Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Last week I attended the 22nd North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference.[1] This time it was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota (my first venture into that state). I've also attended the 21st North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference, which was held in Colombus, Missouri in 2010 [2] (I brought back two ticks with me from a day trip we took at that conference) and the 16th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation, which was held in Big Sky, Montana in 2009.[3] I presented a poster at the meeting based on the research I've been doing since I started a postdoc in Wisconsin earlier this year.[4][5] There were lots of interesting topics covered, including identification and characterization of key plant and bacterial genes involved in the development of root nodules, genetics of rhizobia, genetics of legumes, genomics, and a fascinating talk from a fellow who is part of the N2Africa project funded by the Gates Foundation.[6]

Two other postdocs and I took a Megabus from Madison to Minneapolis. It departed two hours late, the seating was cramped and uncomfortable, and the wi-fi they touted on their homepage was spotty.[7]

I stayed in dorms near the conference center. There was a decent view of the Minneapolis skyline from my window.

Near the conference center were these strange Art Deco towers.

On the penultimate evening of the conference we had a banquet on a Mississippi River cruise. We embarked from St. Paul.

Based on that description, I was expecting a steam-powered paddleboat. But our boat was just a double-decker barge pushed by a tugboat. But we did see some paddleboats on the river.

We were provided with tickets for purchasing beer. Since I don't drink alcohol [8], I thought I might be able to wait until later in the evening and then sell my tickets. Alas, one of the organizers of the conference had a big stack of tickets in his pocket and he kept going around and giving them away—effectively devaluing my currency. So, I ended up bring my tickets home and dropping them into the recycling bin.

This sign was next to the elevator on my floor of the dorms. The first few times I saw it, I figured that whoever wrote it had left out a word or two. But on the last day I realized that "Please" wasn't a polite expression, it was a command. What was missing from the sign was a suggestion for how all cardboard boxes like to be pleased!

Our Megabus back to Madison picked us up near the Metrodome, where the Minnesota Vikings play. Apparently I was gone long enough for it to affect Lilli because now, during the day, when Leann asks her where I am she says "Minnesota" instead of "at work".


[1] See

[2] See

[3] See

[4] See my post Move to Wisconsin.

[5] You can read about another conference I attended, last year, here.

[6] The N2Africa project aims to help sub-Saharan farmers become self-sufficient. See

[7] Even more bizarre, they sent me an online survey and this was one of the questions:

What does that have to do with my intercity travel?

[7] For those who are unsure why Latter-day Saints (Mormons) abstain from alcohol (as well as tea, coffee, tobacco, and illegal drugs), I recommend you visit here and here, where you can learn more about LDS beliefs concerning dietary restrictions. If you have more questions, ask and maybe I'll do a full post on the topic.

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