Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Society for experimental biology meeting, Oxford, September 2016

Having just handed in my thesis, after many travails, I am eager to get back to blogging regularly, and to keeping a record of my thoughts.

To begin, I'm going to start by addressing some back-log. So, here, I'd like to briefly describe a great meeting I was able to attend this past September in Oxford. Specifically, 12-15 September, at Lady Margaret Hall in Jericho, I attended a meeting hosted by the Society of Experimental Biology, and organized by my two friends, Ruth Baker and Alex Fletcher - both of whom I know from my own time in Oxford.

For nitty gritty details of the meeting, you can still see the speaker list and abstracts that were presented here:

I'd like to take a moment, instead of the nitty gritty, to describe what were some really nice points (outside the science itself - which was also great) about the meeting that I'd like to carry forward to any meeting I'm lucky enough to organize.

First, the size and scope of the meeting. I often find when I go to meetings like ASCO or ASTRO or even the larger mathematical biology meetings like ECMTB+SMB joint meetings, that I'm overwhelmed by parallel sessions and too many people to possibly wrap my head around.  There is often so much going on that I almost would rather isolate myself and speak only to my closest collaborators - which sort of defeats the purpose of the meeting itself. This meeting, called 'The Tisuee Issue', struck a very nice balance on this point. The size of the full attendance, which I would estimate around 50, was just right. It was large enough that there were people I didn't know, and single voices couldn't take over conversations, but small enough that it wasn't overwhelming, and I felt I could branch outside of my normal circle of friends.

I must admit, that there were also a number of my friends/collaborators gave me some confidence to branch out somewhat. Further, the organizers did a clever thing, which was to break us into discussion groups to discuss aspects of multi-scale (and multi-disciplinary) modelling ranging from education of multi-disciplinary scientists to mathematical limitations of these models. The small group discussions were then brought to the larger forum for a full group session. These sessions were great to break the ice between folks that didn't know eachother, and also allowed more junior members opportunities to present to the larger group.

I think the nicest thing about the meeting, however, was that there were two groups there who don't usually come together.  Namely, developmental biologists and oncologists. There are many commonalities between the disciplines, but there is little cross-over. This meeting allowed us to get to know one another, to see how we were using similar techniques for different problems and to learn some new techniques as well.  While I didn't understand all of what the DevBio crowd was talking about, I was able to appreciate the methods and see new ways to apply them to my own work.

On the whole it was a great experience, and we owe Alex and Ruth, and the Society for Experimental Biology a lot for a great meeting.  Hoping to have a repeat in a couple years time!

We also had some great tweeting going on, which you can see in this storify: