I have to admit that when I moved to Cape Town I felt disoriented, because being a bioinformatician in a new country I had no idea how to get in touch with bioinformatician here. So I started using twitter and I also decided to write a blog. I realised that creating connections it’s all about not feeling alone and being able to communicate.
At the beginning, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I felt that I was the only one in this area working on bioinformatics, even though I knew that this wasn’t true; then I realized that I needed some ideas to meet other bioinformaticians.
Fortunately, one day, one of my colleagues at the university told me about a CUB meeting: an unseminar where people that do bioinformatics in the Cape Town area meet (http://thecubhub.wordpress.com). I was very excited and scared at the same time at the idea to meet this group and I almost skip the meeting, but eventually I took courage and I went. It was their second meeting and “whoa!” – I was so surprise to meet so many people that work in different bioinformatics areas! Talking with some of them I realised they had my same feelings and it was the start for a great opportunity of making new friends. This meeting was in Stellenbosh and it was amazingly organised: there were interesting talks sessions and wine was served. Once there I felt happy to have gone beyond my fears.
The meeting introduction was brief and very useful: we were supposed to explain what we do like we will to a five year old… and it wasn’t easy! This was of great help to me since I’ve always though I was explaining in easy words what I do and … ops… I wasn’t.
On the 1st of October I took part at the 4th CUB meeting (the 2nd for me, because I was in Zurich for a conference during the 3rd meeting) and again I have to say it was impressive. This time they applied the “speed dating” concept through skype: we had to talk for five minutes with a stranger and tell him about our research. It was absolutely terrifying at first but it turned out to be an awesome experience.
I can’t wait for the next meeting to see what the organisers will come out with. I feel that I am learning a lot from these meetings: first of all I am getting in touch with the bioinformatics community; secondly I have the opportunity to explain what I do in different ways. Explaining science and research to a heterogeneous public, from kids to scientists or just to a curious person it has to be done in an appropriate way. It is fundamental that scientists learn how to explain their work and discoveries to the global public in a complete but simple way, avoiding the not-competent people to distort information.
Now you will be asking why I am sharing this or why you should read my blog.
Well, after that first meeting I felt so much better, there was a bioinformatics community around me and I was able to share a conversation about my project and get advice from different angles of the field. I am also learning that twitter and blogs are a great way to get in touch with people within specific communities.
If you are in a new country and you are not sure if there is a bioinformatics community next to you or, even if you just want to understand more, check via twitter or contact the HUB (http://www.hub-hub.de/wiki/index.php?title=HUB_-_Heidelberg_Unseminars_in_Bioinformatics) community and start a new adventure in your area. The community will grow and improve the experience of other people!