Monday, April 23, 2007

It's Not About Me

This week I have been contemplating an upcoming opportunity to give an invited talk, in 10 minutes or less, on what is most interesting in my subfield of the physical sciences. The audience will be a broad, national audience of researchers. In terms of speakers, I am the sole representative of My Field of Science. I'm rather fascinated by this challenge, and have been thinking about it a lot, talking to colleagues, and drafting the outlines of my brief presentation.

I've seen these brief presentations done before, and I am always naively surprised when a speaker concludes that the most interesting thing in science is .. the speaker's own research. I suppose that's in part a reflection of the fact that we are all most fascinated by our own research topic, but even so, it should be possible to give a broader view.

It should be possible, but it's difficult. It's difficult in part because our own research field is what we each know best and feel most comfortable talking about. Nevertheless, I am striving for a brief presentation that is interesting and compelling, that generates discussion, and that only includes mention of my own research field in its broadest context. OK, so that's probably impossible, but I want to see if I can achieve some of those goals, at least in part.

An additional challenge is that I've been doing so much talking and traveling in recent weeks that I've acquired whatever illness 87% of the people on my recent long flights seem to have had (based on all the coughing I heard), and I've lost my voice. I have to give 4 talks varying in length from 10-50 minutes this week and teach one more class. Typing the keywords 'sore throat miracle cure' into Google led to the information that I should gargle with cayenne pepper, but maybe I'm not that desperate yet.


n said...

Miracle Sore Throat Cure: Dissolve a spoonful of ground ginger powder and some honey in a cup of hot water and drink before going to sleep.

EuropeanFSP said...

Been there.... this year I am being more like my parents. I used to make fun of all of their vitamins, but the past half of a year I have taken a multivitamin, some magnesium and some zink (stress combatting) every morning and have not had aphonie (the state of being "speechless") yet. Knock on wood.

Anything hot and liquid seems to help, my boss in industry swore by this: squeeze a lemon, put it with some brown sugar in a glass, add "enough" whisky, top off with hot water, get under the covers and sweat that sucker out.

And go for that national talk! I'm making the circuit giving national talks on a topic which is not my research focus, but it does give me enough visibility so that when I start asking for resources for doing real research, they say: oh yeah, heard of her, she gives great talks. Give her what she wants.

If the aphonie is real bad, request a microphone and whisper your talk - they will sit at attention, I guarentee you, because of the the discord created by a woman whispering but talking about science and not, well, you know.

lost academic said...

Well, gargling with salt water WILL help--it'll break up the mucus in your sore throat, but you may find it difficult to do. It's routinely recommended at all student health facilities too, for that matter, and most of the good PCPs I've been to since then (the good ones are places where they don't hand out antibiotics just to shut you up when you come in with a virus or regular cold symptoms).

Ms.PhD said...

I had a horrible sore throat recently, and the only thing that helped the pain was those kids' sore throat strips (instead of cough drops, too much sugar). I felt a little silly since they were grape flavored, but hey, whatever helps.

Do you drink green tea? It's terribly drying and the worst thing for your throat. Get tea with licorice in it; ginger, honey and lemon are all good too as mentioned here by others.

Grace said...

I, too, have lost my voice for an average of 6 weeks/year over the last 3 years.

I consulted many doctors of several sub-specialties. The only one who would definitely give a diagnosis, the second infectious disease specialist, said that it was autoimmune in nature.

All the doctors agreed that there is no miracle cure. Only time and rest will bring the voice back. Gargling with salt water relieves the pain temporarily. I like the sugar-free Ricola cough drops.

I just got back from a cross-country trip to attend a field experiment planning meeting. I wore a surgical mask during the flights at the suggestion of three of my doctors (immunology, rheumatology, ENT). So far, no infection.

It's ok that we are all in love with our research. If we don't personally believe that ours is the most important research in the world, why would we do it?

Perilla Docta said...

Or it could be that you work on X precisely because it *is* "what is most interesting in [your] subfield".

Metamatician said...

Please post a picture of yourself! To not do so would be giving in to the reverse psychology game, no?

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