Impressions from a French Symposium

This is a guest post by Elena Colangelo, PhD student in the group.
One week ago I was leaving for Strasbourg, for the E-MRS Spring Meeting. I started my PhD in October and I was curious to discover what a conference looks like.
In particular two aspects of this French week have impressed me.

The symposium Q

Lara Bogart and Fred Currell (Queen University Belfast) in Strasbourg, May 2013

Lara Bogart and Fred Currell (Queen University Belfast) in Strasbourg, May 2013

The symposia (literally “to drink together”) were social events of great importance for Greeks and Romans. They used to debate on a variety of topics while eating and drinking; the discussion was guided by the symposiarch who had also to decide how strong the wine served would have been accordingly to the depth of the theme discussed. During the symposia new friendships were built on common interests and enjoyable time spent together. I found that the spirit and the organization of the symposium Q “Bionanomaterials for imaging, sensing and actuating” in the Strasbourg conference was pretty much the same. The talks have been enjoyable and sometimes the discussions have been really exciting. At the same time the atmosphere on Wednesday evening was not far from Alcaeus’s drinking poem (fr. 346):

Let’s drink! Why are we waiting for the lamps? Only an inch of daylight left.
Lift down the large cups, my friends, the painted ones;
for wine was given to men by the son of Semele and Zeus
to help them forget their troubles. Mix one part of water to two of wine,
pour it in up to the brim, and let one cup push the other along…

Leaving Italy

After my graduation I decided to leave Italy because I was seeing the problems in the academic world as irremediable and irreversible. I have been more than happy to meet at the conference so many Italian researchers that are working there. They were complaining about issues they face because of the stuck situation, but at the same time they were not thinking that it is yet the time to give up and to move somewhere else. From The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese:

One needs a town, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A town means not being alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the soil, there is something of yourself, that even when you’re not there it stays and waits for you. But it isn’t easy to live there and not be restless.

Elena, Lara and Dan in La Petite France, Strasbourg, May 2013

Elena, Lara and Dan in La Petite France, Strasbourg, May 2013


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