Another summer, another conference! This year was the turn of the renowned Microbiology Society Annual Conference 2018 (formally known as SGM). It was held in rainy Birmingham, and although we would like to venture further afield and combine a jolly holiday with a scientific conference we were just as excited on the Monday afternoon to arrive at The International Conference Centre and begin our week-long voyage of all things microbiology.
Another reason to be excited was that all three HumBugs were presenting their research as poster presentations. We were allocated Thursday and Friday, thus panic and apprehension commenced the moment we arrived, although the benefit of presenting later in the week was that we had chance to eye up the competition and improve our networking and gain confidence prior to our grilling.
So, let us hear from the Humbugs about their experience of the conference…
After nerves causing me to feel physically sick in the run up to presenting my poster at the Microbiology Society Annual conference, it was suddenly upon us HumBug ladies. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. In fact, it was the complete opposite – I loved it! It was amazing to speak to people working in the same field, swop ideas, and have assumptions challenged. I spoke with people both within and outside my area of work… I think I even managed to enthuse a couple of people with my love of Bifidobacteria (especially B. infantis!).
My poster was a case study on two preterm infants that had presented at the RVI Newcastle with sepsis, the infection was caused by two strains of Bifidobacteria (breve and longum). The aim was to assess if there was a link between sepsis and the probiotics being given to the preterm infants to stabilise and strengthen their gut microbiome. These probiotics contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, B. bifidum and B. infantis. There was an increase in the relative abundance of Bifidobacterium before sepsis onset, but further analysis to strain level is required to make any further conclusions.
As Bifidobacteria are generally viewed as the good guys of the gut microbiome, my poster was rather contentious. I managed to defend my hypothesis after some thorough questioning from two well-known scientists already researching the gut microbiome, disease onset and specifically the role Bifidobacterium play in these interactions. I came away with some innovative ideas as to how to approach the data analysis I had been struggling with, and the offer of help from a bioinformatics specialist! I left the conference that I had been so nervous to attend, with more confidence in the work I had done, a greater belief that I could actually talk about my research with some degree of knowledge (always helpful when you are contemplating the fast approaching Viva ordeal), and a renewed vitalism in the research I am conducting.
I arrived at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham ready to present my poster at the Microbiology Society Conference. This was my first time presenting a poster and to be truthful it was a daunting prospect. I knew there would be a large audience to interrupt, ask questions and grill me about my research, however it was a great way to interact with people and gain feedback. My poster represented all the work I have completed over the past 18 months, so it was a real confidence boost when others where interested in my work.
My poster was about the involvement of gut bacteria in healthy preterm infants. At this point, I was still in the process of analysing results, but I managed to add some nice colourful images that made it look much more interesting. I stood next to my poster during the full session and I tried to smile at everyone who walked by in the hopes they would feel comfortable to speak to me. It was a lot easier to explain the relevant parts of my poster after speaking to a few people. I feel I made the most out of this opportunity and I am looking forward to going back next year.
Although I was extremely anxious to present my research to a crowd of knowledgeable individuals, I found the experience invaluable. The audience were very welcoming and full of beneficial comments and questions, which made my first time presenting at a conference enjoyable and rewarding. The best part of the week was discussing ideas with like-minded individuals and spending time with people who love science as much as me!
In a nutshell, my poster highlighted my current research findings. I am aiming to determine if there is a distinct placental microbiome in a condition called chorioamnionitis – this is inflammation of the fetal membranes, or the sac which surrounds the baby. So far, I have performed Next Generations Sequencing on my placental samples – this method tells you what bacteria are within the samples and at what quantity. My results show that those with the condition have a greater bacterial load, and a dissimilar bacterial community containing different types of bacterium than those without the conditions. This finding could help with diagnosis and detection of the chorioamnionitis, which is normally asymptomatic in pregnant women, thus difficult to detect. The conference has inspired my future projects, which I hope to share at next years’ conference
The conference was not all about us, as the remainder of our week was spent attending exciting talks and interesting workshops to keep our minds engaged. Science dominated the week, however work aside, international conferences do offer further benefits as the HumBugs enjoyed networking with fellow microbiologists from PhD students to well established principal investigators, the endless and scrumptious food, and not forgetting the company freebies. We would not have been able to experience any of this is it wasn’t for the Microbiology Society grant which we all received to cover conference expenses.
Thank you Microbiology Society, we look forward to the 2019 annual conference in (hopefully a much brighter and sunnier) Dublin.