physics, University of  California, Los Angeles
"Spontaneous Energy Focusing Phenomena"
George Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Harvard University
"'Simplicity' as a Component of Invention"
John Dabiri, Professor of Aeronautics & Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology
"So Swimming Animals Mix the Ocean?"
Julie Theriot, Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford  University
"New Directions in Cell Motility: Dynamics and Mechanics of Cell Turning and Pathfinding"
The requirements for inviting speakers are demanding.
The planning committee aims to invite speakers who are:
1. Leaders in their respective fields.
2. Able to give an engaging, accessible lecture to an educated, but very broad audience.
3. Willing to participate and interact with other participants throughout the weekend.

But, oh, so worth it!
I have learned so much from interacting with the speakers, science journalists, and from my peers about awesome science, as well as how to communicate science. Which reminds me, there really should be a concerted effort to figure out how to incorporate quick sketches and hand gestures into public science communication.

Describing my research to Dr. Pam Ronald!
The Miller is unique.
The secluded setting, schedule, and small number of participants make it easy to interact with everyone attending. But, there are two things that really set the Miller Symposium apart from other conferences. The first is how wildly different our fields are from one another. Because everyone knows this, there are many fewer assumptions about background knowledge, and people take the time to really explain the root of the problems they are working on. The second aspect, and perhaps the best, is the general attitude that everyone participating is genuinely interested in hearing about the new and exciting science that others are doing (not just hearing themselves talk). We want to share what we are doing, but we also want to learn from each other.

Awesomeness ensues.

 2013 Miller Symposium participants

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