Triangle Chatter

Lab Coats, Sandy and Venus Flytraps

It’s an odd juxtaposition – a science writers conference and a super storm. North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Yet prior to the start of Science Writers 2012, the terms were intertwined repeatedly on Twitter.

From Paul Raeburn (‏@praeburn): Mega-storm could hit mid-Atlantic during #sciwri12. Expect airport chaos.

Storm or no storm, 500 science writers blew into the Research Triangle. We greeted them with tours – of the Duke Lemur Center (see story), of RTI and the EPA, of Medicago, of the RTP. We had a big party at the RTP headquarters, and then took them downtown to the conference hotel.

What followed was three days jam packed with content. About half of the talks featured North Carolina scientists. We wrapped up the event with tours to the coast, to the Research Campus in Kannapolis, to smart energy research labs at Centennial Campus, and to a couple of local biotech companies.

A few extra attendees on the Tuesday tours made the best of delays caused by Sandy – more people seeing the best we have to offer. And thanks to the Duke Lemur Center, we had a replacement stop for a Tuesday weather-related cancellation. Great community teamwork!

A few other vignettes from the conference follow.

Look for the Lab Coats

It could have been cheesy – lab coats for volunteers who were greeting and directing visitors throughout the conference.

It turned out to be a masterstroke. On Friday, the first attendees began arriving at RDU, greeted by volunteers wearing lab coats.  Just after noon, Twitter started buzzing with the reaction:

From Christie Wilcox ‏@NerdyChristie: The lab coat people are amazing, #SciWri12! Great idea!

That didn’t preclude other travelers from looking at us sideways. Apparently, they were trying to figure out whether we were a gimmick or an indicator of some epidemiological event. But the writers loved them, and many asked where they could get one. Two lucky attendees won one in a charity raffle.

Feed me Seymour

North Carolina’s official carnivorous plant continued the wow factor.  Just in time for Halloween, 500 Venus Flytraps arrived from Southeastern Community College in Whiteville. 

When the writers found out what the conference gift was, the Little Shop of Horrors refrain “Feed me Seymour” rippled through the crowd. The writers began picking out names for their plants. Some even found fruit flies to satisfy the carnivores’ appetites.

On Monday, writers got a second chance at the gifts, and they proved just as popular. You can read more on Storify.

Plenty of Science Too!

This conference is the largest gathering for science writers, organized by science writers. This year, the Research Triangle and North Carolina dazzled the writers with five solid days of programming.

Talks included:

1 Poverty, health and industrial hog production

2 Cognitive aging: using games to explore strategies to keep brains healthy

3 To make new nanotherapeutics, just press PRINT

And if two days of talks weren’t enough, we sent the writers home with a tip book containing more than 100 story ideas. Check out the #SciWri12 tag on Twitter for more insights. There are some interesting factoids.

A Final Note

We pulled off such a great event thanks to the leadership of Duke’s Karl Bates. When we first sat down with him 13 months ago, we had no concept of what was in store.

We look forward to reading all of the great stories that came out of the conference. North Carolina sure made a strong showing.

Author: Robin Deacle, Vice President, Corporate Communications, North Carolina Biotechnology Center

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