Saturday, April 9, 2011

Accepting complements in science

Taking compliments to heart is something I need to learn to do.  People wouldn't go out of their way to tell you they felt a certain way if they didn't really feel that way, right? (Unless there's some deviousness afoot)

Case in point:  I gave a talk about the wonders of the nanoworld to a crowd of around 100 at Nerd Nite Toronto on Thursday night.  The talk went just as I wanted it to go, my ad-lib was ON, people laughed at my jokes, and I got lots of compliments afterwards. 

Me right before giving THE TALK.

I know it went well, but the one thing I can't help but dwell upon is the one question I couldn't answer.  This question was regarding alpha particle emission from gold nanoparticles/clusters.  We don't talk about nanoparticles in terms of nuclear reactions, and I embarrassingly didn't even remember that an alpha particle is basically a helium nucleus, so I froze a bit and really had no answer.  Upon talking to the asker later, I found out he was interested because of his job, but that still didn't make the question easier to answer.

I guess it keeps me human in science, though.  If you're just praised all the time and not faced with adversity, you're never going to grow.  The opposite is true as well.  I could give a talk on metal nanoparticles drunk and blind, but it could always be better.  Compliments tell me I'm on the right track, and roadblocks spur me to improve.

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