Thursday, April 10, 2008

Back from Spring08 ACS

The American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans proved to be as hectic as usual. I didn't get to spend as much time with everyone I was hoping to touch base with but I did get some useful things done:

1) I presented on the use of Cheminformatics in Open Notebook Science and Teaching Chemistry with Second Life. Since the ACS oral sessions are so short (15-20 mins before questions) this is a good opportunity to get our work recorded in a concise format. Speakers like to complain that they need a full hour to do justice to their elaborate projects but the shorter format seems to match the attention span of most attendees.

2) The Sci-Mix session on Monday was very hectic. I presented two posters related to my talks and helped out with the opening of the poster session on ACS island. We had 20 posters in Second Life and it was great to finally meet a few of the presenters and the organizer Kate Sellar (Finola Graves) in person. Kate was running Second Life on a large screen right at the poster entrance and giving out t-shirts. Andy Lang (Hiro Sheridan) was also helping out remotely from within Second Life. By all accounts it was well received. The posters will remain up on ACS island for the next few months and it will be possible to contact presenters via bells next to their posters.

3) I also finally met several people that I have known only virtually for some time: Rajarshi Guha, David Wild, Rich Apodaca, Noel O'Boyle and Warren DeLano. Rajarshi, Rich, Noel, Warren, Geoff Hutchison and I went out for the Blue Obelisk dinner on Tuesday night.

4) I had a good brainstorming session with Rajarshi about representing experimental workflows in XML. He suggested using Taverna to create "null" workflows - since our lab experiments are physical rather than executing code. Noel suggested using Knime. The idea is to represent experimental steps leading to a result in a standard machine readable (and thus minable) format. We're going to start very simply by limiting the workflow space to Ugi reactions.

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