MINSC pies, mulled wine and a very merry New Year

It was the season for carol singing, tree decorating and merry making. This year, however, the highlight of Christmas for me was the fact that I was able to stay in one place and catch my breath after a very hectic few weeks. I realize, of course, that many people see the holiday as an opportunity to recover from the undergraduate’s end of term party, or a rare chance to spend >24hrs away from the clean labs. Nevertheless, it felt like my feet barely touched the ground in the weeks before Christmas, and I probably spent as much time in the air as I did in the office.

The rush started back in November, when, like many other Earth Scientists, I had a mad couple of weeks trying to collect enough data and put together a poster before flying out to the AGU fall meeting. Of course, the benefits of going to San Francisco and presenting your latest results to international colleagues far outweigh a few sleepless nights and an inability to talk about anything other than strontium isotopes (although I doubt that my other half would agree with this). However, the associated ice-breakers, happy-hours and socalising combined with 8am prompt starts (!) provided little time for rest and recuperation during the week… recovery from AGU is consequently normally designated for the week(s) after the conference, when term ends and universities wind down for the holidays. That wasn’t to be the case for me this year.

I had barely got home, dusted off the decorations, and put up the Christmas tree before I was back on a plane and heading out for my second conference in as many weeks. This time I was off to the inaugural MINSC meeting, where I had been invited to present my experiences of being involved in a similar Marie-Curie research-training network. The contrast between this meeting and AGU could not have been more pronounced: The mild Californian climate was swapped for the snow-covered alpine resort of Seefeld in Austria, the jostling hubbub of 22,000 delegates were replaced with face-to-face discussions with 15 early career researchers and their supervisors, and instead of having to queue for 20 minutes to get any beer other then Budweiser, I was able to enjoy a pint of weißbeer in front of a roaring fire. Again, this idealistic meeting didn’t provide quite as much time for rest as I’d hoped for, although in this instance I’m not complaining – there was fresh powder snow and the ski-lift was just opposite the hotel…


A few days later, as I sat on my third flight that month en-route to spend Christmas in Germany with the family, I realized that no matter how exhausting conferences and meetings may be, there is nothing more stimulating for scientific research then having the chance to discussing it with your peers. It’s just a shame that such discussions can’t always take place around the fire with a mince pie and glass of mulled wine!