MFPL retreat: From bench to keyboard

A photo of my opening slide by organiser Stephanie Bannister (@S_Bann).

Last week I was invited to speak about science communication at the MFPL retreat at Znojmo (CR). It was great to meet fans of the blog and chat with PhDs and postdocs about comics, cell/molecular biology (the MFPL does some really cool stuff), lab life and science careers.  Once again, I was struck by how rife with problems academic research is, and I hope that this little talk might spark some non-traditional, yet much-needed career paths.

Click here if you’d like to check out my 11-slide PowerPoint.


Sooooo… die-hard fans of The Upturned Microscope (estimated to be in the high zeros) might have noticed that there hasn’t been a comic up for over a week now. The reason is that last Thursday I travelled to Seoul, South Korea, on a business trip (covering an antibiotics summit), and between a 10-day week, tons of onsite work and jet lag, my cartooning capacity has dwindled like career options after a third postdoc (see? I still got it!). Today I took a day off, but due to family obligations, I’ve been up since 4 am.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some photos from Seoul. I didn’t manage to take many, since I was busy with actual work most of the time, but what I did manage to snap was a lot of Korean food. I’m serious. It looks like all we did out there was eat. Like, non-stop. And I’m not talking about common Western food like this “K-Texas special”, which, to my shame, I simply could not finish (it was enough to feed 3 grown men):

I’m talking weird tasty things that I can’t even pronounce, let alone identify. Like this 23-course meal, which constituted the conference’s dinner (I only managed to photograph 14 dishes). If you can name any of these, comments are open.

This was one meal. It was a lot. It took over two hours. They just kept bringing us course after course after course. There seemed to be no end to the little bowls of tasty Korean yuminess. By course 16, I was scared. By course 20, which was that fish in the centre, I knew despair.

But I didn’t just eat and work. I saw a bit of Seoul, which was hard to photograph due to fog and rain that I was told came straight out of China.

As you can see, it has lots of tall buildings. Lots.

But unlike other large cities, where the inhabitants virtually walk through each other (think London), I found the people friendly, polite and pleasant. Of course, I stayed at what seemed to me to be a bazillion-star hotel, and I got to travel business class for the first time in my four decades on this earth – so I might not have been exposed to a representative cross-section of Seoul’s life.

So here are some interesting shots. First of all, when I received my conference badge and tag, I noticed that I had magically been promoted:

That’s right. Didn’t have to waste my years in academia, chasing that Nature paper. All I had to do was turn up to this summit and – bam! Professor Nik. Like a total boss.

I’ll leave this one with you: A shot of the elevator buttons. What’s wrong with this picture?

I hope to resume comics soon. Please bear with me!

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My sci-fi thriller, LAZARUS, is now out on both Smashwords and Amazon

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Conference talk

My sci-fi thriller, LAZARUS, is out on Smashwords and Amazon

Follow The Upturned Microscope on Twitter and Facebook!