It is the final day of the conference and the convention center is eerily deserted. The few remaining talks are in the Shearton, and only a handful of people are left. It's been a busy week and several people look downright exhausted.
For the duration of the meeting I pretty much camped out in Symposium C, on ferroelectrics and multiferroics. Many of the talks were relevant and interesting to me, and I had a few good discussions with collaborators during the breaks. Yesterday the two MRS Medal Award recipients, James Scott and Darrell Schlom, gave talks at Symposium X, which was lucky for me as I've spent a lot of time studying their papers. Prof. Scott's talk had the cute (if corny) theme of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." The "old" was a paper of his from 1980 about a magnetoelectric effect in BaMnF4, a paper which went almost unnoticed until the past few years when it has suddenly received a slew of citations in the boon of multiferroics research.
Prof. Schlom had a similar story in his talk, about the first paper he published when he was a new professor at Penn State. Before he had a lab set up, he did some calculations with an undergrad student (if I have the story right) on the thermodynamic stability of various binary oxides in contact with silicon. It might have been a relatively unremarkable paper, except that the transistor community was looking for a new gate dielectric to replace SiO2 in order to make thinner transistors. They needed something that wouldn't react with silicon, producing an unwanted SiO2 layer, so Schlom's paper became very popular as a guide to the search. The moral of these stories is twofold. First, you can't always predict the impact of a given piece of research and second, even if your paper is ignored by the scientific community, don't despair. There is still a chance that you'll get the last laugh.
Now it is goodbye to Boston, land of the frigid wind, endless shopping malls, and a million Au Bon Pain's. (Seriously- this place has Au Bon Pain outlets like most cities have trash cans.) I'm going to do some sightseeing before I leave though, so hopefully I'll rewrite those impressions with something more aesthetic. It has been fun blogging and I hope someone out there has been reading it, even if you aren't commenting. Maybe I'll see you in March for the Spring Meeting on the sunny shores of California. Bye!