Outside the Australian Bubble
Early September 2018, while Ireland was trying to recover from heatwaves and droughts, coming from Canberra It was a level of cold and rain akin to our mid-winter. Thanks to a travel award from Bayer, I was there for the XVIIth International Symposium on Retinal Degenerations in the small town of Killarney to present my work entitled ‘regulation of inflammation and complement by miR-155 in retinal degeneration’. The central finding of my work was on how inhibition of miR-155 plays a protective role in the degenerating retina through regulation of microglia, the resident immune population of the retina. While I was unprepared for the weather, I had fortunately prepared my poster presentation weeks in advance. This enabled me to gain feedback and constructive criticism from other attending researchers.
The structure and relatively small size of the conference meant that it was expected that all presentations were attended. Some of these presentations, while similar to my research interest, may not have been something I would have necessarily attended otherwise. However by doing this I unexpectedly learned new concepts and techniques which gave me a different perspective of my own work.
I came into the conference with feelings of being overwhelmed, confused and cold and I ended the conference with far more knowledge and ideas, feeling inspired, tired and cold. The nostalgia I felt for green vegetables during that week is now the nostalgia I feel for the RD conference. It changed me as a researcher, leaving me more confident in my research and abilities, and feeling more prepared for the world of academia. The biggest takeaway however, will always be the relationships formed. Over the past months I have remained in contact with people I met at the conference, using them for advice and as a source of knowledge for research outside of our Australian bubble.