Nature, Science, and Having to Say Goodbye

One of my really amazing students, Dr. Nuzhat Maisha, graduated recently. She is one of the most careful, hardworking scientists I have had the privilege of collaborating with over the past five years. She’s moving this weekend to Boston to start working at a company, and they are incredibly lucky to have her.

We met today via video to go over the revisions for two of her manuscripts. She was surrounded by boxes, and I was home at my small desk on the porch. As we were talking about the role one of the polymer components played, I yelled and fell down. There was a wasp around my desk.

I am not a nature person. I love nature, but I’m most comfortable when nature and I can be at a respectful distance. Nature, I think, feels the same way. When I ran into a bear in the Catskills, both of us were delighted to keep moving on. I was terrified. The bear mostly seems annoyed that the eggplant in running shoes was singing to deter it.

Once I stopped screaming, and I really hope Nuzhat had pressed the mute button, I obtained the swatter. I had no intention of swatting the wasp. It is a mud dauber, and they are very beneficial insects, but I needed to deter it until I had a plan. We carried out the rest of the conversation periodically interrupted by screaming and deterrent-swatting and science.

I hate saying goodbye, especially to brilliant, wonderful colleagues. I miss her already. I’m sad that our last meeting involved screaming and wasps, but I am so grateful for the last five years, and I’m so grateful that when I’m losing it, I get to work with a brilliant colleague who finds the humor (and mute button, I hope) in the unexpected things that happen. It is what makes science and collaboration amazing.

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