After the buzz and excitement of New York, the next stop on my agenda was Washington, D. C. Lisa, Francisco, and I were going to attend the 1st International Symposium on Forensic Science Error Management, a brilliant opportunity for us to introduce our projects and meet new people.
As you can probably guess, we also used this occasion to explore the political capital of the States a bit: Washington Zoo (which is free), some of the Smithsonian museums (also mostly free), the impressive government buildings along the National Mall: White House, Lincoln Memorial, US Capitol, Archives, various war memorials. Like New York, it felt a bit unreal seeing all those world-famous sights with your own eyes – although the heat and humidity quickly drove home the message that this was for real!
The conference itself was a great experience. It lasted four days, and consisted of talks as well as panel discussions. The keynote speech by Brandon Mayfield was one of my personal highlights, as his story served as a powerful reminder of the impact that errors in forensic science have on people’s lives. We saw some great presentations on current research in fingerprints, digital forensics, DNA, legal studies…. You could also notice a growing interest in human factors – although it did seem to me as though the main focus was on studying human factors in order to reduce or eliminate their effect on human performance, rather than to understand the underlying processes and examine possible advantages of the seemingly irrational and inefficient approach our brains take to information processing and decision-making.
I also got the chance to present my first poster at an international conference! The poster session was in the afternoon, and despite an interesting concurrent panel session we got to speak to a lot of people, and got great feedback on our work. Overall, people at the symposium seemed very friendly and approachable, and we made a lot of good contacts for feedback and collaborations.
And so, buzzing with ideas and unusual doses of sunlight, I headed back to the UK to face the probation review, and prepare for the next trip: PhD summer school in Lausanne…