Messel Travel Bursary Recipient, Shu Jie Lam, reports from Boston

2 Oct 2015

Shu Jie Lam was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary in 2015. Below, she describes how her attendance at the 250th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting and Exposition, which was held in Boston between 16 - 20 August 2015, provided her with an excellent platform to exchange ideas and network with international scientific researchers and industrial scientists.

‘In August 2015, I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend the 250th ACS National Meeting and Exposition, held in Boston, Massachusetts. It was my first time in the USA and my first time attending a conference of such scale. The meeting attracted close to 14,000 attendees, comprising of chemists, chemical engineers, academics, students, and other professionals in the field of chemical sciences. Despite the large scale of the event with over 9,000 papers presented and numerous symposiums running concurrently, I was impressed at how well-organised the symposiums and exposition were. It was also great to see the ACS embracing technology with the introduction of the ACS mobile application, which proved to be very useful in planning which sessions to attend. Besides symposiums focusing on polymer chemistry and polymeric materials which are closely related to my area of research, the meeting also features multidisciplinary research on diverse subjects, which provided me with ample opportunities to encounter cutting-edge science from individuals at all career stages. I was greatly inspired by talks given by notable scientists such as Prof George Whitesides, Prof Vincent Rotello, Prof Pat Brown, Prof Jennifer Lewis, Prof Linda Griffith, Prof Kim Lewis, Prof Haw Yang, Prof Carolyn Bertozzi, and Prof Ali Khademhosseini, many of whom I would not have the chance to meet at other smaller-scale or local conferences.

‘Throughout my PhD, I have been focusing on investigating the potential of synthetic peptide-based complex nanostructures as novel and effective antimicrobial agents. As significant results have been attained, I was thankful for the opportunity to present my work in the form of a talk and a poster in two sessions. In my oral presentation, I highlighted the gist of my work by focusing on the key results of the best-performing antimicrobial. Despite being scheduled early in the morning, my talk had a good turnout and was attended by researchers from all career stages. The question and answer session that followed my talk was incredibly fruitful as I was offered different perspectives and insights which would be helpful to shape future research ideas. My poster presentation, which shed light on factors that influence antimicrobial efficacy, yielded a different experience as small group discussions and more personal interactions were possible. It was also a great opportunity to network and meet new people over free pizza and drinks. Overall, besides receiving constructive feedback on my work, the opportunity to present at the national meeting helped me to hone my confidence and skills in presenting to a large, international audience from different scientific backgrounds.

‘Despite the full-on conference schedule, I had the opportunity to visit Prof James Collins (who is affiliated with MIT, Harvard University and Boston University) and his research groups. Prof Collins is a pioneer in synthetic biology and an expert in utilising systems biology to study antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic action. His research in the latter area ties in with my PhD project and I have been an avid follower of his work. We had an intellectually stimulating discussion where he showed great interest in my work and provided out-of-the-box research ideas that I could pursue in the future. I also had a great experience visiting his research groups across three institutions and speaking to like-minded researchers over lunch. During my free time, I took some time to explore the mesmerizing city of Boston which I later found to be a melting pot of culture, heritage and intellectualism.

‘In conclusion, my attendance at the ACS National Meeting and Exposition in Boston was an eye-opening experience as I was exposed to a huge range of other research areas being explored throughout the world, subsequently enabling me to place my work in context with that of others in my immediate field as well as in the surrounding fields. It was an excellent platform to exchange ideas and network with scientific researchers and industrial scientists from all parts of the world - all of which will open up possibilities for collaborations and aid in advancing my future career as a chemical and biological scientist. I am very thankful to my supervisors, Prof Greg Qiao and Prof Neil O’Brien-Simpson, for providing intellectual input and moral support. I am also grateful to them for recommending funding sources, especially SCI, through the Messel bursary, without which my trip to Boston would not have been possible. I would definitely recommend this conference to any postgraduate student in the field of chemical-related research and would deeply encourage my fellow students to apply for the travel bursaries funded through SCI.’

Shu Jie Lam
PhD student, University of Melbourne

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