Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ooh, wrong crowd for that one....

Thursday and Friday this week is the annual Symposium for my overall lab. My advisor-specific lab is part of a larger overall lab, with eight or so professors involved. Once a year they hold a symposium for two days, in which the professors each give talks as their "State-of-the-Union" address, or perhaps "State-of-the-Lab."

The first year I was here, this was fascinating. I got to absorb how each professors' work fit into the overall whole and the historical context (this is a lab that has been around for 32 years). I got to hear the professors' side of the story, to complement what I heard every day around the hallways and water cooler from the students. Each student makes a poster on their specific work, so I get to catch up on the wide variety of stuff going on that I never hear about.

This year I already knew the context and general theme of each professors' work inside the overall lab. So it was more interesting to me to hear the progress that had been made. Some professors still had slides that included examples from decades ago (I kid you not - one talk referenced a "personal mini-computer from Macintosh, $3500 estimated cost" with a picture of a boxy early-version Apple). And some professors have exciting, cutting edge stuff (ahem, the professor who just got tenure probably because of that cutting edge stuff).

My favorite talk was a very engaging speaker, who was passionate about his projects and included funny anecdotes. His talk included some work with meta-materials, some of which have a negative refractive index. This, he said, makes possible some very exotic possibilities. "Like Star Wars", he said, "with those cloaking technologies; I can never remember if it's Klingon or Vulcan."

And I looked around and at least four people were shaking their heads, because of course, it's Star TREK, not Star Wars, and it was quite obviously the Romulans.

The rest of his jokes were well-received, but you gotta have your nerd cred solidly in place before attempting the advanced sci-fi references... :)

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