Tag Archives: Toronto

Toronto as a Wife (Part 2)

Epilogue and Part 1 here.

When my boss suggested I go to ISSCR, I knew I didn’t want to go if I had to go alone.  The conference ran from Wednesday morning through Saturday evening- which meant being away from Tuesday to Sunday, 6 days.  That’s a long time to be away from my little family.

I considered bringing that little family with me- like I had done in the past.  Back in October, the three of us had squeezed into a hotel room, eaten only at kid friendly places, and dealt with the 3 hour road trip to Philly to attend an AACR conference.  There was no way we’d shell out for airfare- and flying versus driving was a toss up, time-wise, since Toronto is a seven hour drive from my house.   However, the thought of making that long of a trip with a 17 month old was not appealing.  Plus, visiting a new city is much more fun without a little kid in tow!

So before I agreed to go, I spoke with my husband, Mac.  I told him that I only wanted to go if he would come with me- it would be up to him if he wanted Mabel to join us (since he’d have to watch while I conference-d), but we could try and arrange for family to watch her and go just as a couple.  He was a little reluctant- it wouldn’t be exactly like a romantic vacation since I’d be at the conference for most of each day.  However, the prospect of five uninterrupted nights of sleep was too tempting to turn down and he agreed to go.  We would drive- since my company would pay for mileage- and only have to pay for his meals, since my per diem would cover my meals.

We hadn’t been on a road trip together since our honeymoon exploring the southwest.  We hadn’t been away without Mabel except for a single overnight (less than 24 hours) when she was 5 months old.  We were overdue for a get-away.

So, we decided to go!  We’d road trip up and back.

We enjoyed the ride up- making a stop at Sonic.  We navigated the confusing streets of Toronto with our uselessly inaccurate ‘smart’ phones (WTF Google Maps!).  We checked into the Fairmont Royal York and our room with a view of the lake and the CN Tower.  It was late, but we went out for dinner anyway.  We crawled into a king-sized bed and drifted off to sleep- without having to decide who would get up in the morning with Mabel.  It was GREAT!

The schedule of the conference was forgiving- with few relevant morning sessions, 2 hour long lunch breaks, and only two 2-hour poster sessions.  That meant it was easy to sleep in, meet for lunch, go exploring, see a couple of movies.

Mac was easily able to fill the hours I was at the conference by  relaxing (a rare treat for a stay at home dad), exploring Toronto Island Park, and researching where to dine and what to do.

Our big splurge of the trip (off-set by my per diem) was dinner at the 360 Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower- which gets it’s name from its rotating dining room!  The food was REALLY good.  We went big and got the 5 course prix fixe menu- complete with cheese board and fancy dessert!  I finally learned my lesson and took a picture of the menu with my phone so we could re-read the descriptions as the courses came out and not just wonder what we were eating because we couldn’t remember!

Mac's dessert- The Chocolate Tower.

While the food was REALLY expensive, it was worth it.  What made it almost a bargain was that your reservation also entitled us to entrance to the Observation Deck of the CN Tower.  So, after our delicious, leisurely, picturesque meal, we made our way down to the Observation Deck.  There was a Blue Jays game going on at the Rogers Center next door, and we could look down on it and see how empty it was due to the NHL playoffs game that night.

The Rogers Center

We did the standard hand-held shot of us at the top of the Tower.  The view was awesome- and since it was light when we sat down for dinner, and dark by the time we finished- we got to the city in daylight, at sunset, and at night.  Beautiful at any time of day.

The top of The CN Tower

It was a really wonderful trip for us.  It was so nice to go back to being husband and wife, not just mom and dad.  I think we generally do a good job of keeping our relationship a priority and not letting parenting overwhelm it.  However, getting away- to a new place- and adventuring together was definitely a re-connect for us.

Toronto, as a wife, was fabulous and I can’t wait for another chance to go adventuring with my husband!  Is it wrong to pick conferences based on their desirability as vacation destinations?

Harbor tour.

