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Rideal Travel Bursary Recipient, Matthew Cheetham, reports from New Orleans, USA

Matthew Cheetham

14 Jun 2017

Matthew Cheetham was awarded the Rideal Travel Bursary for travel to New Orleans in February 2017 to attend the 61st Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society. The session on Anomalous Membrane Dynamics was particularly relevant to his research on anomalous diffusion, and he was able to meet with a number of experts in the field and clarify details of his own work.

‘I am Matthew Cheetham, currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Chemistry department at King’s College London. I would like to begin by thanking both the RSC Chemistry Biology Interface Division and the SCI-RSC Rideal Trust for awarding funding to me to attend the 61st Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in New Orleans, LA.

‘My research is on anomalous diffusion in lipid bilayer membranes. The standard m>del for free diffusion is the random walk, which states that the mean-squared displacement of a particle should scale linearly with the time of the observation. Very often in biological systems, this relationship is not followed. It would appear the observed diffusion coefficient depends on the timescale over which it is observed. It is proposed that this may occur due to molecular crowding in cells and cell membranes, compartmentalisation, and interaction with the cytoskeleton. I am working to build a controlled model system to recreate this ‘anomalous’ diffusion, such that it may be studied in more detail.

‘I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to attend this meeting, as it has allowed me to present my work internationally, and to hold useful discussions with scientists working in similar areas. These discussions have brought some new ideas to my attention, and I feel that presenting here has not only raised awareness of my work, but also provided the foundation for potential future collaborations. As my current postdoctoral position is ending soon, it also provided me with a vital opportunity to network, and discuss future projects that I might work on.

‘The convention centre was very large, and there were many parallel sessions taking place. It was essential to choose carefully which presentations and sessions to attend. Sometimes a choice between two interesting presentations had to be made, but in general it was organised in such a way that sessions relating to a specific topic did not clash or overlap. Particularly important for me this time was the special session on the final day, on Anomalous Dynamics in Membranes. This was a session of oral presentations that were specifically relevant to my research, and attendance here has clarified several questions I had about my own research, and allowed me to see more of the work being done in this field.

‘The poster I presented attracted a great deal of interest, and I was able to discuss my work with a few key people in the field, some of whom had also travelled to attend the Anomalous Dynamics session. It was good to discuss my work with them, and to gain critical feedback as to which parts of the work could be improved, and where I might consider submitting the work for publication.

‘A large meeting such as this is a very good opportunity to meet with peers, to develop new ideas, and to set up collaborations. I would advise those attending to carefully choose which sessions to attend, and most importantly to not try and attend everything. The days are long and tiring, and it pays to take a break, and walk around some posters with a coffee for a while.’

Matthew Cheetham
Postdoctoral Research Associate
King’s College London

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