Sunday, January 16, 2005

CSBi Symposium

I spent Thursday and Friday at the 2005 CSBi Symposium on Systems Biology. There were a bunch of interesting talks, but the one that I remember most vividly was given by Andrew Ellington, from the University of Texas. I don't remember it because of the scientific content [which was pretty cool too], but because I've never seen anybody talk that fast about science for 30+ minutes without taking a breath. At the end, there were pretty much no questions because [I think] everybody in the audience was a bit shell-shocked and still trying to digest everything he'd gone through. Having him as an adviser must be like being advised by a tornado -- I'd want to bring along a tape recorder each time I went to talk to him so I could play the conversation back later to get the 50% of the material that I just didn't absorb.

I also had an interesting conversation with the CTO of a biological modeling company. While flipping through the attendee list and googling some of them, I found out that he didn't have a PhD, so I was curious whether my understanding that needing a PhD to really have much of a career in biotech was wrong [ie my reaction was along the lines of "Wait, did I get duped into this whole school thing ?" ;-)]. I tracked him down sometime during the day and peppered him with questions for a while, which he graciously answered. Given the fact that he doesn't have a PhD, he was more inclined to discount the importance of one, but even he had to admit that, yes, a PhD still matters in biotech, and will continue to matter for the forseeable future. It turns out that he was one of the founders of the company, which probably helps to explain his current position despite not having the expected "union card". So, at least from that perspective, I'm not totally off my rocker for being in graduate school =)

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