Thursday, 21 August 2014 08:35

The CellSlam that Would Not Die Steps out Again at Philly 2014

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cellslam2014Cellslam contestants will have three minutes,
a microphone, and hand props to entertainingly
present a basic concept in science.
Illustration by Johnny Chang
Back from the undead, the 2014 "Zombie Cellslam," the Public Information Committee's stand-up science slam, is slouching toward Philadelphia where it will take the stage again at an Annual Meeting of the ASCB for the first time in five remarkably peaceful years. No more. The 2014 Zombie Cellslam, so named because it will not die, is set for Monday evening, December 10, at the joint ASCB/IFCB meeting in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It will offer a variety of wit, music, and outrageously amusing competition plus free popcorn and a cash bar.

CellSlam began as an experiment in 2006 to see if the hypothesis, "Cell biologists? Funny?" could be falsified. Early data were mixed. The first CellSlam at the ASCB's Annual Meeting in San Diego drew an overflow crowd, the fire marshal, and then NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, who headed the judging panel. A good time was had by all, including the fire marshal, after additional seating space was added. CellSlam contestants had three minutes, a microphone, and hand props to put over a basic concept in science. Immortal fame alone was awarded to the winner whose name is now lost in the mists of biological history.

CellSlam went on from strength to strength until, like so many Hollywood overnight success stories, CellSlam became a victim of its own success. Larger and larger audiences turned up and fewer and fewer (but very creative) contestants came forward. CellSlam was granted a sabbatical after the 2009 Annual Meeting, taking off for the famous zone of Limited Email Access. Rumors of CellSlam garnering a major R01 grant or relocating to a lavish tech-startup in Silicon Valley proved false. When ASCB President Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz asked for a CellSlam revival for the joint ASCB/IFCB meeting in Philadelphia this December, cooler heads were ignored and CellSlam came back from the undead.

A resurrectionist lab group is currently at work on making the Zombie Cellslam presentable. Philadelphia attendees are advised to block out Monday evening, 6:45 to 7:45 pm, when they should report to Room 114. Meantime, those contemplating becoming CellSlam contestants should watch the ASCB Post, ASCB Newsletter, and ASCB social media for details on how to demonstrate the awesome nature of your science.

John Fleischman

John is ASCB Senior Science Writer and the author among other things of two nonfiction books for older children, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science" and "Black & White Airmen," both from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston.

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