Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Sean Ellacott, reports from Boston

31 October 2018

Sean Ellacott was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 256th ACS National Meeting in Boston, USA. Here he tells us what an excellent training opportunity it was, helping him to develop his presentation and communication skills as well as his problem-solving skills – deciding which talk to attend of the many interesting ones available!

‘I am entering the third year of my PhD in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick. My PhD is a multidisciplinary project, at the interface between polymer and supramolecular chemistry and biology. I am investigating the behaviour of novel drug delivery systems based on cyclic peptide polymer nanotubes in biological systems, within the group of Professor Sebastien Perrier.

‘The 256th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting, held from 19-23 August in Boston (USA), was attended by more than 10,000 researchers from all around the world, including many current world-leaders in all fields of chemistry. The ACS national meetings are held twice a year in the United States, with different main themes. This year’s Fall meeting focus was Nanoscience, Nanotechnology & Beyond; highly relevant to my PhD project dealing with nanomedicine. 

‘I remember receiving the link to the Online Planner and being mesmerized by the amount of talks and exhibitions present at this meeting. I was truly delighted to attend a variety of enthralling presentations on the most recent advances of world-class speakers in different fields, from nanomedicine to polymer chemistry. Such a diversity was more than welcomed given that my project itself spans across the differing fields of chemistry and biology. I especially enjoyed some of the thematic sessions, such as: the TOSOH lectures (POLY) presenting recent advances in polymer and material science; Nanomedicines: From Fundamental to Applications (COLL); the Biomacromolecules/Macromolecules award session (POLY), among many others! Attending all of these talks will surely benefit my project, as I am now more aware of the existence of certain techniques, such as NanoSIMS to study cellular uptake as demonstrated by Pr. H. A. Klok in his talk Trace element and isotope labels to study uptake and intracellular trafficking of polymer conjugates or potential applications (e.g. fluorescence-guided surgery, as presented by Pr. B.D. Smith, based on the assembly of mimics of biotin and avidin) therefore helping me to explore new horizons for my own PhD.

‘I found it particularly interesting that a large number of academics in the United States were working so closely with clinical researchers and institutions; which gives another dimension to the impact of the work being carried. Such connections are necessary, in my opinion, to further develop innovative delivery systems that will make it to people daily lives. Pr. Robert Langer clearly demonstrated it during his talk Exploring biomaterials, delivery systems, and tissue engineering, alongside with the importance of thinking outside the box. Overall, I was impressed and inspired by the quality of the talks and the creativity behind the science showcased throughout this conference. One of the only regrets that I have is not having been physically able to go to see all the talks I wanted to attend, some of which occurred simultaneously. Choosing between several very appealing abstracts was not an easy task but I suppose this is one of the ways one can learn how to prioritise!

‘I was also given the opportunity to present a talk entitled Understanding the Interaction of Cyclic Peptide Polymer Nanotubes with Mammalian Cells on the 20th of August in a session of Polymer Chemistry for Functional Materials (POLY). Not only was it a fantastic experience, developing my presentation and communication skills, but also a great pleasure to answer questions from the audience and further discuss my research with fellow chemists. Networking was also on the agenda with the Careers Fair organised by the ACS, where I was able to interact with representatives of the fine chemicals industry (e.g.: L’Oréal) and learn more about the available career opportunities existing. I have participated in a delightful evening rooftop reception hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) where I have met chemists from diverse backgrounds working on novel and exciting topics – all of this whilst enjoying the late summer sunlight.

‘Attendance at this meeting was indeed a great opportunity to explore Boston, a truly unique city full of history and home to world-renowned academic institutions (Harvard, MIT, etc.), as well as nearby cities like New York. The lovely weather there contributed to make this trip a wonderful experience.

‘I would like to thank SCI for the funding under the Messel Travel Bursary which made this trip a great success. The funding allowed me to fully enjoy this event to the fullest, providing enough funds for travel, accommodation, registration and subsistence. It has been an excellent training opportunity, developing my presentation and communication skills and learning to gather useful information at conferences. I would also like to thank other funders, such as the division of Materials Chemistry of the Royal Society of Chemistry, as well as the European Research Council (H2020) and my supervisor Pr. Sebastien Perrier alongside my research group for contributing to the success of this project.

‘Finally I would like to thank the organisers of this meeting, I hope that I will be able to attend another ACS meeting in the near future!’

Sean Ellacott
PhD Student
University of Warwick

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