- Jointly with BSCB
- date: 3rd-6th April 2022
- location: University of Warwick
- organisers: Raman Das, Jens Januschke, Alison Twelvetrees, Tom Nightingale, Susana Godhino, Sally Lowell.
- PhD reps: Lara Busby and Rowan Taylor
- Post-Doc reps: Anahi Binagui-Casas and Alex Fellows
I started my PhD in the middle of the pandemic, so my first year was dominated by online meetings including a hybrid conference that I could only join from my study at home. After all those lonely meetings, the BSDB/BSCB 2022 Joint Annual Spring Meeting at the Warwick University Arts Centre felt incredibly welcoming to me as a “first-timer”, but I certainly was not alone with this impression. It seemed like everyone enjoyed finally being in the middle of a vibrant research community again. The sense of belonging was omnipresent throughout the conference; from the team spirit at the Student & Post-Doc Social through the lively discussions during the two Poster Sessions, to the talks where the speakers picked up on phrases of other speakers, such as the “ignorome”, mentioned in the Opening Plenary by John Wallingford. This was the sharpest contrast to virtual conferences, as it created an entirely different experience where people came together in the coffee breaks to share ideas and engage in heated discussions, as well as allowing time to casually chat with experts about problems we are facing in our projects.
The organising committee decided to not just simply return to the pre-pandemic setting of the Spring Meeting but invested a great amount of effort into building a hybrid conference by providing a user-friendly virtual platform for people joining from anywhere in the world.
This hybrid format offered two great advantages: First, speakers like Jesse Veenvliet and Tickle Medal winner Emma Rawlins could give their talks virtually, which would not have felt so normal to everyone before the pandemic; and second, I can now watch the recordings of the talks I missed due to parallel sessions, like Shane Herbert’s unravelling of the role of cell shape for morphogenesis and Marika Charalambous’ work on endocrine communication between mother and foetus. In addition, the platform enables me to re-watch talks I enjoyed most, for example, Anne Spang’s kiss-and-run mechanism on sorting endosomes and Hugh Ford’s mesmerising videos of spiralling Dictyostelium amoebas.
“The BSDB/BSCB spring meeting online did much to make up for the disappointment of being stuck at home with Covid. The schedule was easy to follow and the streaming worked smoothly, allowing me to easily jump between sessions (an advantage of being online!). How to recreate in-person socialising online remains a major hurdle in hybrid conferencing, and I certainly felt the absence of being able to chat with people over coffee. But being able to see the presentation and the speaker at the same time, as well as asking questions through Slido, really helped with being immersed in the action of the talks themselves. Overall a good experience!”
- Dillan Saunders (University of Cambridge)
The excellent selection of talks from developmental and cell biology catered to a broad range of interests and often spun the arc between both fields as demonstrated by the “plant person” Dolf Weijers with convergent proteins coordinating cell polarity in development.
Besides showcasing cutting-edge science, the conference also offered reflection on the different stages of an academic career. The Beddington Medal for the best PhD thesis was awarded to Guillermo Serrano Najera, mid-career Emma Rawlins received the Cheryll Tickle Medal and Andreas Prokop the Wolpert Medal for outstanding teaching and communication, and Val Wilson’s major contributions to developmental biology were honoured with the prestigious Waddington Medal. The medal winner talks, especially the Waddington lecture, demonstrated how much great science relies on the work of many ambitious people who in this case contributed to unravelling the complex processes of development. And anyone overwhelmed by the achievements of the four medal winners had the opportunity to chat with twelve exhibitors about a potential career in industry or scientific publishing.
“I’ve always enjoyed BSDB meetings, but this year was particularly special – I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the energy and excitement of in-person conferences. Being in an auditorium and hearing hundreds of people chatting/clapping was quite something! The science was fantastic, such a breadth and diversity of topics – my favourite part was the poster session- exciting to see more and more quantitative methods being used in devbio”.
- Tom Hiscock (University of Aberdeen)
Finally, after the four-day Spring Meeting, I look forward to leaving my study again to head to the lab and get started on new ideas for my experiments, and to attend a seminar in person for a change rather than joining online.
Written by Tamina Lebek (University of Edinburgh)