Tag Archives: Sloan Foundation

Why I don’t like to pre-submit slides for talks – lessons from #AAASMoBE meeting

So – I gave a talk at a meeting on Thursday.  The meeting was called “Microbiomes of the Built Environment” and it was sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and run by AAAS.

The meeting organizers, as is often the case, wanted me to submit my slides a few days in advance, in theory to make sure they were loaded into their system and that all worked OK.  Well, as usual, I did not do this.  I like to make my talks fresh – just before the meeting so that I can incorporate new ideas into them and so that they do not have that canned feeling that a lot of talks do.

My talk was to be 15 minutes long and was to focus on my Sloan Foundation funded project “microBEnet: the microbiology of the built environment network” (see http://microbe.net for information about the project). I figured, I would work on the talk on the plane – five plus hours to edit a talk I had given relatively recently on the topic of this project.  And all would be good.  Plus, United had told me there would be WiFi on the plane so if I needed any new material I should be able to get it from the web right?  Well, the flight took off on time – 8 AM on Wednesday morning.  And I opened my laptop once allowed and paid the $15+ dollars for the WiFi and got to work.  Then, about 10 minutes later, the WiFi died and despite heroic efforts by the flight attendants, it never came back. And I plugged away at my slides doing some edits of the following presentation.

I had given this talk for the Annual Sloan Foundation meeting in May of 2013. I had other talks about microBE.net but they were focused on specific aspects and this was my most recent talk on the whole project. And, well, I started doing some minor edits on it, but, well, the slides felt too filled with boring text. And it did not seem to me to capture what I wanted to talk about. So I did the one thing that always helps me in such cases. I shut my computer and got our a notebook and started writing out and drawing out what I really wanted to talk about. And I finally started to have something I liked.

I liked this because what we are trying to do with microBEnet is to create an actual network and this was a visual way of representing our network. So then I got a bit more detailed

This was better. We were trying to help people in the field and help others who might be interested get connected, stay connected, and get rapid, easy access to information and tools. For example, we have been curating a reference collection for the field. And this reference collection has a lot of inputs and a lot of potential uses. In my previous talk I just listed some of this and had a screenshot of the web site. But it would be better to show this no?

Now this was feeling even better. I had a visual framework for the talk. Now I could fill in the details of what I wanted to cover in each of the parts of the network diagram.

So now I had some idea as to what I might want to say on these topics. No slides yet, but some idea as to what I might want to cover. And then, still not back on the computer I thought it would be good to write out an outline / the flow of the talk again. So I did.

Still felt good.

Now all I needed was a title ..

And then finally I felt I could go back to the computer. And so I started working on converting this all into slides.

For the remaining 2 hours of the flight I tried but it was slow going. I wanted to make as much as possible be visual and I needed all sorts of new slides and material from the web (no web connection still) and more. We landed. I took a Taxi to the hotel. I worked on my talk a bit from my room. I emailed various people asking for certain images and slides. And then I had to go to the speaker’s dinner. And I got back to my room at about 9:30. And then I worked on my talk until about 3. And finally I was close to being done. Got a very brief few hours of sleep. Got up. Went to the meeting. Did a couple of minor modifications of my slides in the back of the room. Posted my slides to Slideshare. And then gave my talk.

Here are the final slides

Not perfect. But much more visual. Much more networky. Much better at showing what we actually do and try to do on my project.  And much fresher to me so it was certainly not a canned talk.  Not a polished talk .. but not a canned one.

For more about the meeting, including videos of talks (including mine) see the Storify I made.

Cool open science project: rOpenSci just got 180K funding boost

Just a quick post here.  Just found out from Carl Boettiger that this cool project “rOpenSci” in which he is involved just got a boost in funding with a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation – see rOpenSci – What we hope to accomplish with the new funding.  The goals of the project are summarized on their site

“At rOpenSci we are creating packages that allow access to data repositories through the R statistical programming environment that is already a familiar part of the workflow of many scientists. We hope that our tools will not only facilitate drawing data into an environment where it can readily be manipulated, but also one in which those analyses and methods can be easily shared, replicated, and extended by other researchers. While all the pieces for connecting researchers with these data sources exist as disparate entities, our efforts will provide a unified framework that will be quickly connect researchers to open data.”

Undergraduate Research: Built Environment Genomes #microBEnet #Sloan

Just a quick post here.  We are continuing working on our Undergraduate Research projects in the “microbiology of the built environment” in my lab as part of our microBEnet project.  For more on the project we did last year on genome sequencing see this web site:Undergraduate Research: Built Environment Genomes | microBEnet: The microbiology of the Built Environment network.

And here is a video with some details on the project:

Also check out our new undergraduate project on sampling microbes in aquariums.

ABC radio news story on Indoor Ecology

Quick post here and it is not about OccupyUCDavis
Check out the story from ABC news (Australia, that is): Indoor ecology – RN Future Tense – 24 November 2011. Their summary:
We’re used to hearing about threats to our outdoor environment. But we rarely think about some of the challenges that we face in our indoor environment.
A growing number of researchers are interested in the idea of ‘indoor ecology’ – treating the indoors like the outdoors and studying the spaces that surround many of us every day.
It has a lot of good stuff about the Sloan Foundation program.

An ecosystem in my house? Yes indeed. And with microbes too. #BostonGlobe #microBEnet

Well I am very excited about this article in the Boston Globe today: Ecosystem, sweet ecosystem – The Boston Globe. By Courtney Humphries the article discusses the Sloan Foundation program in the “Indoor Environment” that is focusing on microbial ecology of the built environment. I am, well, really into this area of work and have a grant from the Sloan Foundation in their program to crete something called “microBEnet” which stands for “microbiology of the Built Environment network.” And in case you were wondering, yes, the BE is supposed to be capitalized and the m in microbe is not. My work in microBEnet is focused on Science 2.0 activities to help boost interaction and communication and outreach relating to studies of microbiology of the built environment. Check out the microBEnet site for more detail on that project (more on this in a bit).
Anyway, a little while ago I was interviewed by Courtney Humphries about studies of microbes in the built environment and the conversation seemed to go pretty well. And I kind of forgot about it due to some family things going on in my life. And then yesterday I saw the article. It is quite nice. It starts off with a nice drawing of a house making it look like an ecosystem

and the headline/lead in is really quite perfect “Ecosystem, sweet ecosystem.” is the headline with the subtitle “What if we studies the indoors as an environment all it’s own”.  She goes on to quite Hal Levin (my collaborator on microBEnet), Jessica Green (the head of the BioBE center in Oregon focusing on biology of the built environment), me, Paula Olsiewski (the Program Officer at Sloan in charge of the Indoor Environment program) and Bill Nazaroff from Berkeley, who is also funded by the Sloan Foundation to work in this area.

The article is definitely worth a read.  Only issue really is that I have a feeling people may be distracted by some sort of storm hitting the East Coast right now.  Well, after the storm hits, microbiology of the indoor environment will likely be even more important to pay attention to.

If you want to brush up on studies of microbiology of the built environment check out some of the resources we have made and/or collated at microBEnet including:

Stay tuned for more, from microBEnet, from Sloan funded researchers, and from others studying microbiology of the built environment.  We spend on the order of 90% of our lives in built environments like buildings, cars, trains, etc.  It’s about time we started studying such environments as ecosystems …