Microbiology Society conference — my experience

Microbiology Society Annual Conference 2016

As a new PhD student, and a habitual avoider of social situations, I welcomed the arrival of my first conference with a large degree of trepidation. My concerns ranged from getting lost, overdressing, asking the wrong questions, underdressing, ‘networking’… the first of these worries reared its unwelcome head though the kind people of Liverpool managed to remedy this for me..

My conference experience began on the Sunday evening with an Early Careers networking event. ‘Opportunities to network’ is normally something which instils fear into my soul but on the back of peer pressure I signed up: I was so glad I did. The semi-structured session opened with an introduction to the Microbiology Society, the benefits of networking and what mistakes to avoid making (I think I had already made at least two by this point!). They then led you through an organised session in which you were randomly grouped based on what playing card you had picked. Despite secretly hoping I was the only one to pick an 8, I found my group to be wonderfully easy to chat to and thoroughly enjoyed conversing with them.

Monday brought a full day of talks on membrane transporters – something that despite my supervisor organising the session, I am not actually entirely familiar with. This 8 hour crash course on things I should probably already know a little about was extremely beneficial: a highlight for me was the exciting presentation from Dirk Jan Slotboom depicting an elegant hypothesis as to how transporters might topple through a membrane.

On Tuesday I was relieved to have arrived early enough to secure a seat in the packed-out Red Queen session (amazing how much time you save when you aren’t cluelessly wandering around a new city). Kayla King kicked the day off with a great presentation describing how siderophores might be important in E. faecalis/Staph coevolution. The best talk of the day for me however was from Chris Thompson who produced a delightful presentation on the potential discovery of a real life evolutionary ‘green beard’ (“I have a green beard and I will be altruistic to anyone else with a green beard” – Dawkins).

Wednesday and Thursday brought the eagerly anticipated (for me, the symbiont geek) ‘microbial interactions with insects’ talks. They did not disappoint – it was amazing to hear from both Nancy Moran and Angela Douglas and to have a brief chat with the latter made my day. I even summoned up some sort of courage to ask a few questions (although the relief that words came out in a coherent manner resulted in me not actually hearing the answers).  Possibly the most exciting talk came from Scott O’Neil on his Eliminate Dengue programme (see my article at nouse.co.uk/science for an overview!).

Overall, the 2016 Microbiology Conference was an absolutely amazing experience for me. The sheer volume and quality of the science presented during these four days left me feeling both saturated and inspired: bring on Edinburgh 2017!


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