Mariam Ayub reports on the 54th Biophysical Society Annual Meeting

In February 2010, I was fortunate to be able to attend and present a poster entitled 'Fabrication of metallised solid-state nanopores using electrodeposition with ionic current feedback’ at the 54th Biophysical Society Annual Meeting held in San Francisco, USA.  The meeting spanned over 4 days and consisted of over 120 scientific sessions and 3,500 poster presentations. This was one of the largest gatherings of biophysicists, which attracted more than 6,000 international scientists from academia, industry and government institutions.

The meeting was arranged into several sessions of poster presentations and various platforms to allow specialist subjects to be discussed in depth. Including plenary lectures delivered by distinguished scientists as well as the National lecture presented by the 2008 Nobel Laureate, Prof Roger Tsien, who gave an exceptional talk on his work towards the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP. A large commercial exhibition also ran in parallel to the scientific sessions, which gave the opportunity to discuss the implementation of our experiments with technical experts. This was by far one of the most influential meeting for researchers in the nanopore field and consisted of a special symposium dedicated to this, titled ‘Micro and Nanotechnology, Nanopores’.

Further to the scientific discussion the meeting offered a great opportunity in career and skills development. Several evening mixer sessions were organised and transferable skills workshops were held within the exposition to run continuously throughout the meeting. One of the key advantages to early stage researchers attending this meeting was the range of technical workshops offered, which allowed me to further my knowledge on emerging single molecule techniques in improving the sensitivity of detection. A very interesting talk by Prof Adam Cohen within the workshops, focused on developing and applying new tools to probe the physical properties of complex molecules. This was demonstrated with the use of a cantilever for trapping single molecules under a simple lens. His talk also summarised their recent work on the ABEL trap which was used to trap and study fluorescent quantum dots, DNA molecules, fluorescently labeled lipid vesicles, single virus particles and large proteins.

During the meeting I also took the opportunity to attend some of the transferable skills workshops, which were based upon developing the audience’s career prospects through tutorials and example sessions on CV writing and interview techniques. However, the main attraction of the meeting – the scientific sessions – proved very successful as leading academics presented their latest outcomes and contributions to the field. Certainly one of the most alluring talks were by Nynke Dekker et al who presented their work on measuring direct forces on dsRNA in solid-state nanopores and Dr. Binquan Luan from IBM who gave an excellent talk on the detection of ssDNA bases as they translocated through a solid-state nanopore using a ratcheting method.

My work, which focuses on the development and application of metallised nanopores received a great deal of interest and allowed me to open conversations with a number of leading researchers from a range of world class universities such as ETH Zurich, MIT and Stanford. Discussions upon my work and input from visitors of my poster provided me with valuable feedback and suggestions for the future. With the opportunity of taking part in the Biophysical Annual Meeting and the funding provided by SCI Messel Fund, I have been able to further my knowledge in the biophysics field and learn more about the wider scientific community. Furthermore it has provided me with an excellent networking opportunity to discuss my work with prestigious leaders within the nanopore and DNA sequencing fields and has further reinvigorated my enthusiasm in research.

I would like to thank my PhD supervisors, Dr Joshua Edel and Dr Tim Albrecht, for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference and SCI and the Messel Fund for giving me this important financial support.

Mariam Ayub, Imperial College London

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