Friday, April 29, 2011

new month, new institution

Well, here I am in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Or is it Urbana-Champaign? Who knows these picky local details. Suffice it to say, I am currently a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I am busy learning all kinds of techniques (and even showing off a few of my own). I got funding to do a research exchange here through something called EDEN - the Evo-Devo-Eco Network, a National Science Foundation research coordination network. That basically means that I'm here for the next few weeks to try out some new techniques, and learn some new skills.

So far, so good. I arrived on Monday evening, and I've already done loads of stuff. I would go into details, but the techniques that I'm doing aren't that exciting when you start to explain them. Molecular techniques sound really cool and difficult, but appear to boil down to adding minute quantities of things to very small tubes and sometimes transferring them to other tubes. I would wait for the video if I were you. Ah, video. Part of the funding requirements are that I produce video of the protocols that I'm learning here as a resource for the developing Evo-Devo-Eco community. Which will be completely non-entertaining to do, but hopefully useful for someone else.

I seem to have arrived at a rather opportune time. Aside from it being well and truly spring here, there is also the EbertFest - Roger Ebert's very own film festival, held in the refurbished and beautiful Virginia Theatre. I went to Metropolis on Wednesday, and it was spectacular. Tomorrow night, more movies!

I'm living in Graduate/Married Student housing, which is quiet and spacious. A little too quiet and spacious. After spending a month in Panama with four housemates, being alone is a bit of a shocker. Especially after having spent Easter weekend at home.

But I'm very busy. And I've decided to start up a running program again. I found a really nice route though - across the park, through the Japanese tea gardens*, across the street to the university large animal veterinary barns. Round barns no less.

Tomorrow is Saturday, so I'll sleep in a bit, but then there's lab work to be done, and assorted other work to catch up on. But I'm planning to head out with my camera, so I'll post some pictures soon. There's also the marathon run this weekend, so bus service will be somewhat sporadic, so a good reason to go out for a walk.

So, while being away from home is less than ideal, I'm having a great time and learning a lot of things. Which I guess is the whole point. That and taking advantage of seeing great movies!

*There is actually a Japanese tea house a stone's throw from my apartment. Tea ceremonies are Thursday afternoons. Yes, I will be skipping out of work early to take part.

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