Convention Hall

Science is, fundamentally, a collaborative enterprise. No discovery is made in an interpersonal vacuum (though some are made in literal vacuum.) In light of this fact, perhaps the rise of the semi-annual national science society convention as the “event of the year” for many fields was only natural.

This year, I had the chance to attend the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Diego. As the presentations and posters associated with my own work were on the first and last days of the meeting, respectively, I hung around for the entire convention. Behind the science, both groundbreaking and mundane, I found a surreal gathering of some of the continent’s most brilliant chemists.

Let me set the scene for this festival of scientific collaboration (and mild debauchery): the San Diego convention center, a structure that bears an eerie resemblance to a Floridian airport. The elaborate palm-tree-centric landscaping really hammers home the touristy aesthetic, while the interior features the same blank white walls, durable benches, and rigid carpeting that says, “Wait patiently for your boarding group to be called.” The surrounding “Historic” Gaslamp Quarter offers a tasteful array of overpriced restaurants and comfortable hotels. Beyond this, the most notable feature of the region was the absolute ubiquity of ACS badges; the area took on the feel of a college campus, with everyone gathered for the same purpose.