First of all the elephant in the room, I planned to post on Monday, I planned to post on Tuesday, I took great notes of a lot of talks, and I will tell you about them. However I also went out for dinner with my colleagues, I drank wine and I socialised. With the poster sessions running 7-9pm we’ve been eating late. Monday night ended up escalating to a 2am bed time …. Last night was more sedate but we were still in a restaurant at 10pm. Conferences are as much a social event as they are a presentation of scientific information. I think writing posts for you after plenty of wine could be entertaining but might also be a very bad idea 😉 . So instead I’m doing some day time writing, before the evening drinks sessions can kick off.
Something I noticed yesterday was that it feels very strange to be at the Microbiology Society (formerly SGM) annual conference without a poster. This is the first conference I brought my interactive poster to last year, so to be without one feels weird. At the evening poster sessions this year I almost feel a little lost without a small poster board sized space to call my own. I don’t have a poster as I’m giving a talk instead. A terrifying, daunting experience that took place this morning (spoiler it actually went quite well).
I spent nearly all of Monday in the crowd sourcing for new antibiotics session. It was really interesting and I’m glad I chose this over some of the more technical sessions. Especially interesting for me was the talk from Adam Staines from the BBSRC, he spoke about available funding opportunities for research into antibiotics and also gave us insights into who won grants in the previous round. This isn’t the kind of information you normally get but it demystifies something that is completely alien to me as a PhD student – how to win grants. I’d love to see more of these kind of talks in the future. There was also a talk from an economist perspective about why new drugs aren’t being developed, it was really fantastic and insightful to see if from this point of view. The O’Neill report has estimated, using conservative models, that antimicrobial resistance is likely going to cost the world economy $100trillion by 2050.
For the end of the day I did pop to the microbial evasion session and then it was time for the drinks 🙂 . After the drinks we went for dinner as a big group and the restaurant we chose offered an insane Monday night deal that included a bottle of wine per person for a very reasonable price. The short story is we had 7 bottle of wine (on top of the drinks earlier) between 8 of us and stayed up until 2am.
On Tuesday morning I dragged myself out of bed at a reasonable time and headed to the microbial evasion session, this had the bonus of a *not on the programme but very good* talk on pneumo (my bug). As well as an interesting talk that I didn’t know was interesting (I mean specifically for my work here) until I heard it, all about gene conversion in the meningococcus.
Tuesday afternoon I decided to give myself free reign to choose sessions purely out of interest. I ended up in the Mining microbes for pleasure and profit session, and while none of the talks were directly relevant to my work (most were on yeast) I learnt about beer, wine and cheese. The last talk of the day was a particular highlight with Bronwen Percival from Neal’s Yard Cheese discussing the effect of microbial diversity on cheese flavour. I’ve learnt that nearly all UK cheese, including local farmhouse cheeses, rely on commercial starter cultures, but hopefully in the future that will start to change. As an extra bonus she brought along two amazing cheeses for us to try.
Tuesday evening had a poster session and it lasted until 9pm, we did duck off for dinner about 8:30pm though. After dinner I decided it was time for an earlier night than last night, I had a talk to give in the morning.
Today I gave my talk, I was the first offered speaker in the Prokaryotic Infection forum. The society runs forums at the conference which are designed specifically for PhD students and other early career researchers to present their work. The majority of the speakers are offered talks although they usually open with a plenary. This morning it was Pascale Cossart opening the session at 10am, and after that I was up, we were actually running a couple of minutes ahead! I had 15mins including my time for questions. I was happy with my presentation (and relieved when it was done) and stayed on time, although I did answer one question horribly! I’m 100% sure she will never read this but just in case: Pascale Cossart I think you question you wanted me to answer was about differences in gene expression, and briefly yes we do see differences but there are fewer significant ones then we’d hoped for or expected. I knew how to answer this question as soon as I sat back down in my seat and spent the rest of the session a little annoyed at myself for not answering it properly while on stage.
After my talk I listened to several other PhD students present their work and learnt some interesting things about Cholera, periodontal pathogens and OMVs. At the coffee break I’m happy to report I had lots of lovely people come and ask interested, informal questions about my work and one of them was actually the judge who put me forward for the Young Microbiologist of the year competition last year (based on my poster). When people remember you and your work it’s a really good feeling! 🙂 Thanks to everyone who came to speak to me, you definitely made me feel better about not answering that question well.
After the coffee break I went back to the infection forum and this afternoon I spent my time in the prokaryotic genetics forum. This is actually the session I was meant to speak in but my there was a bit of a mix up when I accepted my talk. The genetics forum was really interesting although the first half did over run (meaning less time for tea/coffee). In particular I enjoyed Laura Drage’s talk on her longitudinal study on UTI causing bacteria.
That pretty much brings you up to date, I have two drinks vouchers with my name on them so it’s off to the poster session I go 🙂 . Until tomorrow everyone thanks for reading.