After getting back to England, I re-packed my suitcase, picked up my research poster, taught an osteology lab, and then rushed to get to the train station so I could make my flight from Heathrow to Lyon, France, where I found myself less than 48 hours after only just coming back home from Japan. Fortunately, I am a (self) acclaimed master of organization, and I had strategically planned my flight from Japan such that I would beat the jet lag. This was done by forcing myself to get up at strange times for flight transfers so that by the time I made it back to Leicester, I’d be tired enough to sleep during the night and wake up at a fairly decent time in the morning. I was very grateful for my foresight and planning, since I was able to adjust to the time in France (1 hour difference with Leicester) without a problem.
Me in Lyon, exhibiting absolutely no jet lag whatsoever.
Lyon in the autumn was very beautiful, especially along the Rhône and Saône riverbanks. I did some exploring around the city with Etienne, Silke, and Francisco, who were in Lyon for the same reason I was – attending the EU IAI conference at INTERPOL.
INTERPOL is the shiny building in the background.
I highly enjoyed the conference from all aspects. Not only was the location beautiful (see photo above) and the venue itself amazing (see photo below), we had the opportunity to network with new people, and reconnect with old colleagues. The topics were extremely interesting and relevant, and of particular interest to me were the ones on evolving technologies in forensic science, how computer programs can be used to complement existing practices, and discussions on how to present difficult statistical concepts in court in a meaningful and understandable way.
Group photo of the delegates & conference organizers for the EU IAI.
The only problem was, after spending a month surrounded by the sounds of the Japanese language, getting Japanese characters mixed up with Chinese characters, and seeing words spelled out in the Korean alphabet (which I can read), suddenly finding myself amidst French was way too much for my brain. I could barely even do English anymore. Expressing myself was quite difficult when the words I wanted to use were all in different languages, since the borders for each language had seemingly disappeared in my mind.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the one who had to make an oral presentation – Francisco was. I was quite content to just listen to all of the amazing presentations and panel discussions.
Somehow, despite my apparent lack of ability to form any kind of eloquent sentence, I won third prize for my poster presentation (my poster is attached at the end of this post – if the widget isn’t displaying it, just click the download link). It was probably all the colours and the fact that I had included a QR code to an interactive 3D model of a cranium that people could access on their phone. Apparently, people find it amusing when they can play with 3D images on a personal device by poking, prodding, and swiping their screen. This seems to be a universal truth, regardless of what language people speak.
Honoured to have won third place at the EU IAI poster competition!
Although I successfully communicated my research visually, with little verbal interaction with anybody, this definitely was not an acceptable approach a week later when the INTREPID group underwent courtroom training with Sue Pope and Mike Scott-Ham from Principal Forensic Services (which was back in English-speaking Leicester…just when I was getting used to French again). For this training, we were taught how to properly testify in court. The challenge for any expert witness in court is to explain scientific procedures and results in a manner that is understandable to the jury, the judge, and the lawyers, while also communicating the strength of such results. Interpretive dance, let alone interesting visuals, would not cut it.
Luckily, by the time the last day of training came which was a mock trial for each of us, my brain had once more compartmentalized each language so that I could speak properly. The training was an excellent exercise to practice speaking in a courtroom environment, and it was actually enjoyable.
A subset of the INTREPID group with Sue Pope & Mike Scott-Ham from Principal Forensic Services.
As demonstrated in this training exercise, language isn’t all verbal. Body language is also essential when communicating as an expert witness, as it can belie nervousness, anxiety, or dishonesty just as easily as it can portray confidence, truthfulness, and competency. October was a very interesting month for me as I re-discovered the many facets of language, and the complex way in which we integrate language and communication into our lives.