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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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February 14, 2006

First Slide, Please

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Posted by Derek

I spent a good party of my day today in various meetings, but (fortunately) I didn't have to present anything at any of them. There have been some close calls over the years.

Back at a former company, I sat down in one of our group meetings, idly wondering who was going to be presenting today. What a pleasant surprise to find out that it was me! "I asked Derek a couple of weeks ago to put something together on this approach to our binding data that he's been working on. . ." said my boss, as I looked at him in dawning terror. Yes. . .yes. . .he did do that, didn't he. . .it's all coming back to me now. . . I had nothing prepared, nothing at all. Actually, I had very little to talk about in the first place, because the approach he was referring to hadn't yielded anything interesting. I'd dropped it just a couple of days after he'd asked to talk about it. Now, if I'd remembered that I was supposed to present, I could have at least left some doubts in people's minds about whether I was on to something. But as I staggered through a grim chalk talk, the true state of affairs became horribly clear.

Not all of these situations have ended in disaster. I recall a meeting where a number of us were presenting on our current projects. I had just been put in charge of a new one, which fact had somehow not registered on me as I wandered in to the conference room ready to hear from everyone else. After the first couple of speakers, a tiny bell went off in my head. I turned to a friend of mine sitting next to me and took a look at the agenda: yep, there I was. Coming up after two more speakers. Well, now.

I excused myself and sauntered over to the door. As soon as it closed, I bolted for my office and threw together a fast handful of slides (fortunately, I had the makings already, otherwise I'd have been doomed for sure). I returned in plenty of time, and gave what was a much more coherent presentation than it had any business being. Procrastination is one thing, but putting the presentation together twenty minutes after the meeting had started - that still stands as my record, and I've no desire to break it.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. Novice Chemist on February 15, 2006 9:30 AM writes...

This is one of those things that doesn't make me look forward to leaving academia and joining the workforce: you still have to keep giving group meetings. Worse, (apparently) you still have to give chalk talks.

One more thing: coincidentally, I also gave a group meeting yesterday. Isn't it awful when you give your adviser a result that you think should be great and they grunt, instead? It can be terribly disappointing.

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2. MDW on February 15, 2006 10:44 AM writes...


Were you naked during these meetings?

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3. tom bartlett on February 15, 2006 10:44 AM writes...

"Isn't it awful when you give your adviser a result that you think should be great and they grunt, instead?"

Probably his normal style of communication. Along with scratching.

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4. Derek Lowe on February 15, 2006 11:55 AM writes...

MDW, I just wished that they were both dreams. The first one especially felt like something I was just about to wake up from, but no such luck.

Novice, don't worry about chalk talks in industry. The only ones you'll see are the inadvertant ones like I described. Nowadays we all upload our presentations to a server and project them from someone's laptop in the conference rooms, which all have wireless coverage.

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5. Giagan on February 15, 2006 12:29 PM writes...

I love chalk talks. Probably not when I'm presenting and totally unprepared though. It's infinitely more pleasing for me to draw a structure in chalk than on a marker board. Unfortunately, I haven't encountered a single chalk board here at my place of work.

Hmm. I'm going to see about getting one for my lab or office.

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6. The Strider on February 16, 2006 4:32 AM writes...

When I was still a masters student I gave a short 20 minutes talk at a professional society meeting and the overhead projector broke down. There was no backup projector in the room and I spent the rest of the talk waving hands and displaying graphs by holding my transparencies high in the air. At the end of talk I got a nice applause from the audience :-)

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7. tgibbs on February 16, 2006 12:50 PM writes...

As a student, I'd have nightmares in which I walked into a classroom and discovered that I'd forgotten that there was an exam. Now the nightmare is walking into a classroom and discovering that I'm expected to lecture. I've had it actually happen once--walking by a classroom, seeing students gathered, and thinking, "That's funny; I thought my lecture was next in that course, but that's next week, isn't it?" I ended up doing the same thing--running into my office, grabbing some slides, and delivering the lecture off the cuff. Not a disaster, but not something I'd care to repeat, either.

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8. Wm Chaney on February 17, 2006 12:20 AM writes...

While in graduate school I saw a faculty candidate present his job seminar entirely on a chalk board because the airlines had lost his luggage containing his slides. The only saving grace was that he did electron microscopy of DNA packing in virus heads, and his drawn squiggles probably looked as good as his slides. However, as one of the senior faculty members left the room he commented that he didn't see how he could support anyone dumb enough to pack his slides in his suitcase when flying to Michigan in the winter.

The candidate did not get an offer.

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