August 4, 2007

Scifoo day 1: Turn up, tune in, drop out

Filed under: google — Duncan Hull @ 9:38 pm
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Scifoo campersMy boss, Douglas Kell, who has kindly allowed and paid for me to attend Science Foo Camp (scifoo), says to me “tell me what you get up to”. So here goes. Scifoo day 1, A chance to meet and around 250 engineers, scientists, philosophers and other odd people from all over the world.

Shortly after arriving at the Googleplex, California and being fed by gourmet chefs, it all starts . There is a quick round of introductions from everyone in the room, the conference schedule gets put up on a big board, and interactively edited like a wiki. Sounds chaotic, but it actually works.

The introductions are followed by some lightning talks by selected people, chaired by Tim O’Reilly and Timo Hannay.

  1. Drew Endy from OpenWetWare talked about biotechnology. He drew analogies between civil engineering and bio-engineering. Today we can build wonderful bridges like Viaduc Millau in France. But it hasn’t always been that way. In the stone age, we used rocks as they were to build the likes of Stone Henge. Then we moved to to quarrying rock more systematically, so we can build simple bridges. For biotechnology to succeed in the same way as civil engineering, we need to synthesize DNA in the same way as we synthesis concrete to make bridges. But currently, biotechnology is still in its stone age.
  2. Charles Simonyi gave a talk about his recent trip as a Space tourist. I’ve never met an astronaut before, and never wondered what it smells like or what the quality of your sleep is like in space. You can find out more about Charles in Space</.
  3. Felice Frankel: Visualisation, visualisation, visualisation! (although she doesn’t like that word)

After all this, theres some time for “corridor conversations” with other delegates, which is where most of the interesting stuff goes on. Its difficult to pull out a narrative, because theres all kinds of people here: some people I managed to speak to (note form, sorry!):

In his introduction, Tim O’Reilly described scifoo as “making new synapses in the global brain”. You take a load of people from different disciplines, stick them together, and they find all sorts of interesting connections that they might not otherwise have found. It might sound pretentious, but I think its true. Unlike larger conferences, scifoo is small and intimate enough to be able to talk to lots of different people which is one thing that makes it special. This year, they’ve lifted the blogging ban, so everything is public unless stated otherwise. Which means you’ll be hearing lots more about it from bloggers like me at the conference.

Day two will be fun, theres lots of demos, and more people to meet: Martin Rees, how do we survive the twenty first century given that we’re all going to die?…Must try and pluck up the courage to talk to Sergey but I’m completely starstruck. Brian Cox, Hello, I’ve seen you on the telly…Esther “always make new mistakes” Dyson, Anne Wojcicki, George Church, Eric Lander, Paul Z. Myers Theres a tonne of bio-people here….So many people, so little time!

[this post originally published on nodalpoint]

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October 20, 2006

Manchester Biocentre Launch

MIB: Spot the test tubeThe Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) is officially opening on 25/26th October 2006. The centre has been about a decade in the making, and aims to be a world-class research centre, with around £37 million (~$70 million) of initial funding from the Wellcome Trust charity, UK Research Councils and others. If you’re looking for a bioinformatics job, PhD, PostDoc etc in the UK, MIB is continuously hiring and looks like a good place to work, if the opening programme (which follows) is anything to go by.

Unfortunately the MIB web pages aren’t quite world class yet, the promotional launch material is only available in pdf format, *sigh*, see references below. So I’m blogging the MIB Symposium launch programme here to put the stuff online. Talks scheduled for the second day of the opening, 26th October 2006, are listed below, and these can be attended by free registration (see references):

Session 1: Bio-molecular machines, 9.00-11.00

Session chaired by Alan North, Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences

  • John E. Walker (MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Cambridge, UK): Biomolecular rotary motors.
  • Yoshi Nakamura (Tokyo University, Japan): Aptamer as RNA-made super antibody for basic and therapeutic applications
  • John McCarthy, (Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre): Molecular mechanisms underlying post-transcrptional gene expression.
  • Refreshment break

Session 2: Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, 11.00-12.40

Session chaired by Bob Ford, Professor of Structural Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences.

Session 3: Systems and Information, 13.35-15.45

Session chaired by John Perkins, Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Session 4: Biocatalysis, 16.10-17.00

Session chaired by Hans Westerhoff, Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre

  • Nigel Scrutton (MIB and Faculty of Life Sciences): ‘Squeezing’ barriers – a dynamical view of enzyme catalysis.
  • Gill Stephens, (MIB and School of Chemical Engineering): Redox biocatalysis – the next generation of enzymes for manufacturing pharmaceutical intermediates and specialty chemicals.

Session 5: Bionanoscience and engineering: 17.00-18.00

Session chaired by Peter Fielden, Chemical Engineering

  • Joseph Wang (Arizona State University, USA): Nanomaterials for monitoring and controlling biomolecular interactions.
  • Milan Stojanovich (Columbia University Medical School, New York, USA): Deoxyribozyme-based devices.

Session 6: Postgenomic Analytical Technologies, 18.00-19.10

Session chaired by Roy Goodacre, MIB and School of Chemistry

  • Ruedi Aebersold (ETH Zürich): Quantitative Proteomics and Systems Biology
  • Simon Gaskell, MIB and School of Chemistry: New analytical science in proteomics and metabolomics.
  • Concluding remarks.
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