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Official magazine of the Biological Sciences Society
National University of Singapore
The Mudskipper, Nov 89
Were You at the
VIIth Zoology Congress?


N. Sivasothi

The plenary sessions started on a hoarse note as the chairperson welcomed everyone to the session. After the usual speeches (which included Pf Lam reading his his foreword for he felt no one had read it), the first presenter finished her delivery while we blinked. During the question and answer session, her favoured pronoun of 'we' was exchanged for "I didn't do that" as soon as her pie charts came under scrutiny! This was followed by a girl who wrestled for control of focussing the slide projector with a member of the technical team. We could bear the whirr of the remote control as the frustrated technician gave up and slunk into his seat. The lady, quite unaware of the dark looks he was giving her, calmly elucidated on how her group heat-shocked unsuspecting snails...

Not everyone stood alone. A question on the identity of some white blood cells brought a whole group on their feet as each member attempted answering the question. Just when we thought they would get away with it, the strong deep voice of their supervisor resonated from the back of the LT to inform them that they had got it all wrong. The bewildered look on their faces is something I intend to tell my grandchildren ...

The most entertaining presentation was one that started with the words, "I trust you've read the abstract just as you read the (AJP Lam's) foreword." He got into technicalities later with FRDs and PPRDs but they turned out to be names of drains in Fort and Pasir Panjang Roads! What tickled many (which cast a dubious light on the biology class) during the slideshow was his vague allusions to a hole in the wall and the entry and exit of some snails and "its friends".

Our department being relatively fishy, led to the withering of at least two unfortunate souls who dealt with that group of animals. Not so the enthusiastic soul who had to be woken up by her group member who rushed over to her hall early in the morning as the rest of the class assembled at LT25. She raved about the merits of some optical system (costing the price of a condominium, we were informed) which proved that the brighter parts of the swordtail had more pigments and the redder part had more red pigments. Amazing what modern technology can tell us ...

After the tea break, we were introduced to an adult male dwarf gourami that looked suspiciously like one of our Scottish lecturers.

The video presentation that was promised did not materialise and a highly disgruntled technical team were mumbling for they had lugged heavy video equipment all the way from the Zoology block for nothing! They spoke of beating up one of the group members when term started.

One chap spoke of mandrills and men. Apparently these animals use their rear to display their emotions - the technical team promptly presented their rears to him after the plenary session. His comments about his group members baring their fangs at each other in mimicry of their subjects after hours of observation was apparently factual. Yet another cracked beetles/Beatles jokes during his presentation before launched into technicalities over his preparations. His interjection about beetlejuice was greatly appreciated by one girl in particular whose laughter was heard far and wide (in the Lt, that is).

Nervousness was common but at best displayed by a young man whose hand shook as he pointed to his transparency. As the OHP magnified the entire situation, he eventually put the pen down and kept his hands to his sides. One girl managed to keep up a tremulous ring to her sweet voice and many were relieved when she finished for we all felt nervous by then.

The last presentation was perhaps the most dramatic. The group's presenter was peripatetic, reminding me of Aristotle who also paced while he lectured. But I doubt if the ancient Greeks had to keep track of the speaker in total darkness! For the both the OUP and the slide projector were not on and all that the senses could grasp was a voice resounding out from a moving silhouette. His worthy assistant seemed determined to keep our appreciation of their transparencies down to split-seconds and she succeeded. Everyone was happy when it was over and only had to contend with the interrogation that followed during the Poster Presentation at Zoo Lab 1 in the afternoon.
 
© N Sivasothi, 2001