“Observe the exception.” A San Francisco citizen drinking his morning coffee mentioned this idea to me while I was eating a quiche. I think this is what scientists try to do. We hypothesize about a question; collect data; analyze results; determine what were the exceptions to our initial hypothesis; consider the story behind these exceptions. Furthermore, we make models and determine what is the exception that cannot be explained by our model. Then we make the model better. Then we go to conferences, like the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference, and talk with other people about the exceptions we see and what insights they might give.
Each year in San Francisco, CA, tens of thousands of scientists gather at the AGU conference to share and discuss cutting edge discoveries in science. AGU is the “largest gathering of earth and space scientists” (“AGU Fall Meeting”) in the world. At this meeting there is the opportunity to attend talks and workshops, network with scientists, participate in social events, and engage in one on one discussions at the poster board sessions.
As a researcher in Dr. Virginia Rich’s microbial ecology lab, I presented my research, Mapping Microbial Carbon Substrate Utilization Across Permafrost Thaw, in the Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon to Climate Change poster session. It was an invaluable experience to discuss with scientists, of a variety of fields, regarding what they thought about my results, especially some of the results I still have trouble understanding. Whether I was presenting, attending talks, or casually discussing science with another researcher, I kept the idea of “observ[ing] the exception” in mind.
Darya’s trip was funded by a grant to the University of Arizona from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI 52006942).