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Toronto as a Scientist (Part 1)

A while ago, I mentioned my trip to Toronto.  I’d like to expand on it here.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research 9th Annual Meeting was the first major meeting I’ve attended since going to work my company.  I’d attended several other, smaller meetings (StemCONN2011, 2010 New Jersey Stem Cell Symposium, AACR Colorectal Cancer Conference), but nothing as long, large, distant, and expensive as ISSCR.

I was kind of  struck by how different it felt to be attending as an industry professional as opposed to an academic post-doc/grad student.  Instead of sharing data, I was gathering it; instead of free and easy conversation, I was watching what I said.

In the past it was always up to me what I wanted to share about my research, how much I could share in conversation with other scientists.  In the past I’ve always presented, either a poster or a talk.  That meant meetings were as much about learning about other people’s work as it was getting valuable feedback on my own.  However, at ISSCR I didn’t present at all.  I was basically just on a fact finding mission- trying to gather enough insights, unpublished results, protocols, etc. to make my trip worthwhile to the company.  I think I accomplished that, but I felt guilty.

Attending ISSCR as a company employee who wasn’t at liberty to divulge details of her project, I felt selfish.  I think I did provide other scientists with some useful feedback, but I couldn’t really communicate freely.  It was also very hard to talk with poster presenters and really, REALLY want to ask them a specific question about my own work, but I couldn’t.  I work for a company, and revealing our potential drug targets could hurt the business and put me out of job.  So I had to find other ways to ask my questions and ways to deflect any/all direct inquiries regarding mine.

I am torn about keeping scientific secrets- how it seems to inhibit progress and the free and open communication of science.  Ideally, everyone would share freely- no concern for credit, publication records, pantents, etc.  However, even in academia, secrets are kept to ensure a lab isn’t scooped, gets to publish first, etc.  In industry the stakes, in some ways, are higher.  Crucial pieces of information validating, or invalidating, a target being pursued by multiple companies could mean saving/losing months or years of time, and millions of dollars invested in getting a drug to market.  If we all worked together, could we move things along faster?  Probably, but only if we had unlimited resources ($$), which nobody does.  Public sources don’t have the money to invest in research that companies do.  However, to get that money, companies have to make a product and give their investors a return on their money.  Until a public entity (the government, a philanthropic foundation, etc. ) starts funding research and development on a scale like biotech and pharma companies- our current paradigm is the best we can do.

So, I went to Toronto.  I attended ISSCR.  I think I got enough out of it to justify the trip.  Truth be told- I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have conferences in the past.  It stunk not getting to present my own work and get feedback on it.  It stunk not being able to talk freely with others.  I felt selfish.  I hope it won’t always be this way.  My company routinely sends people to conferences to present their work.  My company encourages publications in peer-reviewed journals.  My company participates (and makes no profit) from public endeavors to make expensive and time consuming reagents available to the public.  I hope in the next couple of years my project will be far enough along (ie patented, IND filed, etc.) that I can go to meetings and share more freely and welcome feedback on my work.

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Toronto as a Scientist, Wife, and Mother

In the “About” section of my blog I say, “My titles include Scientist, Wife, and Mother.”  (And yes, I will continue to use the Oxford comma– I don’t care what anyone says!)

I recently took a trip to Toronto to attend the International Society for Stem Cell Research 9th Annual Meeting.

See the CN Tower (aka La Tour CN) peeking out behind the buildings?

It was my first major conference since moving from an academic post-doc to an industrial scientist position.  It was my first time taking a trip,  just my husband and I,  since we became a family of three  almost 18 months ago.  It was the first time I’d been away (and the furthest I’d been) from my daughter for more than just an overnight since she was born.

I feel like this trip really brought home for me how those titles encompass different, maybe at times conflicting, points of view.  The “Scientist” was there in a professional capacity to learn.  The “Wife” was there on her first trip alone with her husband since the birth of their first child.  The “Mom” was ambivalent about enjoying the trip and missing her daughter.

In the coming week I hope to expand on the experience from each of these perspectives.  Overall I think it was a positive experience- I learned a lot as a scientist, a wife, and a mom.

Do you have a similar predicament?  Are there aspects of your life that conflict with each other?  How do you resolve them?

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