This year marked the debut of the BSI Congress in the recently opened Arena & Convention Centre (ACC) in Liverpool. Despite some freezing temperatures (that nevertheless led to some beautiful sights around the centre) and transport difficulties nationwide, the event proceeded smoothly, with a record attendance of some 1200 delegates & speakers…and we are grateful to them all! The venue proved to be a bit hit with delegates and exhibitors alike. We offer our thanks to Claire Joffe and the team at Kenes International for their professionalism in coordinating the event, both in the run-up and during congress itself.
Prior to the official start of congress on the Monday evening, we hosted two events – the ‘Bright Sparks in Immunology’ event featuring the work of shortlisted PhD students, and the Careers Workshop. We were impressed by the attendances at both events, with some 150–200 audience members. The ‘Bright Sparks’ event was ably (and aptly) hosted by two PhD students, Ben Owens (University of York) and Bronwen Burton (University of Bristol). We are also grateful to our judges, Dr Donald Palmer (RVC), Prof. Paul Kaye (University of York) & Dr Fiona Culley (Imperial College) – all of whom were especially impressed by the quality of both the presenters and the work presented. Our worthy winner was Lara Dungan (Trinity College, Dublin), with Anneleen Bosma (UCL), and Patrick Kelly (Trinity College, Dublin) capably following in 2nd and 3rd places.
The Careers Workshop focused on the different contexts within which research may feature, and included stimulating presentations from Dr John Campbell (Miltenyi Biotech) on balancing research with biotech; Prof. Neil Williams (University of Bristol) on developing spin-out companies; and concluded with our very own Dr Hannah Hope who provided a lively introduction to science & public engagement.
Congress proper commenced with an opening address from our General Secretary Professor David Gray (University of Edinburgh) who thanked the organisers and attendees, before presenting the Keynote Speaker, Professor Sir Ravinder Maini, with BSI Honorary Membership. Sir Ravinder had graciously agreed to replace his long-time research collaborator, Professor Sir Marc Feldmann, who had been indisposed – and proceeded to outline with great clarity the work that they had pioneered in developing anti-TNF monoclonal antibodies for use in rheumatoid arthritis. His speech was followed by the Welcome Reception for delegates in the main exhibition hall.
There followed a packed three and a half days of plenaries and parallel sessions, featuring a diverse and stimulating selection of research and clinical topics presented by an international roster of speakers – and we were able to offer own thanks to the presenters at the Speakers Dinner which preceded the Congress Party on Wednesday evening.
The ‘Young Scientist of the Year’ event on Tuesday morning provided a further opportunity for shortlisted PhDs, and Postdocs, to share their work – and we congratulate our winners Lara Dungan (Trinity College, Dublin), also our ‘Bright Sparks’ winner, ably followed by Stephen Holland (Imperial College) and Dr Meike Heurich (Cardiff University).
Poster prizes were also awarded on the Tuesday and Wednesday of congress, and we congratulate the following individuals. For Tuesday: 1st Prize – Tom Barr
(University of Edinburgh) & 2nd Prize – Natalie Carter
(UCL). For Wednesday: 1st Prize – Emma Doran
(QUB) & 2nd Prize – Paola Dimeglio
(KCL). We also thank our judges: Prof. Lindsay Nicholson
& Dr David Morgan
(both University of Bristol) and Dr Donald Palmer
(RCV) & Dr Matthias Eberl
Public Engagement Events
While congress started on the Monday the public activities began on Sunday at the Liverpool World Museum. The World Museum is a bit of a maze and includes an aquarium, a natural history museum, a science museum, a city library and well more. On Sunday the 5th it played host to us at its science exhibition ‘Inside DNA’, a fantastic exhibition on DNA, genes and genomes developed by the Wellcome Trust. ‘Us’ consisted of Hannah Hope (BSI), Sharon Tobin (BSI), Mark Coles (University of York) and Warren Flood (University of Manchester) our plan was to lower the tone of this hi-tech hi-brow exhibition with some child (and adult) friendly scientific fun! We were icing cookies with strands of DNA, staring down microscopes (kindly loaned by the Royal Microscopy Society), playing detectives or doctors while typing blood and creating DNA necklaces. We might not have been quite as cool as the giant mechanical T-Rex that was roaming the museum but we weren’t as scary either, which meant we were kept busy with over 300 visitors of all ages during the day.
On Wednesday night Prof. Peter Openshaw (Imperial College) spoke at the local Café Scientifique meeting, giving a fascinating talk about vaccines and the use of animals in research. Our audience was small but that didn’t stop us having a long and interesting discussion after the talk.
Final stop of the week was at Black Horse Hill Junior School on the Friday with the ‘Why aren’t we sick all the time’ workshop. 95 children from year 6 took part producing a dazzling array of new microbes and immune cells out of play dough.
A final thanks to our Programme Secretary, Professor Arne Akbar (UCL) and the members of the Programme Committee for their invaluable efforts and input into the development of the congress programme.