For a child of the 70s from Poughkeepsie, New York City represented the farthest reaches of my imagined future. (California was another planet, and where the Brady Bunch lived.) Finally, this summer I am able to spend some time living my long-term fantasy of working, writing, and walking in New York City. Since early childhood monthly trips to visit my great grandma near the Yankee Stadium, I have always found the city intoxicating. I love exploring the streets, stores, museums, spaces, people—everything the city has to offer—and it generates a restless eagerness in me—a strong urge to soak it all in, but also to contribute my own voice to the collective.
It is a similar feeling I get at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Every year, my research group and I put our research on display, and we also spend much time exploring others’ research. Of course it feels overwhelming. Our 4 or 5 abstracts are puny compared against the other 20,000. But that’s completely the wrong way to look at it. We are a single storefront, but we help make up the city of science.
Science is like a city, with established and up-and-coming neighborhoods, less-populated areas, barely-explored side-streets, dead-ends, and long maze-like paths leading to beautiful gardens. Individual PIs or lab groups are like storefronts/museums/performance centers each with something to offer plus their own style and personality: some are welcoming, others not-so-much; some provide huge places to explore; others fill a very specific niche. Some are good for one visit, others you return to over and over.
This is the start of my sabbatical. I will be spending the next few weeks exploring one of my favorite real cities and also the city of science, while working on my own contributions. I am especially looking to find ways to decrease the isolation of scientists by developing new ways to connect. In the city we explore by foot, cab, subway, in a three dimensional space. Science is infinitely-dimensional, so there should be more and better ways to interconnect. What are they?