SCI Messel Travel Bursary Winner, Liam Hudson, Reports from Philadelphia

In 2016, Liam Hudson was awarded an SCI Travel Bursary to attend the 252nd ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia, which took place between 21 and 25 August 2016. Here, he tells us what he learned by attending the conference and the sites that he got to see on his travels.

‘I am a final year Medicinal Chemistry PhD Student at the Institute of Cancer Research, based in Surrey. Over the past 4 years I have been fortunate enough to work on two different projects, and for one of these the ACS kindly let me present a talk at one of their very large national meetings (252nd National Meeting in Philadelphia). The ACS National Meetings are probably the largest annual collections of chemists is the world - with somewhere between 10,000-20,000 in attendance. The talks on offer cover all aspects of chemistry spanning basic sciences and allied sectors such as publishing, education and business. The range and scale of talks on offer makes planning your time difficult - and that’s the only downside to this event.

‘The extremely generous and flexible SCI Messel travel bursary, along with other much appreciated funding, made this trip possible. This was particularly true in light of the post-Brexit GBP-USD exchange rate making a substantial change to the costs of this meeting.

‘When planning this trip I found considerably cheaper flights to Boston rather than flying directly to Philadelphia. I made use of this opportunity to meet with several group leaders based at MIT, Harvard and The Broad Institute with a view to understanding more about the culture of academic science in the USA (as well as exploring the possibility of a post-doctoral position with these groups). Boston and Cambridge are nice places to visit, for lots of reasons, but visiting different groups is certainly something I would recommend to others - it’s always going to be a great day of talking about science and sharing ideas, but different groups set up these lab visits differently. I actually experienced the full spectrum of (1) a nice chat in the sunshine over coffee, (2) a more structured interview including two presentations of my work, and (3) a meeting with multiple group members over several hours including lunch, tours, presentations from all of us involved, a general discussion and group social. While very tiring, this was a great day and I hope that it develops into future collaboration.

‘When I arrived in Philadelphia I had a spare day until the conference programme started which was mainly used to relax, go shopping and enjoy the house I had hired with a friend. As an aside, here is some extra advice for other students who go to these long conferences - hire a house! It’s often cheaper than a budget hotel, especially if you share with friends, and you get a full kitchen, a comfy living room with cable TV, TRULY unlimited Wi-Fi and a washing machine... these home comforts were greatly appreciated in my case and I’m sure would be by others.

‘On the day before the formal conference started I was invited to the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry’s Editorial Advisory Board meeting; this was primarily to get the views of junior researchers on some aspects of the journal’s conduct and reputation. I was probably ‘too junior’ to give any useful feedback in this meeting - but it was extremely interesting to see some of the background work that goes into publishing a leading journal, even if it was just a glimpse. To my knowledge there are no other conferences where a student such as myself would be ‘out of the blue’ invited to participate in a meeting such as this, and if nothing else it is a great networking opportunity and a delicious free meal.

‘For the most part of the scientific program I attended the medicinal chemistry sessions as these are of the greatest interest to my work and the talks covered a wide range of topics, introducing some new ideas that I shall attempt to incorporate into my future work. The exposition was also very interesting with a huge number of exhibitors. Obviously there were lots of fun freebies, but there were some cool technologies on show as well. My favourite was a wireless, portable elemental analyser - I had no idea this technology was available.

‘My talk was on the second to last day of the meeting and in one of the longest sessions - so I was very grateful for the strong turnout. The title of my presentation was: Development of a new class of ALK2 inhibitor for the study of the most aggressive paediatric brain cancer, DIPG. I think the talk was well received and there were several questions.

‘Without the SCI Messel Travel Bursary I could not have attended this meeting and done all of the great things I got to do - I haven’t even mentioned my 24 hours in Manhattan or all of the delicious food! So for all of the above, I have to again thank SCI, but also the other funders and my colleagues.’

Liam Hudson
PhD Student, Institute of Cancer Research

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