Participants gathering for the sensorica round table
Participants gathering for the sensorica round table

Past Friday, June 8, 2012, it was time for the 3rd CAMBAM Annual Meeting. The past Annual Meetings both created a little bit of a magical atmosphere, befitting such a day that only happens once a year, and only once. Participants were invited to the McGill Faculty Club, its wooden interior speaking of prestige and privilege. Being served an excellent four course meal, I wondered if our contribution can justify such privilege, or in the end displaces little more air than the beat of a butterfly’s wing. After all, this day was primarily about scientific progress in CAMBAM, a day to rest and review our accomplishments and progress – which often takes the form of small steps, taken one at a time – so let’s focus not on dinner courses and ambiance, but on students’ and corporate guests’ contributions to a day full of progress made, interdisciplinary perspectives, and new connections. Never having enough of science, we fill a day of rest by showing posters, discussing at round tables, and attending various presentations. I counted close to 20 posters presented by CAMBAM students from McGill and Université de Montréal. Many professors and students were on-site,  discussing their research in a casual environment during the poster session, which lasted from 3pm to 6pm.

On the second floor, in parallel to the poster session, two round tables organized by our Student Chapter took place at 4pm and 5pm.  At 4pm, students met with Alain Ajamian, Chris Williams, and Martin Santavy from Montreal-based  Chemical Computing Group Inc. (www.chemcomp.com) CCG develops and deploys  a software used for molecular engineering, a very graphical tool that makes it easy to design medically relevant molecules in the fashion of very advanced LEGO blocks, fitting into and modifying the structure of proteins.

The 5pm round table featured Sensorica (www.sensorica.co), with an introduction of Sensorica’s value network concept by Tiberius Brastaviceanu, and following discussion amongst CAMBAM students and faculty, and Tiberius and Francois Bergeron from Sensorica.   The value network is an uncommon way of doing business. The easiest way to understand it is to think of Linux and Wikipedia. These open source projects have been and are still developed by a large groups of volunteers, most of them not receiving any salary or financial reward in return for their work. What a value network, such as Sensorica, proposes is a way to connect together sellers and marketers with developers, while maintaining the open and decentralized way of open source projects, while providing a mechanism to redistribute the revenues generated among the participants in proportion to each one’s contribution. In the context of the present economic crisis, the frequent protest against austerity measure and the demand for an alternative economic system, the value network present itself as a valid candidate. This animated debate kept several of us greatly attentive and continued for 30 minutes longer than planned, and was only ended by a call to the dinner table by Erik Cook, one of CAMBAM’s co-directors.

The round tables were first time events for the Student Chapter, attempts at narrowing the gaping divide between academic education and basic research with corporate needs and hands-on innovations. Nevertheless, everything worked exquisitely well, except that an attendance of 10 to 15 was a terrible underestimation. However, participants found creative (window sills) or enduring (standing for one hour) ways to participate in the at times controversial, though highly productive discussion.

To close off a great day, several addresses were given over the 7-9pm dinner. To start off, Erik Cook (CAMBAM Co-Director) and Thomas Quail (CAMBAM Student Chapter Representative) addressed the past year’s developments, state of affairs, and future directions, not failing any chances to strike a humorous tone. Over dessert, Chris Williams (Chemical Computing Group Inc.) and Greg Stacey (PhD Student, Dept. of Physiology, McGill University) gave two short, excellent, and captivating keynote speeches, which were a fitting closure to a day full of fun, science, and great people.

Now, a last word directed at all the CAMBAM members at the meeting (and those who could not make it): I hope you guys had as much fun as we did. We, the CAMBAM Student Chapter put in a lot of hard work and “critical thinking.” We think it paid off,  and hope our presence was accordingly noticed. We have a marketing plan going on, and if you joined over the past week and you are reading this – it worked.  We should also thank our motherhouse CAMBAM for putting all this together. Because days like this only happens once a year, I tell you: See you next year!

Frederic Simard, Lennart Hilbert of the CAMBAM Student Chapter


This post by Fred Simard and me originally appeared on the Inside CAMBAM student blog.

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