What is “The Community of Minds”?

To put it simply, The Community of Minds (COM) is the network of people who choose to engage in life from a rational, thought-driven, inquiry-based perspective. Of course, this is not exclusive to nor encompassing all scientists, but I would like to think that we are a large sector of this Community. If you, as a graduate student, post doc or early career scientist, have not put your head down too far in your labors at the bench, I would like to explain why you should be prioritizing becoming an active member in The COM.

Aristotle explains in his work “The Politics” that the city is a partnership whose purpose is self-sufficiency. If you break the city into its smaller pieces in order to study it, you will find that these pieces, such as the village or the household, are also comprised of partnerships. Aristotle states that “the household is the partnership constituted by nature for [the needs of] daily life.” So what does this have to do with “The Community of Minds”? Well, according to Aristotle, we need partnerships to obtain “self-sufficiency” and to meet the needs of daily life. In other words, while independence is extremely important, we must also recognize our need for partnerships in order to achieve and secure that independence. This is not about being a parasite! One thing microbiome research has taught us is that no organism lives in isolation. We are all mutualists at some level! So, rather than struggling through on your own, why not intentionally and strategically identify how you can be both a contributor and a recipient of The COM?

If you are attending the #PlantBio16 meeting this year in Austin, you are primed for a great opportunity to start doing just this – identifying and connecting with other members of The COM. I can tell you from personal experience that you cannot predict all the potential outcomes from doing this!

Some tips:

  1. Be Strategic – use the Plant Bio app to browse through the list of speakers and posters and choose at least one person you would like to meet each day of the conference. These do not have to be people who others consider “important” now. You never know who will be important to you or who will be important in 10 years!
  2. Start small – if you are not a naturally out-going person, buddy up with someone you know who is! By doing the buddy system, you are already establishing the first layer of your COM!
  3. Take advantage of the workshops – there are many great workshops this year to help you develop your “beyond the bench” skills critical for becoming a well-rounded scientist. Check the conference schedule and “favorite” the ones you think will help you the most (I recommend “How to Create a Winning Elevator Pitch” at 11:30 AM on Sunday, room 14).
  4. Take it home with you! – just because the conference ends doesn’t mean you have to forego the “conference” experience until next year. Find and develop The COM at your school. To learn more about how to do this, come see me, Mary Williams and Phil Taylor at The Pub Club meet-up in the Plantae Pavilion Sunday at 7:30 PM)

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