‘As I stepped out of the small plane at the Tegel Airport a wall of heat hit me and I though that this was an excellent start to the trip. I was travelling to Dresden to attend the 10th European Biophysics Congress, organized by EBSA. This biennial conference brings together researchers at the intersection of biology, chemistry and physics. Me, being a computational biochemist thought that this would be an excellent conference to attend and an event to bookend my postdoctoral work in Southampton, UK. I could not have been more correct.
I returned to my native Sweden and Gothenburg about a month ago to continue the postdoctoral work that I started in the UK, and eventually start my own research group. The £500 travel grant from the Biochemical Society was therefore timely as it consolidated my independence. To Gothenburg I have brought a new, general simulation methodology to study biochemical and biotechnological processes and the conference in Dresden was an ideal place to advertise it and to find new interesting problems to tackle.
Over a thousand people attended the conference but the program progressed seamlessly due to excellent organization. Each day was outlined identically: a plenary lecture kicked off the day at 9 am, followed by three parallel sessions. Posters were presented during an almost three hour lunch break. On the second day of the conference I put up mine and answered questions from a rather steady stream of researchers. That day I also managed to catch up with several colleagues I have met at other conferences during the years.
On the third day it was time for my grand finale at the conference – my fifteen minutes contributed talk. Would it be fifteen minutes of fame? Looking at the program I got the raw deal being scheduled as the very last talk of the day at 6.25pm. Still I was hopeful, as I have thought that the three short contributed talks at the end of the each session helped making them more dynamic. In short, the talk was a success: I got more questions than the other presenters in the session combined, most of them I could answer satisfactorily, and after the chair closed the session, more people came up to me.
There were still two conference days left after this, so what else happened? Well, the day after my talk, I had another poster session to attend. A few more people came up, mostly discussing issues they did not comprehend from my talk. However, most importantly I started up a project with a French researcher, Dr. Pak-Lee Chau. I had been talking loosely with him the day before when I stumbled upon his poster and after my talk he told me that he had a problem to discuss. A few days after the conference I received structures that I will simulate with my methodology. This must be the purest evidence of a successful conference.
A few final words: the conference in Dresden was one of the most enjoyable and fruitful I have attended. I strongly encourage doctoral students and early career scientist to apply for travel grants as I did. I can attest that it gives you a strong sense of fulfillment. I am sure that not all conference experiences can be as great as the one I just presented, but being slightly more independent, with your own grant, that is a key ingredient in being a successful scientist.’