Sunday, August 28, 2016

Returning to Caltech - by Lily

It’s been almost twenty years since my graduation. This is my first time back, to the place where I studied, fell in love, had my PhD diploma and my first child both on hands. The memories are distant yet clear, emotions raw and nostalgic.

The trees have grown bigger and taller, buildings modernized and more. Yet Beckman Auditorium and Millikan Library still stand tall and magnificent.

I’m back to join old friends and lab mates in celebration of my PhD advisor’s 60th birthday. It is a lot of fun to catch up with everyone after all these years. People have diverges into different fields of research. But we all share a common experience of working with a great scientist in the field and the best mentor, Dr. Paul Sternberg, brilliant and kind, enthusiastic and generous, stimulating and uplifting. In many ways we all try to carry on a piece of him in our work. His contribution to science manifested through his students and trainees. The day is filled with scientific talks ranging from fungi to parasites to worms, fruit flies, vertebrates, and humans, with fond memories of life in Paul’s lab and wisdom and life lessons learned from him.

Late into the night, Maureen and I decided we had to go back to the lab and take a look. Guided by Paul’s current student we went back to Kerckhoff building. The microscopies and Nomarski are still there, the lab is still packed, but the worm pattern on the floor is new, Paul’s office has a worm shaped desk and the worm lineages are nicely painted on the wall, a special treat for such a nerdy scientist! :)

Bidding Paul farewell, wishing him happy birthday and happy life, I feel I’m taking a dose of confidence and entrust back home as well. I hope opportunity calls for another visit soon :)

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