Thursday, December 21, 2017

One giant desk

Friends, I am so behind. I've been out of touch for over two weeks, but with good reason, I assure you. I have been swamped with work - proposal writing, paper revising, intern mentoring, dive training, and general running around like my hair is on fire.

Since I last wrote, I attended the DeSSC meeting (pronounced "desk," short for Deep Submergence Science Committee). Twice a year, the major players in deep submergence in the United States get together and talk about the future of their work. The group includes engineers in charge of the major vehicles (Alvin, Jason, Sentry), managers for the programs that fund them (mostly NSF), and the scientists who consistently use them. At one of the meetings each year, there's also a New User Program, designed to introduce students, postdocs, and young faculty to the vehicles. New Users have a chance to speak with the program managers about funding opportunities, ask the vehicle engineers about how to best use them, and connect with scientists who could turn into advisors or collaborators.

I'm not entirely sure if I count as a "new" user, having been to sea with Alvin, Jason, and Sentry each once before, but I was accepted into the program. It was a very worthwhile weekend for me (yes, the meeting was on a Saturday and Sunday). I got to network with some of the major players in deep-sea research, tell them my ideas, and discuss directions for future work. I made contact with new collaborators and strategically chose my place at dinner right next to an NSF program manager.

There was one moment over the weekend that really stood out to me, mostly because it was such a shock. Early on Sunday morning, as everyone was getting settled into their seats, I spotted my friend, Cliff, across the room. We've been on two long-haul cruises together, and I really enjoy working with him, so I went up to say hi. At some point in the conversation, Cliff's advisor, who was sitting next to him, turned to me and introduced himself. I actually didn't need the introduction - the advisor was a prominent deep-sea biologist with a distinct appearance. I knew exactly who he was. I was familiar with his work, but what I didn't realize is that he was also familiar with mine. He even used the words "big fan." I was floored.

By the end of the day, I had both men's contact information and an invitation to visit their institution. It is certainly not every day that I'm approached by a well-respected researcher who wants to work with me, so I was on cloud nine. I'm very excited to see what will come of the partnership.

The DeSSC meeting was a good chance for me to be present in the deep-sea community, and I made the most of the opportunity!

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