Monday, 17 September 2012

As it happened - HB2012 Conference in Beijing - Day 1

People sometimes ask me 'what goes on at a scientific conference?'. I thought I'd take this chance to blog my first trip to China for a workshop* on high brightness and high intensity hadron beams. 

I arrived in Beijing early Sunday morning after a long flight with a rude man sitting next to me taking up way too much elbow room. I couldn't sleep because of him, so it wasn't a good start.

The taxi drive to our hotel was... interesting. The good news? There were seat belts! The bad news? The bit the seatbelt clicks into was missing entirely.

The driver didn't speak any English (which we kind-of expected) and seemingly couldn't understand our specially printed instructions in chinese for which hotel we wanted and where. Eventually he phoned the hotel and we got on our way. He drove the car (which only seemed to have two functional gears) mostly in the middle of two lanes! Thankfully it wasn't too busy, but he didn't seem to understand the concept of driving in one lane. 

It's all part of the experience. 

A quick nap later and my colleagues and I spent the afternoon visiting the Temple of Heaven, some hutongs and Tianamen square. We walked between them and were on our feet for about 6 hours! I was so exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel I only just had the energy to register for the conference and quickly attend the welcome drinks to say hi to a few people. 

Watching a plenary talk
But... this post is about "Day 1" which means Monday! The first day of the conference and we're all fresh with optimism and happy to catch up with old colleagues and acquaintances and excited to find out what's new and happening in our field. 
Old steam boat on canal, Beijing
One of my work friends that I run with (Ben) is also here & we're both recovering from injuries so we went out for a short run early in the morning. Not many people run in China, so many of the walkers and people doing Tai-Chi watched us as we ran past. We found a nice canal near our hotel to run along and even found this old shell of a paddle-boat with some fisherman nearby.

Today was all invited plenary talks - from 8.45am to 4pm. Some of them were very interesting. I decided to tweet some of the key points while it was happening, so below is my twitter review of the talks today!

From 4.30pm-6pm was the poster session, which is where I was presenting my work. I normally don't like poster sessions because in the past they've been at big conferences where many people aren't familiar with the work I'm doing, so I find myself explaining the very basics loads of times over without it being of any use to me!

Today was a different experience though - I actually enjoyed & got a lot out of presenting my poster.

I had long conversations with a number of people, most of whom I already knew but some that I didn't. It was actually very helpful. I have at least one new simulation to try and I now understand my own results better than I did before. I've also built connections with some existing acquaintances (I'd prefer to call them friends, really, but let's be professional!) and I'm feeling encouraged that I will now have more people to discuss ideas with in the future - which will make a big difference.

Tonight I went for dinner in the fancier of the two hotel restaurants with one of my colleagues together with a colleague/expert/guru/pioneer-in-our-field from Japan and two guys we also know who did their PhDs in his research group. My group are hoping to collaborate with this research group on some experiments early next year. We tried all sorts of delicacies from pigs ear (yum!) to jellyfish (not very tasty) and chinese rice wine.

I've had a lovely evening - but now it's 11pm and I've been up since 6am, so better get some rest for tomorrow!
Ben presenting his poster (he was next to me)

Highlights of today (from my twitter feed @suziesheehy) from the Large Hadron Collider beam energy in terms of chocolate to my joy at seeing real experimental data:

*a workshop is meant to be more interactive than a conference). 


  1. Excellent summary. I didn't know your taxi driver drove so crazily! I look forward to future posts.

  2. I remember last time I was there taxi drivers paid no attention to traffic lights or indicator lights either, everyone just squeezes in where they can.
    This is why asian drivers have such a bad name in western countries: