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ARVO 2008

ARVO is a unique experience. Over the years you get to know people through their science, their publications and comments and every year at ARVO, you have to opportunity to congregate, to touch hands, share smiles, laughs, commiserations and rejoice in the success of others. ARVO is also a time to celebrate upcoming talent, encourage students and hold up science as a common touchstone that brings us all together. The thing to remember is that this is a relatively small community populated by people who actually do care about others and their science. But it is the human factor that makes it worthwhile.

I’ve spoken before of the sense of family or community, but often I am reminded of how much like a family science is. You can track lineages of not just mentor/mentee, but also the flow of thought, practice and the emergence of insight as applied to science. I have loved meeting people over the years, getting to know them and bonding over shared experience. You mourn those of us who have passed away over the previous year and reveled in the company of those who are still here. And hopefully together, you push the bounds by engaging in work that is just a little bit beyond what we are currently capable of, entering areas that scare us just a little bit, but that is where the fun lies.

I also have to say that every year at ARVO, the most educational experiences for me at least come from the discussions after the sessions at the posters or at lunch or dinner. We’ve made a tradition of setting up small dinners to talk science in a more intimate setting, to argue about the merits of various techniques and discuss what approach or area deserves attention. This is especially important as not all of the seminars or sessions have high scientific yields. For instance, the first day of ARVO we attended a seminar on Retinal Ganglion Cells in Model Organisms: development, function and disease. I had a flashback to an undergraduate biochemistry course where the professor told everyone on the very first day that we were going to review the book and there would be no time for questions. This of course is pretty much how I felt about this course in that it would have been nice to have *some* discussion on each topic. It would have been even nicer to have some discussion of techniques and protocols and not be condescended to by one of the speakers who was feeling quite full of himself. All was not lost however, as I did enjoy listening to Richard Masland’s review as well as Ning Tian’s talk. I also attended a course on Molecules to Machines: Innovations in restoring vision and Innovative Strategies for Eye Development and Regeneration in Non-Mammalian Models. It was OK and I learned some new things about jellyfish eyes (betcha did not know they had ’em, didja?) as well as always having ideas and realizations about my own work from listening to others discuss their work. However, the interesting thing for me about ARVO is always that I learn more from the informal sessions or discussions around the posters and in the evenings meeting with friends and colleagues than I do in the official seminars. Though there are some notable and welcome exceptions. The last session that left me a bit wanting was a keynote by Ray Kurzweil who must have charged ARVO a fortune to appear….. Well, Ray Kurzweil was *supposed* to be there, but walking into the room seeing a holographic projector, I *knew* that hoser was not going to be there. Oh, well that is precisely the sort of thing that guy would pull. It may also have been the holographic interface, but he also looked like he’d been drinking a bit…. wild.

There were also opportunities to meet over lunch with Mineo to talk about our very exciting collaboration, meetings with Barb to talk about our continued collaboration, Wolfgang and Robert and even Valeria who has agreed to write a Webvision chapter with Sabine.

Afterwards, the typical strategy is to run back to the hotel for a couple of hours of work followed by a tasty meal out at any one of a number of local restaurants including Johnny V’s on Las Olas. This particular meal was a very nice repast with my favorite cheese sampling platter with a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

On another night, dinner and a meeting with Botir Sagdullaev, a young electrophysiologist who has truly understood the implication of retinal remodeling was also had at Jalisco’s as well as an amazing dinner conversation at Caffe Blu again with Andrew Ischida. What was impressive and humbling about this meal was the extent of knowledge that Robert maintains in the molecular biological, electrophysiological, anatomical and clinical literatures. And the electrophysiology discussion with Andrew, an amazing intellect in the history, theory and application of electrophysiology in particular left me feeling the imbecile. I would not have traded this evening for anything.

A wonderful get together was also had Tuesday night at a party hosted by Bob Barlow and our friends in science from the upper East Coast. Some of these pictures are a little less than sharp, but what do you expect when I was shooting in almost complete darkness with no flash whatsoever?

Finally, on Wednesday we had a dinner with Daniel Palanker from Stanford on an exciting new collaborative project that should have a very quick turn around along with almost immediate clinical relevance. Its always good to see Daniel and unfortunately this year Phil was not present for dinner at the Greek Islands Taverna. Hey Phil, we missed you! We also picked up Lloyd Williams, an M.D., Ph.D. just starting his residency at the Moran Eye Center. He was presenting research data from his time at Tufts and the Ophthalmology Dept. there sent him down to ARVO to present his data with only money for airfare and registration. What kind of operation are you running over there Tufts? It ended up OK as Lloyd ate dinner with us and crashed on our couch.

Categories: Daily, Science.

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