I just returned from the Stanford Immunology Departmental Retreat in Asilomar, down in Monterrey on the California coast. What a retreat entails is researchers from across our department, including grad students, post-docs, and professors clinical and basic, present their research back-to-back. Over three days we see a few dozen 15-30 minute powerpoint presentations on what everyone has been working on in the lab.
It’s an opportunity to learn about new science, find ways to collaborate with people on campus, and receive feedback about our own research. It’s also a less formal environment than a major conference. So people are often more willing to present an “incomplete story”, meaning that they share the problems, inconsistencies, or tribulations of research. For instance a new faculty member shared some of the many challenging technical difficulties associated with mass cytometry, a breakthrough method of analyzing a ton of proteins on millions of individual cells.
It’s also a great opportunity to enjoy the coast (photo above) and socialize with people where we too often we talk nerd language. There were even a few people on the trip who had an alcoholic beverage. All in all, a nice little break from daily grind of lab, and a few new ideas for projects to get started on.