Tamara Davenne shares her experience of presenting her research at an international conference.
Last month I attended my first international conference. The Keystone symposium on type I interferon was held in Banff, Canada from the 19th to the 23rd of March. My abstract was accepted and I had the chance to present my work in the form of a poster, which was entitled: “SAMHD1 protects cells against apoptosis induced by dNTP overload”. This was a great opportunity to present and discuss my research. So my supervisor, Jan Rehwinkel, myself and another PhD student in our lab, Gregorio Dias, headed off to Canada!
Two main conferences were held at the same place at the Fairmont conference center: “Type I interferon (friend or foe?)” and “Pattern recognition receptors”. It was hard to decide which talks to go to, since they all sounded very interesting. Both main meeting rooms were next to each other which allowed people to easily leave in between talks to change rooms. Experts from all over the world were present and it allowed me to put faces to names and learn more about their areas of expertise.
The first challenge for me was remembering their names, their research focuses and a summary of their presentations/unpublished data. Focusing on talks for 8 hours a day during 4 days was intense, but extremely interesting! The second challenge was to network with fellow scientists. I am not particularly good at this so I wanted to improve, and the conference was a great place for that! I sat with new people almost every day at breakfast and dinner and it became very easy and natural after a few days – I really enjoyed it!
“I felt like a sponge: absorbing all this knowledge”
I felt like a sponge: absorbing all this knowledge and constantly thinking of how I could apply this to my specific research project. Could this new information help me to interpret some of the observations I have made in my own research? I found it very inspiring to see how people develop new tools and use them to address their scientific questions. This is what science is all about: getting out of your comfort zone and sometimes developing a technique no one has ever used before.
The poster session was very intense! I was tired of talking at the end of it, and that’s exactly how it should be. It is such a great pleasure to explain my research to interested people, to discuss and to listen to comments and suggestions. It is a good way to sense the general interest of people in your particular topic and, in my case, it was very positive. If you can get people interested in your project and explain to them why your research is relevant then it is a job well done!
The final discussion of “Type I interferons: friend or foes?” was very interesting and I think the take-home message from all the talks we attended was that everything is dose, time and context dependent. In the future, I think that more work will be needed to determine why there are so many different type I IFNs and how they differ from one another, for example in affinity or kinetics.
“I returned to Oxford […] with my head full of knowledge, inspiration and ideas.”
I returned to Oxford feeling tired from these intense few days, but with my head full of knowledge, inspiration and ideas. Going to an international conference is definitely an experience I would recommend. It is a very good investment of your time as what you gain from it is invaluable: networking skills, improved general knowledge and the opportunity to present your work and obtain new insights into your own project.” I am looking forward to my next conference!
Author: Tamara Davenne
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