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2nd Epigenetics Conference: A students perspective

Insigths by Flora Paldi (Institute of Human Genetics/CNRS)

In February 2020 I attended my third international conference, the 2nd Fusion Epigenetics Conference. Coming from France, it was a long travel before I got to the amazing Hotel Melia Nassau Beach All Inclusive. However, the tiresome travel seemed distant as soon as I was enjoying the ocean breeze and sunshine with a fresh fruit punch! The meeting kicked off with a student networking lunch, an opportunity for students to meet the conference chairs and selected speakers. As I did not know other conference attendees, this was a great ice-breaker event to meet fellow junior scientists and PIs. The lunch set the mood for the rest of the conference: new encounters, bright minds and open discussions.

The conference was carefully organized by the conference chairs Giacomo Cavalli and Luciano Di Croce, and provided a friendly, inclusive and interactive atmosphere for all attendees. I will refrain myself from highlighting talks as they were outstanding without exception, discussing novel findings in epigenetic mechanisms and their implications in disease. Session about "Chromatin Complexes in Development and Diseases", "Mechanistic Insight into Multi-Protein Chromatin Complexes Regulation", "From Gene Regulation to Chromatin Architecture", "Chromatin Alterations in Human Diseases", "RNA and Chromatin Organization", and "Neuroepigenetics" covered a broad range of concepts and processes. As a newcomer to the field, this meeting provided the best-ever opportunity for me to identify key questions and hot topics. I found it particularly interesting how small changes in protein structure and function can eventually lead to diverse, phenotypically complex diseases such neurodevelopmental conditions. Meeting the most influential researchers in the field was also a great way to start building my network and to identify potential future collaborations. Overall, the meeting was illuminating, clarifying where my main interests lied, and the related key questions I would like to address in my upcoming research.

Besides the talks, the conference program encompassed a poster session which was split into two groups and drew an impressive amount of attendance. I was pleased with the amount of attention my poster received, despite the fact that I conducted my previous research in a slightly different field. It was a valuable experience to deliver a poster presentation to scientists with related but not completely similar background, as it made me think harder how to simply explain the details as well as the broader importance of my previous project.

The conference schedule also allowed for a generous amount of free time which allowed us to take a short boat trip to one of the Bahamas' private islands, have a networking lunch with my new collaborators and enjoy unlimited food, drinks and conversations every evening during dinner on a sandy beach. The conference was much smaller than the ones I attended before. With around 80 participants it almost felt like a workshop that I believe encouraged the particular ‘community-like’ environment and the openness of the participants. Overall, it has been a great experience with stimulating science and much fun! Finally, with an impressive amount of work, the Fusion team made sure everything ran smoothly and everyone was happy - thank you very much!