Guest post: Lilian Fennell, an undergraduate Biomedical Science student from NUI Galway, reports on her experiences last July at the Euroscience Open Forum 2012 in Dublin, this year’s City of Science
Dublin became the City of Science 2012 when it was chosen to host the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF), a biennial general science conference where European research, technology and society meet. I attended ESOF 2012 from 11-15 July as part of a pilot Explore Project.
This involved an undergraduate student (myself) and an academic staff member at NUI Galway (Dr Muriel Grenon, lecturer in the school of Natural Sciences, researcher at the Centre for Chromosome Biology, and honorary research lecturer in Cellular Genetics) attending Europe’s largest general science conference as a collaborative team.
The aim was to give the opportunity to an undergraduate to attend a conference relating to their area of study and to allow NUI Galway’s undergraduate, academic and research communities to discover this conference through the eyes of the student.
Throughout the conference I blogged about the events I attended and my thoughts and reflections on each day, and used social media such as Twitter (@LilianESOF 2012) and Facebook to promote the project.
ESOF is a general science conference where it is possible to learn about new trends in research and in science policy, network with different members of the science community, attend career events and gain career advice, communicate with others on scientific areas of research and interest, and participate in debates and in discussions on all that is important in European science.
The attendance is diverse, from researchers and science communicators to journalists, policy makers, lecturers and teachers, undergraduate and postgraduate students.
ESOF has many programmes running in parallel throughout the conference timeframe, so it is not just a scientific conference, although the scientific programme is very much at its heart.
ESOF conferences cover general topics in science and are in my opinion particularly suitable and of benefit while studying as an undergraduate science student.
Topics related to my area of studies that I found particularly interesting and attended included:
- “From reading to writing the genetic code”
- “RNA as a key molecule for the origin of life”
- “The personal genome and the future of medicine”
- “The empathic brain”
- “The true cost of personalised cancer medicine
Importance for students
I believe that this conference can be very important in opening up and nurturing the mind of a student to current scientific policy, debate, career and ethical issues as well as truly exposing the student to current cutting-edge research, showcased in an interactive and informative way.
I wasn’t truly aware of all the current issues with regard to research funding, open access and ethical issues being debated in the science world until I attended the conference, and this in itself is a reason to attend. At ESOF you can update your current knowledge on all areas and aspects of science.
Dr Muriel Grenon’s participation was also of huge benefit – she was available to answer some of my queries on topics that I did not fully comprehend at the conference, and we discussed many of the sessions we attended before I blogged about them.
She also helped me to reflect and understand my own personal conclusions that I had drawn on all aspects of the conference, from biochemistry related topics to future career aspirations.
I had the amazing opportunity to hear Nobel Laureates such as Jules Hoffmann and James Watson speak about their major scientific discoveries and their current views on scientific research today. I attended talks given by high-profile scientists, in particular Craig Venter’s keynote address on “From reading to writing the genetic code”, a major highlight of attending my first scientific conference.
A key asset of ESOF is the ability to directly communicate with different people involved in science. I had the opportunity to directly meet international scientists on two occasions: I had “Porridge with the Prof” in the company of Dr Eric Karsenti. I listened to his experiences on the Tara Oceans Expedition and heard his opinions on current scientific matters at the conference and gained his advice on becoming a successful scientist.
I interviewed a successful and highly distinguished scientist, Dr Lars Steinmetz, on his own research and other themes such as the future of personalised medicine – and it gave me a great opportunity to ask for his advice on career matters.
I met fellow undergraduate and PhD students and discussed current research being showcased on topics such as personalised cancer therapeutics, stem cell research, genomics and aging. I also attended various career workshops and events and spoke to various exhibitors such as EMBL on career matters.
I truly believe that undergraduate students studying science should attend events such as the Euroscience Open Forum not only because it is a great opportunity, but also because they will gain an insightful, fruitful and valuable experience.
Read more about the scientific sessions I attended on my “Exploring ESOF 2012” blog.
Show your support for the project by liking the Exploring ESOF Facebook page