Monday, April 16, 2007

Metagenomics, a visit to the Moore Foundation HQ, and things not to ask for from your Program Officer

OK - so here is my confession. I posted my blog last week about my brother's birthday to make up for my ditching him on his 40th birthday to go to a meeting at the Moore Foundation HQ. I really needed to go to this meeting, for many reasons, and so I went just for the day (driving from Davis did not take anywhere near as long as I expected --- just ~ 1.5 hours to the Presidio in SF where the Moore HQ is located). But with two kids including a newborn, I could not go to the A's Yankees game with my brother and so I posted that birthday blog to do something.

Anyway - not a ton to report from the meeting. It was the second California Metagenomics workshop organized by UCSD as part of the CAMERA project. The last one was in Berkeley. There were some good talks but as usual the best thing was a chance to talk to people in person. The two best talks in my opinion were one by Victoria Orphan from Caltech and one by Jessica Green from UC Merced. Orphan talked about a special sorting method they are using to pull out cells of particular organisms from environmental samples for subsequent gene and genome sequencing. Green talked about her work on spatial ecology and biogeography of microbes. I think we desperately need more people like Green in the microbial ecology field --- people who are taking methods and concepts used for "big" organisms and applying them to the microbial world (another example is Jen Martiny at Irvine who was not at the meeting but her husband Adam Martiny was there).

The most painful part of the meeting (other than the traffic on the way home) --- the lame behavior of many of the scientists in regard to our hosts the Moore Foundation. Despite being told many times that people were expected to bus their own tables --- few did. And even better, one of the participants (Adam Godzik) spent serious effort complaining about the coffee not being strong enough to the program officer from the Moore Foundation. And then asking her to get him some stronger coffee. Clearly he likes his coffee. But not really the best way to interact with a program officer.


  1. That's just insane. With funding being tight all over, treating program officers like personal butlers has to be the most counterproductive way to ensure a grant is renewed. Did Adam not realize who she was and thought she was waitstaff?
    (Not that complaining about free, if weak, coffee would be particularly polite even then)


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