Leverhulme Travel Bursary recipient, Natalie Cureton, reports from Oregon

Natalie Cureton was awarded the Leverhulme Travel Bursary to attend the International Federation of Placenta Associations Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon, USA. Here, she tells us about her attendance at the conference, and the presentation of her research paper Targeted Nanoparticle Delivery of Nitric Oxide Donors: Potential Therapeutics for Pregnancy Complications.

‘The International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA) Conference is an annual event which is devoted to supporting and promoting excellence in the field of placental research throughout the world. The IFPA 2016 theme was "Placenta - Back to the Basics.” After a competitive abstract submission process, I was chosen by the IFPA organising committee to give an oral presentation in the New Investigator Session. Thanks to the support of a Leverhulme Travel Bursary from SCI, I had the opportunity to attend and give my oral presentation at the IFPA 2016 Placenta - Back to the Basics Conference, which was hosted by Oregon Health & Science University and held in the Oregon Convention Centre from the 13-16 September 2016 in Portland, Oregon, USA.

‘IFPA 2016 offered an excellent programme, with featured keynote speakers, three plenary symposia, two satellite symposia, 12 workshops, two poster sessions, three new investigator sessions and presentations by IFPA award winners. This year, the meeting placed an emphasis on the latest advances in basic mechanisms underlying placental physiology and pathophysiology and applications of novel technologies.

‘One of the highlights of the conference was the Andrée Gruslin Award Presentation and Lecture. The Andrée Gruslin Award is named in honour of Dr Andrée Gruslin, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and researcher who, while battling breast cancer, continued not only her obstetrical service but also drove a well-known research program until her death in 2014. This prize is awarded to an outstanding female mid-career investigator in the field of placental or placental-related biology, and this year the recipient was Dr Shannon Bainbridge, a colleague and close friend of Dr Andrée Gruslin. Dr Bainbridge gave an excellent and, at times, emotional talk that covered her research efforts to identify distinct subclasses of placental disease underlying pregnancy complications, using a combination of molecular profiling and detailed placental histopathology. She also spoke about how findings into subclass-specific biomarker panels, could be used to identify etiology-driven therapeutic interventions.

‘Another highlight of this meeting was the excellent afternoon workshops, during which leading experts gave short talks, followed by an open discussion around the research area being covered. The workshop I found the most beneficial concentrated on Sexual Dimorphism in placental function. An aspect of my PhD research focussed on the gender specific differences that can be observed after in vivo treatment studies, so this workshop was very thought provoking and made me evaluate my own data in a new light.

‘In addition to the keynote and award oral presentations, the symposia offered an extensive New Investigator oral presentation programme, which saw 18 young investigators given the opportunity to give a ten-minute seminar, followed by a further five minutes of questions. I was selected after a competitive abstract submission to give a New Investigator oral presentation and as such was able to present the findings of my PhD research. Having the opportunity to present my research in front of world leading experts was an amazing experience and my talk was very well received, provoking a number of attendees to come and speak to me about my research after my talk. As a final year PhD student who will soon complete my viva, being asked a variety of questions from researchers of different background was extremely useful.

‘The conference ended with a Gala Dinner at Doubletree Hilton, during which awards for the best poster and oral presentations were announced. I was absolutely delighted to be announced as an award winner for my oral presentation; this award rounded off what was a brilliant conference that gave me new ways of thinking about my research and provided me with an excellent opportunity to network and make new contacts for potential future collaborations.

‘I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to SCI for awarding me the Leverhulme travel bursary to attend the IFPA2016 conference. I cannot highlight enough how valuable this experience has been for preparing me for my thesis submission, viva, and for my future career prospects.’

Natalie Cureton
PhD Student
University of Manchester

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