I was just visiting the International Spy Museum while taking a break from the large Society for Neuroscience meeting. I was a bit disappointed with the hokeyness of it, but it was fun seeing real spy gadgets from the 40's to the 70's involving dart-shooting umbrellas, film cameras hidden in pens and buttonholes, radio transmitters in shoes and a German WWII Enigma machine. I also liked the fact that at some point the Russians had created a cipher based on an obscure science fiction novel that nobody had read. I think the interactive exhibits could have been made more engaging and not quite as dumb. All in all it was fun, and the little stories about different modern-day spies and how they were caught set me thinking about how we create our identities. Which comes to the real point of my post. As a starting scientist, how do you create an identity? How do you let people know who you are. Of course one is through publishing papers and presenting at meetings, but often people forget presentations and may only get to know you by name. My postdoc actually had a creative idea.
A few weeks back we were having a conversation in the lab about business cards. I personally never use them and don't really know many other scientists that do. The postdoc wanted to know whether it would be a good idea to make cards to hand out during the meeting to people he met. While some people thought that this would be kind of cheesy, and that too was my initial reaction, upon second thought it seemed like a great idea especially when trying to network and get yourself known, particularly if your training was abroad and you really are almost a complete newcomer. So he had some cool cards made with some background design that looked like old histological staining, an old-fashioned drawing of our model organism and some cool looking figure showing some of his data. Then it just had his name, his degree, institution and email. I thought it was brilliant. That way people not only have his contact info but also lots of context that reminds them of the conversation, as well as a cool looking card that you're not prone to just throw away.
So what about you? Do you use a business card? Is it plain, special or covered in rainbows and unicorns?