My Second Life


There are many ways to connect in the virtual world. You can use social networking sites to find collaborators and friends, publish research articles, and build your reputation. However, user accounts on most systems are searchable, and nothing is truly confidential.

On a recent trip to the ACS Booth on Drexel Island in Second Life (SL), I encountered many different people/avatars. The experience was fairly mundane, like walking down the sidewalk in any seaport community around the country. Palm trees rustled in the gentle breeze and the sound of ocean waves breaking in the background could be heard. What made it different was that I didn’t know who anyone was. Everyone in SL has an alias. Mine is “Lussac Merlin”.

Lussac Merlin in Second Life Lussac Merlin in Second Life

Using an alias can give people a sense of anonymity emboldening them to step out on the wild side. In most cases this is okay, but since you don’t really know who you are talking to most of the time, or who might be viewing your avatar, it is best to mind your manners online as well as off. Life has a funny way of introducing you to the same people time and time again.

Another differentiation from first life is that people in SL can fly and teleport from one place to another. This is especially important when you are late for a meeting. I have an appointment with Kate Sellar, a.k.a. “Finola Graves”. She is giving me an introduction to SL career fairs. At the present time, there is not much available to job seekers in SL, but that is starting to change.

Finola Graves in Second Life Finola Graves in Second Life

Manpower, a staffing agency, has set up shop in SL, and is offering placement services for virtual job seekers. Employment options in SL include real estate, architecture, sales, marketing, design, couture, and consulting. There are also small business owners running stores, bards, dance clubs and more. Job opportunities related to chemistry are still in short supply. One of the few money-making opportunities for scientists is The NanoLands Challenge from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). They are offering $400 or $700 to build projects illustrating nanoscience or nanotechnology.

Kate has introduced me to Andrew Lang, a.k.a. “Hiro Sheridan”, who is a mathematics professor at Oral Roberts University. He is also a consultant in SL. His specialty is building objects with scientific meaning or function. For example, he has built a couple of varieties of molecular rezzers and has also created ACS virtual objects including an ACS t-shirt, lab safety goggles and an interactive 3-D Periodic Table. (Contact Finola Graves in-world if you’d like these freebies.)

Hiro Sheridan with 3-D Periodic Table Hiro Sheridan standing in front of a 3-D Periodic Table

Jean-Claude Bradley, a.k.a. “Horace Moody”, is an organic chemistry professor at Drexel University. In SL, he is also a professor in SL. On Drexel Island, you can watch clips from his lectures, take practice quizzes, or look at 3-D molecular models. On the day I visited, Jean-Claude was not there, but a couple of his students were. Tucked away in virtual kiosks, they were studying conformational isomers of 1-bromopropane.

Drexel Island Organic Chemistry class on Drexel Island

ACS is currently building an island in SL, but it is not open for business yet. If you have questions or would like to join the SL ACS group, please contact Finola Graves in-world.

This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D., assistant director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.

5 Responses to My Second Life

  1. I’m glad to hear that my students were there preparing for their test🙂

    Nice summary – by the way there is also a 3D chemical reaction (imine formation) near the Chemistry corner on Drexel Island. Just walk up to it and say “next” or “back” in the chat box and it will go through the intermediates.

  2. Bronwen says:

    I really like Second Life and enjoy going to the talks organised by Second Nature, but it takes ages to have a conversation and before you know it your weekend is over! It is also disconcerting that there are no visual cues regarding the person’s age — I realise that in real life, I speak quite differently to grown-ups than to student-age people… perhaps this is a way that Second Life can positively influence my real life behaviour?🙂

    It sounds like a lot has been added to the Drexel Island since I last went – will make an effort to visit again this week sometime.

  3. Bronwen,

    To me, part of what is so fascinating and challenging about using Second Life for business purposes is the anonymous and fantasy-oriented nature of the platform. During my dealings in SL on behalf of the American Chemical Society – I have forged excellent working relationships with a purple cat-person, a grey-haired samurai and a chastity-belt wearing, raven-haired princess. I’ve learned to really love this – I can’t sub-consciously judge someone on their real-life appearance and am forced to base my opinions on their words and actions (and taste in clothes for their avatars🙂 ).

    I’ve been reading the book, “Avatars at Work and Play: Collaboration and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments.” It touches on the identity issue among many others.

    I agree about SL events – it can time-consuming. I think it will be better once more people are voice-enabled and the technology catches up to the concepts.

  4. Bronwen says:

    The book looks very interesting — thanks for the tip.

    It also amazes me that it works: that you can meet someone on Second Life and have an conversation where you exchange useful information, and build a “relationship” that can translate into real “progress”.

  5. Unbelievable. SL seems like it can be pretty addictive

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