Travel story: Ruby Dawson

Ruby Dawson from the Robinson Research Institute attended the Gordon Research Conference – Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology in Hong Kong and met with Christopher Walsh from Harvard Medical School in July, 2018.

Ruby in Hong Kong

Ruby presented her work, Investigation of a second-hit mechanism for GATOR1-related focal epilepsy.

This is what Ruby had to say about her experience in Hong Kong.

What was a highlight of the travel?

I enjoyed the open and friendly atmosphere at the conference. It was an unintimidating environment which meant that it was easy to approach top professors for discussion. It was encouraging to get positive feedback on my work from professors, postdocs and students alike

Did you attend any workshops, labs, research facilities or attend any meetings associated with your travel?

I attended the Gordon Research Seminar before the conference which was a small meeting of 30 postgraduate students and early career postdocs from all over the world. The meeting involved presentations and discussion sessions on leading research in the field of molecular neurobiology as well as a career guidance session which allowed attendees to get career advice from established scientists from a range of career backgrounds. It was a great opportunity to meet my peers before we all attended the conference together and it lead to many new connections and friendships.

Did you meet any researchers or collaborators of significance? Why are they important to your work?

It was great to get feedback on my work from Christopher Walsh from Harvard Medical School, who also gave a talk at the conference titled, “Somatic Mutation and Genomic Diversity in Human Cerebral Cortex”. As his work focuses on somatic mutations in the brain leading to pathology, it was interesting to present him my work, which hypothesises that epilepsy linked with GATOR1 gene mutation might also be caused through the same mechanism.

How will the experience support you and your research going forward?

After hearing a range of world-class neurobiology research, it encouraged me to think of a ‘bigger picture’ of my research, leading to new ideas for experiments and motivation for my work. I made contacts who also use in utero electroporation technology and have planned to swap notes and tips, which will lead to further optimisation and improve the efficiency of my experiments. The opportunity I had to chair a session of the seminar and leading the discussion was a great experience and allowed me to build on my presentation and brainstorming skills.

What was the most exciting thing you learned/experienced whilst traveling?

It was exciting to see the unpublished research from top neuroscience labs, including all the new technologies that are currently being used. It was encouraging to be in a nourishing environment where students were encouraged to participate in discussions with experts in the field and where people were forthcoming with feedback and suggestions.

What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?

How enjoyable the planned social events were! We went on a boat tour, a night trip to downtown Hong Kong and a seafood buffet on the last night. Most attendees participated in these events and it helped create a relaxed and open atmosphere in the group, which translated to the conference sessions.

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