Did you ever go to a conference addressing a topic well outside your comfort zone? No? Well, then you are missing out on some great and exciting science!
I was recently invited to the German American Frontiers of Engineering (GAFoE) Symposium in Evendale, Ohio, by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The sessions were planned to cover a great diversity of topics ranging from ‘Gene Editing’ to topics that initially sounded rather mysterious to me, like ‘Advanced Manufacturing’, ‘Industry 4.0 vs. Industrial Internet of Things’, and ‘Streams of Water and Information’. To be honest, I was puzzled about the invitation to participate. I didn’t really feel like somebody who could contribute a lot to this meeting. But then I thought why not try something new? I eventually accepted the invitation and that turned out to be a great decision!
In particular the sessions with the rather mysterious titles were the most exciting and fascinating ones to me! Everything was new and every single talk provided me with novel insights into topics that I had so far not really thought about a lot. Looking beyond one’s own nose can sure be a very stimulating and exciting experience! I feel that during this GAFoE meeting from March 31st to April 2nd, 2017, I learned more than in the previous three meetings combined.
But hearing about novel topics is one thing – it was even more exciting to meet the many other, enthusiastic participants. Most of them felt to be non-experts, too, and they were evenly excited to expand their knowledge into the other disciplines. This created a unique atmosphere and stimulated discussions that continued at the hotel bar into the early morning hours.
So, if you ever get invited to a meeting that addresses a topic that appears quite distant to your own research interests, don’t immediately turn down the invitation – rather think about the great opportunity to learn something new and meet new people.
I would like to thank the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the invitation and the travel stipend, the National Academy of Engineering, GE aviation for hosting us, and all the organizers for putting together such a great meeting!