An important part of the British Society for Immunology’s mission is to support future generations of immunologists. We do this through numerous initiatives, including our Summer School event, which offers immunology students at PhD level the opportunity to hear from leading immunologists and to present their work. Here, our Education & Careers Secretary, Dr Donald Palmer, shares some highlights of the excellent talks given and showcases the bright future of immunology.
‘Sent to Coventry’
The term ‘sent to Coventry’ is a rather old-fashioned phrase meaning to be banished (it’s even got its own Wikipedia page!) and while the location of our BSI Summer School 2022 could be considered remote, the entire session generated an interactive and vibrant affair. It’s been five years since we’ve had an in-person Summer School and organisers, delegates – being mostly PhD students – and speakers arrived looking excited and eager to hear the latest in immunology. This year’s three-day event consisted of speakers, career panels, but also a number of PhD students were given the opportunity to present their research in lightning talks. In addition to presenting their own research, speakers gave an introductory overview of their specialist area so to provide delegates with a greater appreciation of immunology. Throughout these three days, delegates had plenty of opportunity to engage and interact directly with speakers; which is one the major aims of our Summer School.
After the introduction, Dr Calum Bain (University of Edinburgh) started proceedings by wondering if the current description of macrophages into M1 and M2 is sufficient given their heterogeneity and their diverse roles in health and diseases. John Cole (University of Glasgow) gave a history of ‘omics’ and provided an ‘easy guide’ to the field of bioinformatics and coding. A career panel, consisting of Dr Ane Ogbe (Adaptimmune), Dr Elly Rankin (Miltenyi Biotec) and Dr Zania Stamataki (University of Birmingham), described their career journey and fielded questions about the next steps after your PhD. The day ended with a session of fascinating lightning talks given by delegates.
Day 2 – supervisor relationships
Day 2 started with Prof Graham Anderson (University of Birmingham) describing how a possible failure in thymic medulla regeneration during bone marrow transplantation can lead to auto-graft versus host disease. Dr Fiona Culley (Imperial College London) described the immunological factors that protect the lung in the infant and how these change with age.
A session entitled ‘Getting the best out of your supervisor relationship’ with a panel consisting of Dr Calum Bain, Dr Anne Corcoran (Babraham Institute) and Prof Jim Kaufman (University of Edinburgh) generated a lively discussion with a lot of useful information and insight; the best one being ‘there is no one size-fits-all supervision’.
Prof Danny Altmann (Imperial College London) provided the latest in COVID-19 research highlighting the increasing prevalence of long COVID and the need for more research in this area. Dr Zania Stamataki provided an insight into liver diseases and how immune cells interact with liver resident cells. Prof Sarosh Irani (University of Oxford) described the identification of neurological autoantibody that mediates CNS diseases. The day ended with two further rounds of interesting lightning talks from delegates.
What a brilliant time at #BSISummerSchool thank you to all at @britsocimm for all the hard work, to the speakers for the great talks and for being so involved. I learned so much and have lots of thoughts and ideas to work through. Just wonderful. – Chris Thorpe via Twitter
Final talks and lightning winners
The final day session started with Dr Sian Henson (Queen Mary, University of London) who described the metabolic requirements of primary human senescent T cells. Dr Anne Corcoran showed the epigenetic mechanisms in B cell development which are associated with antibody gene segments recombination. In his lecture Prof Jim Kaufman spoke about the importance of comparative immunology using the chicken MHC genes to highlight this area of biology. Prof David Wraith (University of Birmingham) described the development of antigenspecific epitopes that can be used as immunotherapy agents to treat various autoimmune diseases.
The final talk was delivered by Prof Teresa Lambe (University of Oxford) who gave an excellent overview of how the COVID-19 vaccine was developed and the lessons learnt.
The winners of the lightning talks were also announced. In first place was Sofia Hain from the University of Birmingham, second place was Aure Aflalo from the University of Cambridge and third place Chloe Lockwood from the University of Birmingham. Our congratulations to all winners and to all the delegates who gave such high-quality lightning round presentations.
Thoroughly enjoyable 3 days in Coventry! Great variety of topics covered for someone who, like me, is new to immunology, and great for making new connections. Would highly recommend! – Claire Adams via Twitter
One of the key aims of Summer School is to provide networking opportunities for early career immunologists to interact with their peers and with the speakers. That was certainly achieved with a friendly and inclusive atmosphere generated and multiple opportunities to ask questions and get to know fellow delegates. Feedback on the event was extremely positive with 9.4/10 saying they would recommend attending BSI Summer School to a friend or colleague.
Thanks go to our sponsors Miltenyi Biotec and PeproTech, BSI staff – in particular Jennie Evans and Eolan Healy, staff at DoubleTree, speakers, chairs, judges for the lightning round and delegates. We’re now looking forward to BSI Summer School 2023 – watch this space for more details!
Dr Donald Palmer
BSI Education & Careers Secretary