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2nd Immuno-Metabolic Mechanisms of Atherosclerosis Conference: A students perspective

Insights by Florentina Porsch (Medical University of Vienna)

 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to attend the 2nd Fusion Conference on Immuno-Metabolic Mechanisms in Atherosclerosis. 

After a relaxing morning enjoying the white sandy beach and the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, the meeting kicked off with a networking lunch attended by other PhD students, postdocs, the conference organisers and a few of the speakers. It was an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded junior researchers at similar stages in their careers and talk to accomplished scientists in an informal setting. After the lunch, the conference officially began with a welcome speech by the organisers, Christoph Binder from the Medical University Vienna, Eicke Latz from the University of Bonn and Ziad Mallat from the University of Cambridge, which was already followed by the first sessions.

Throughout the conference, the sessions were without exception excellent. The organisers managed to compile a programme that was highly varied and covered many hot topics at the interface of metabolism, immunology and cardiovascular disease. The impressive list of speakers consisted of many leaders in their field, some of which I had previously heard giving talks and keynote lectures at other conferences I had attended. The sessions included “Macrophage Development and Metabolic Reprogramming”, “Clonal Hematopoiesis in Cardiovascular Disease”, “Metabolic Control of Vascular Cells and Senescence”, “Intra- and Extracellular Mediators of Immunometabolism and Inflammation”, “Cellular Crosstalk in Inflammation”, “Immunometabolism in Human Disease” and “Metabolic Control of Innate Immunity”. It was particularly exciting that most speakers showed unpublished work, which was followed by highly interactive discussions. The relaxed, inclusive nature of these discussions encouraged even junior attendees to join the debates. 

Another interesting session was the “Meet the Editors” session, which consisted of a Q&A and panel discussion by senior editors from Nature, Nature Reviews Cardiology, Nature Communications Biology, the Journal of Experimental Medicine and EMBO Molecular Medicine. It was impressive to have so many editors from high-profile journals in attendance and to be given the chance to ask them questions about their journals and the publication and review processes. 

One of the highlights for me was the poster session. It was kicked off at the beginning of the meeting, when poster presenters were given the chance to briefly present their work in a pitch format during the “Meet the Poster Presenters” session. I found this opportunity to introduce my work to the community particularly valuable, as well as providing me with an overview of the other posters presented at the conference. The many refreshment and poster viewing breaks throughout the conference meant that many of the conference attendees managed to visit the posters, which led to lots fruitful discussions and allowed me to receive lots of interesting questions and in input from the other attendees and experts in their fields. 

Furthermore, there were several periods of free time in the afternoons and evenings during which we did not only enjoy the beautiful setting of the conference, but also had the chance to have more informal discussions with other conference attendees and collaborators. The volleyball tournament one afternoon was another highlight. Finally, on the last evening, there was a cocktail reception followed by a gala buffet dinner on the beach. After the dinner and the announcement of the poster awards, we danced to the live music until the early morning hours.

Overall, the 2nd Fusion Conference on Immunometabolic Mechanisms of Atherosclerosis was one of the best conferences I have attended so far. The conference was very well organised, and the Fusion team (particularly Chloe) did a great job to ensure the conference ran smoothly. The small number of attendants and the impressive list of high-profile speakers provided an excellent opportunity to interact with and meet some leading scientists as well as fellow junior researchers and potential future collaborators and colleagues. The many exciting talks and discussions as well as the poster sessions were particularly intellectually stimulating, and I returned to Vienna full of fresh ideas and insights into the cutting-edge research being done in this exciting field. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this fantastic meeting - thank you to all the organisers, scientific chairs, speakers and attendees for making this conference such a unique experience.

Insights by Christina Budden (University of Bonn)

My name is Christina and I very recently completed my PhD in the labs of Prof. Dr. Eicke Latz in Bonn, Germany and Prof. Dr. Paul Hertzog in Melbourne, Australia. Since I continue working on my project as a postdoctoral fellow in Eicke’s lab in Bonn for another year, he enabled me to participate in the 2nd Immuno-Metabolic Mechanisms of Atherosclerosis Conference that took place in Nassau, Bahamas, from 01.03.2020 to 04.03.2020. I participated in the conference as a poster presenter. This gave me the chance to present my project to and get input from various experts in the field – a very valuable experience especially in the final stage of a project prior to publication. I liked the discussions at the poster and throughout the meeting very much, which were significantly supported by the reasonably small size of the meeting of solely 60 participants. Another exciting networking opportunity was provided by a student lunch prior to the first session, introducing the conference chairs and some speakers to the students present. During the meeting, I was particularly intrigued by the very clinical data of most speakers. On top, the picturesque Bahamas provided a gorgeous location making the trip feel like a summer holiday.