The campus here at UCSB really is beautiful and is the sort of environment where I wished I had done my undergraduate degree from a real liberal arts school rather than the science/engineering oriented program I earned my bachelors from. Of course, there is the possibility that I might have flunked out from spending all of my time surfing given the amazingly easy access to pretty nice waves. Surfing is a popular aport here and it’s fairly amusing to see students drag themselves out of their dorm rooms with million dollar views of the ocean at 7:30am rubbing the sleep from their eyes and and dragging their boards down to the water to grab a few sets before their first class.

The ocean is a dominant part of the culture here given the locale of the school on a point of sorts that juts out into the ocean. There is not a bad spot on campus really, with even views from the labs being pretty impressive. For instance, the image below is the view that welcomed me from the Fisher lab. I honestly don’t know how they maintain their prolific productivity given views like this. I’d be watching birds, dolphins, boats, storms, etc…etc…etc… and likely not accomplish much in the way of work.

Who knows….If I did my undergraduate degree here, maybe I would have gone into marine biology which would have allowed more time in the water than the currently almost non-existent time that I get now living in landlocked Salt Lake City.

There are an amazing number of bicycles here on campus which is encouraging and the students are wonderfully active with just about everyone walking, running, bicycling, surfing, diving etc…etc…etc… The active outdoor lifestyle is an important part of the culture here with even the computer science students taking time to get out from behind their screens in the warrens that make up computer science graduate student caves everywhere.

I thought Salt Lake City was a pretty nice resource for the academic outdoor enthusiast, but if your preferences run more towards water in its liquid form versus its frozen form, then UCSB is your campus. Its academic programs also tend to have an aquatic bias with a beautiful new building for marine sciences. Interestingly, several of the buildings include plumbing to pump in fresh seawater to help keep sealife happy.

UCSB apparently also has a well deserved reputation for being a party school and I saw some evidence of that on the student housing side of campus, Isla Vista. But it appears that the school is making more efforts to integrate that part of campus into more academic life by purchasing buildings and using them as academic resources and lecture halls. That said, the student community of Isla Vista is a wild little town with lots of student housing, streets crowded with student automobiles and a few tasty resources like Freebirds, one of the best burrito places on the planet as recommended by Shadow Wrought.

UCSB is also an amazing place to go bird watching. The municipal airport borders a wetland that is absolutely outstanding for spotting our feathered friends and the UCSB campus itself is not too bad either. Just walking around campus and down to the lagoon, one can see cormorants, egrets, ducks and shorebirds aplenty.

As to why I was here, the seminar I gave on Tuesday went well, with lots of questions and discussion from students and faculty alike and I was most grateful for the suggestions, input and pizza. More in depth conversations with Profs. Manjunath, Singh and another visiting professor from Rensselaer University, Badri Roysam were most interesting along with very productive conversations with scientists Kris Kvilekval, Zhiqiang Bi and Mark Verardo. “Mark, we’re on for a couple rounds of Guinness in Florida. See you soon”.

However, the truly bright spot of the week was the time I spent with the students. The graduate students in the Center for Bio Image Informatics were amazing. They were incredibly enthusiastic with one even grabbing data off of OUR website unbidden to demonstrate their code! Dmitry Fedorov, Marco Zuliani , Jiyun Byun and others. In between all of that, time was spent with the Fisher lab going over new collaborations and techniques for those collaborations. Speaking of the Center for Bio Image Informatics, my visit was timed perfectly with the installation of their new Bio Wall, which in a feat of one upsmanship has more pixels than the Bio Wall down at UCSD with Mark Ellisman‘s group.

The only problem I had a UCSB was getting Internet access on my laptop. Those IT folks there are positively draconian with handing out their IP addresses. I had to fill out forms, give them my mac address, get approved and only then could I pull an IP.

Oh yeah… Food. Those of you that know me understand that the culinary experience is part of every travel trip and the Santa Barbara area did not disappoint. Ste
ve and I ate at a little cafe called Fresco that serves up a rotating variety of fare every night that was quite acceptable. They also carried Fat Tire ale from the New Belgium brewery which pleased me to no end.

The next night Ken, Steve, Geoff, Mark and myself went out to the Opal restaurant in Santa Barbara for a delightful meal. The chile encrusted fillet mignon was amazing as were their desserts and the skill of their sommelier was also apparent given his suggestion of a most excellent pinot noir to match with dinner.

The last night, Profs. Manjunath, Singh, Roysam and I went to Cava in Montecito for a California inspired Latin meal which was outstanding with good service. Of course I was most encouraged by the quality of salsa and guacamole at the very beginning of the meal, but it only got better from there.

All told, it was I hope, a most productive trip where I got to spend some time with friends and make some new ones along with the opportunity to establish new scientific collaborative opportunities. And the next time I go back, I am bringing a wetsuit for a little surfing action.

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