This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend one of the top notch conferences held in the United States every year…

sfn2(hosted by the Society for Neuroscience)

It was quite the experience as over 30,000 converged to discuss all aspects of neurology. As you might expect, I was thrilled to see dozens of posters and talks on the effects of microbiology and immunology on neurological function. I had a blast talking with various researchers on their topics and learned just how much these fields are coming together…


The best part about going to the conference was the time spent…5 days. This meant it allowed me the opportunity to perform one of my favorite experiments. It like to call it…

smell-testHow Did I Smell On Vacation?!

I’ve been trying this on and off for the last 15 years. The first time was when I was in the jungles of the Amazon. While many of you might remember I brought up this trip in…

germcode(Makes for a great Christmas gift!)

When I returned to civilization, it occurred to me I hadn’t quite left the forest behind. For the next day, I had this wild and exotic smell all over me. When I asked the residents what that aroma happened to be, they simply called it…

jungle-funk(Very appropriate…)

By the time the second day came around, the difference between the city smell and my smell was a little to much and I sought solace in the shower.

Ever since then, whenever I have a trip longer than 3 days, I like to perform this experiment to see just what it was like to be covered in the microbes of that particular area. I bring up how microbes contribute to our smell in…

germ-files(The British cover…perfect for under the Christmas tree)

I’ve found it takes about that long to have enough microbial shift to make a difference in the way I smell. Mind you, the scent is stronger after five days and really sets in after ten.

So, before I tell you what it was like to be in San Diego, I’ll provide you with my protocol to achieve the best results. Thankfully, no pipettes or electron microscopes required.

  • Step 1. Visit a different ecosystem for at least three days
  • Step 2. Make sure you get a good ‘dose’ of the air, water, and land just before you leave
  • Step 3: Upon getting home, change BUT don’t shower or take a bath
  • Step 4: Go to sleep for the night (jet lag and all)
  • Step 5: Wake up in the morning and take a deep breath of the outside air
  • Step 6: Find a quiet corner and start sniffing yourself.

You should find your scent will be different than what you might be used to at home. Having been to a variety of different areas of the world, I’ve found some confer a salty/sweet smell – like Costa Rica, others are a bit more dense and acrid, like New Orleans, and a few are so complex – like the jungle – they need to be experienced to be believed.

As for San Diego, you might think the smell might be…


In reality, it was more eclectic. My skin emanated with a plume of pungent, astringent, and sharp aromas. I felt as if I had been close to an oil field rather than a beachfront. The odour was also rather unpleasant compared to that Toronto smell. I’m not suggesting it was worse, but the clash was a little too much for my olfactory system…

shower-time(Shower time!)

If you want to take this to a whole new level, you could culture the bacteria on the skin in the hopes of identifying the species and their byproducts leading to those aromatic emanations. I admit, in other times, I may have been tempted to do the same. But sadly, I am suffering from a serious case of…

jetlag(Jet lag)

So, I’m going to be happy knowing my experiment was once again a success and look forward to smelling once again like a Torontonian after a good night’s sleep.