I am a final year PhD student approaching the midst of the chaos that is thesis writing. I am investigating metabolic control in the malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum using metabolomics- a subject area that is up and coming in Liverpool. My project is part of an exciting collaboration between the University of Warwick, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the NMR centre for Structural Biology at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
I have returned from San Francisco, USA, where I was able to attend and present my research at the 11th International Conference of the Metabolomics Society.
This was possible thanks to funding from the University of Warwick, and travel grants awarded by the Biochemical Society and also the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom, which I was eligible for as a Spaniard. The meeting gathered over 900 researchers and company delegates presenting the latest innovations and breakthroughs in metabolomics. Representing an institution just breaking into the field, it was important to promote our research as well as look out for new ideas from some of the pioneers in the field.
With three parallel presentation sessions, several keynote speakers and numerous company showcases I will highlight just a few of my favourite talks and events. Zoltan Takats from Imperial College London gave a mind-blowing presentation about the ground-breaking research in the use of Mass Spectrometry for immediate diagnostics during clinical surgery and also its potential for bacteria identification. Coined the i-knife technology, the scalpel-like instrument detects the smoke from electrosurgical dissection that is analysed by rapid evaporative ionization mass spectrometry and coupled with statistical analysis can predict accurate separation of cancerous vs healthy cells during surgery.
I was also particularly impressed by the company Metanomics Health and the talks they gave during a luncheon they provided. With quality as their top priority, Professor Dr. Bennard van Ravenzwaay, representing BASF, presented the MetaMap Tox. This unique and complex database comprises metabolites under many different conditions, which aids in the identification of toxicity profiles for drugs in development as well as alternative potential targets for the drugs studied.
There were three very busy poster sessions with 572 presenters that showcased the scientific innovation at its best and offered excellent networking opportunities. I presented my research in the second session, which thankfully resulted in the start of a new collaboration with a Portuguese group interested in P. falciparum metabolomics. Events such as the Early Career meetings allowed me to meet and exchange ideas with fellow students and postdocs. Other engaging events included the Metabolomics with Agilent Technologies evening and the Beer-omics evening hosted by Thermo Fisher Scientific. These were well-balanced opportunities to learn more about industry research, but also to have a bit of fun.
Throughout the conference we had the opportunity to explore cutting-edge research and alternative career pathways, and make new professional contacts as well as new friendships. After the conference there was some time to relax and enjoy San Francisco, putting an end to a wonderful trip and a very professionally profitable experience that was only possible thanks to the support of the Biochemical society.