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IQ Biology Blog: SciPy in Austin

I have been lucky enough to attend the SciPy conference two years in a row. The conference is focused on scientific computing in Python, and is attended by hundreds of researchers from fields ranging from computer science and software engineering to biology and physics. The format of the conference is chock-full with a slew of different activities and forums. There are tutorials, keynote speeches, seminars, lightning talks, “birds of a feather” (BoF) sessions (where people sharing a common interest participate in a moderated forum focused on a particular challenge), code sprints, poster presentations, and job fairs. This year, schedule conflicts limited my participation to only the “main event” days, so I missed the tutorials (held on days preceding the main event) and sprints (following the main event). But there was still plenty to keep me occupied!
IQ Biology Blog: SciPy in Austin

Adam Robbins-Pianka graduated with his PhD from the IQ Biology program in July of 2015.

I have been lucky enough to attend the SciPy conference two years in a row. The conference is focused on scientific computing in Python, and is attended by hundreds of researchers from fields ranging from computer science and software engineering to biology and physics. The format of the conference is chock-full with a slew of different activities and forums. There are tutorials, keynote speeches, seminars, lightning talks, “birds of a feather” (BoF) sessions (where people sharing a common interest participate in a moderated forum focused on a particular challenge), code sprints, poster presentations, and job fairs.

This year, schedule conflicts limited my participation to only the “main event” days, so I missed the tutorials (held on days preceding the main event) and sprints (following the main event). But there was still plenty to keep me occupied! The seminar schedule itself is essentially three simultaneous conferences: for each time block, you have to choose between three concurrent sessions. Of course after you’re done for the day – which might be around five o’clock but is typically much later, since there are social events in the evenings including receptions and river boat tours – you have the opportunity to watch any of the sessions you missed on YouTube.

The talks are fast – fifteen minutes plus five for questions – so you find yourself navigating bustling corridors and staircases to get to the next thing you’re interested in, and you always see some familiar faces or names on nametags that you mentally note to catch later during one of the breaks.

The combination of the varied conference formats, the range of topics, the number of attendees, and the common ground everyone shares (programming in Python) makes for an extremely stimulating experience! You might find yourself in a conversation one moment discussing how awesome HDF5 is for organizing all your data, and the next moment you’re wrapped up in a discussion about educating college freshman on microbial ecology.

Unlike last year, this year I had the privilege of giving a talk with my colleague Yoshiki Vàzquez-Baeza, which made the whole experience even more engaging. To anyone who uses Python for their work or research: do not miss SciPy next year! (You can find the YouTube video of Adam and Yoshiki's talk here.)


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