Social networks, and networking, at conferences

Blog Network Carrying Capacity

Cross-posted from Denim and Tweed: Just in time for the Evolution 2013 meeting, Nature has a nice article by Roberta Kwok on how to use social networks and mobile apps at scientific conferences. Oh, and there’s a brief appearence by yours truly:

Twitter is also a crucial networking tool, helping people to connect with fellow attendees who have similar interests. Users can invite Twitter connections for coffee or look out for their name tags at the conference, paving the way for an in-person introduction, says Emily Jane McTavish, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “That’s made a big difference to me at meetings where I didn’t know people,” she says. Jeremy Yoder, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, used Twitter to help to organize a lunch for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scientists at the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa last year. And although these connections might not lead to immediate work advantages, one never knows who might be on one’s next grant-review panel or job-search committee, says Cruz.

If you’re bringing a smartphone or a tablet to Snowbird, you should definitely go read the whole thing.

Friday coffee break

rem:everybody hurts

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

Over at The Molecular Ecologist, Jeremy offered up some advice for grad students from a postdoc’s perspective, and invites contributions to a blog carnival of “Knowing What I Know Now.”

I can’t claim to have any blinding new insights — my own career is very much still under construction. But I’ve been interacting with a number of freshly-arrived graduate students this semester, and I’ve found myself thinking, after conversations with them, about what I might have done differently back when I was looking ahead to five (oops, six) years of grad school — and about what I did that worked out pretty well.

From Sarah: An English hospital stops an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus using intensive DNA sequencing.

Doctors were concerned after MRSA was detected in 12 babies during routine screening.

However, current tests could not tell if it was one single outbreak being spread around the unit or if they were separate cases being brought into the hospital. About one in 100 people carry MRSA on their skin without any health problems.

To find out, researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Sanger Institute embarked on more sophisticated version of a paternity test.

They compared the entire genetic code of MRSA bugs from each baby to build a family tree. It showed they were all closely related and part of the same outbreak.

From Jon: A new polymer has the properties that could make it ideal as “skin” for prosthetic limbs — it’s flexible, electrically conductive, touch-sensitive, and self-healing.

Writing in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers detail how they increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms, allowing electrons to “jump” between the metal atoms. The polymer is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, affecting the difficulty the electrons have jumping from one to the other and changing the electrical resistance of the polymer.