Thursday morning I woke up early and rushed through my morning routine, then walked to Harvard Square. I found a crowd of my fellow Biophysics students, and we boarded a coach bus to take us to our hotel in Maine. The hotel, near Kennebunkport, was beautifully located at the mouth of a river, with views of the ocean and a harbor. The interior was certainly a cut above standard hotel fare, though probably not a four-star hotel.
The retreat, as it is called, was mostly filled by poster sessions, lectures by students and professors, and excellent, rich buffet meals. I did get to take a walk to the world’s smallest suspension bridge (claim not verified) and play a few hours of Mafia with the other grad students.
The most distinctive part of the retreat every year is the costume party. Michele, the administrator, is amazingly creative and driven, and her parties are unlike any other. At this party, each attendee (student or faculty) was given a hat, lei, wreath, or bandana, which divided us into four teams. The theme was “Survivor: Lord of the Drosophila”, and the teams had to compete in a series of challenges on the mock set that had been constructed around the room. The losing team had to draw straws to see who would be kicked out.
And therein lies the problem. Competition parties are fine, but competition parties in which people are gradually kicked out, with nowhere to go but home, are doomed.