Rideal Travel Bursary recipient, Sarah Hedberg, reports from the AIChE annual meeting in Utah

17 Dec 2015

Sarah Hedberg was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary in 2015 for her attendance at the 2015 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE) annual meeting, which was held in Utah, USA between 8 and 13 November 2015. Here, she tells us how her participation in the conference gave her experience in presenting her research alongside professors and senior industrialists to an international audience.

‘I recently attended the AIChE Annual Meeting 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. This is an annual conference held in different locations in the US every year, that is visited by over 5000 delegates from both academia and industry. The conference emphasises that it covers a wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies and emerging growth areas in chemical engineering.

‘I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present papers in three different sessions that included ‘Advances in Bioseparations’, ‘Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Folding and Assembly’ and ‘Tools for Accelerating Pharma Development and Innovations’. These three talks sum up the three main parts that I had been working on during my PhD and cover both the experimental and the modelling sides of my investigation into how we can use the osmotic second virial coefficient to predict and control aggregation of primarily monoclonal antibodies during bioprocessing.

‘During each of my talks I had many valuable discussions with both industrial and academic experts. The first talk gave me the privilege to discuss my research with one of the inventors of the main experimental techniques I am using as he had been listening to my presentation. The feedback gained from this discussion was especially valuable as we are currently one of the only groups using this technique in the UK. Up until today, the relatively new technique has mainly been used by those researchers in the US that also invented the technique. The other talks gave me valuable contacts in industry who were interested in my research as it addressed one of the common problems faced in the biopharmaceutical industry.

‘Finally, the opportunity to give oral presentations to quite a number of experts in the field has given me increased confidence in both my research and in public speaking. The questions taken at the end of the presentations provided me with feedback of great value confirming my scientific knowledge and the future ideas I have had for my research. These talks have all in all given me more valuable discussions and connections than previous poster presentations at other conferences, so I feel really privileged to have been selected for these presentations.

‘The days when I was not presenting, I was attending many interesting sessions myself and was engaged in discussions with researchers carrying out similar research to my own. The AIChE Annual Meeting proved to be a very valuable conference both in terms of meeting researchers from academia and industry within your own area of research but also in terms of learning about research in areas completely new to you. Apart from the technical sessions, the conference also provided sessions on how to prepare a winning poster, how to become an entrepreneur and how to get your research published. There were also specific networking events for graduate students or young professionals as well as recruitment networking events run by a number of companies attending the conference.

‘Another way this conference stands out from other conferences in similar fields is the number of oral presentations given by graduate students or early career researchers. Here, graduate students are presenting their research alongside professors and senior industrialists in the same session. My sessions had presenters from a variety of backgrounds, both academia and industry as well as from all over the world.

‘In the future I am hoping to see that more conferences will offer an increased number of opportunities for early career researchers to give oral presentations. This was a fantastic opportunity for me and I am sure this will help enrich the experience of other early career researchers.

‘Finally, I would like to especially thank the SCI Rideal Trust for awarding me with a travel grant to attend this conference and I am incredibly grateful for all experiences gained during that week.’

Sarah Hedberg
PhD Student, Imperial College London

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