From Worms Head to The Eagle – and some gizzards too

By Jonas Waldenström

Contrary to many people’s belief, science is actually a very social thing. Ideas are boiled downed to testable hypotheses, many sets of hands help out in the field, catching stuff, measuring stuff, or aid in the lab with fine-tuned molecular wizardry. In the writing phase, coauthors tap away on their keyboards, shuffling paragraphs around, correct grammar (or obnoxiously defend their own pet sentences), before the final manuscript is perused by one or several editors and (somewhat) helpful reviewers. More than that, we meet at work, at conferences, or chat via Skype. It’s all a part of our trade, a connected and mostly friendly social network.

Last week I sailed away on a particularly nice jolly. Having been invited two give talks at two British universities (thanks Ben Sheldon, and Oskar Brattström!). I packed my hand luggage with underwear, shirts and snus to last me a week, and step on to the plane to Heathrow.

My tour took me first to Oxford and the Edward Grey Institute, then down to Swansea for Campylobacter discussions and some French cuisine (and when I say French, I mean the proper sense: confit de canard and a poultry gizzard salad), and then over to the Zoology Department in Cambridge. This sort of travel is really fantastic. Apart from giving my talks, I also had the opportunity to chat with a range of different scientist. I listened to a number of genomics talks in Oxford, got to see a specimen of the Hoff crab, discussed fear in badgers over a few pints at The Turf, had more beer at The Eagle in Cambridge (where Crick exclaimed to the world that he and Watson had ‘discovered the secret of life’), and had great discussions with colleagues on antigenic structures in influenza viruses, migration of ducks in Georgia, and of gene flow between Campylobacter in wild birds and domestic animals. In all, a smorgasbord of thought.

Of course this left me a bit drained, and it was good to get home to the family again. But wow, being an academic has its upsides!

Rinse the gizzards, fry them in duck fat, serve with salad, blue cheese and walnuts.

Rinse the gizzards, fry them in duck fat, serve with salad, blue cheese and walnuts.

The dramatic coastline at Worms head, Swansea

The dramatic coastline at Worms head, Swansea

The Turf - just a short walk from the Zoology Department in Oxford

The Turf – just a short walk from the Zoology Department in Oxford

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