Final Thoughts on the 11th MGED Society Meeting

Here's a couple of views of the location for MGED 11:

While the MGED meeting officially ended yesterday, 4 September, my part in it had finished the day before, with the last poster session and the closing remarks. As a bioinformatician, the lab-biologist-oriented tutorials had little relevance for me. So, what were my thoughts on the meeting overall? Virtually all of the talks were interesting and given by speakers who performed well. There were the usual people who spoke so quickly that it was hard to follow, or who packed their slides full of so much information that the audience's attention had to be split between speaker and slides rather than one complementing the other, but these were few and far between. Of all of the interesting talks, here were my top 3 picks of each of the three days. It would be great to hear from other conference-goers, and see how their picks stand up.

  • Monday: Shirley Liu, who spoke on ChIPSeq and Epigenetics, who taught me why there is a difference between in vivo and in vitro nucleosome patterns, and had a great algorithm to talk about. Also, Grant Cramer had a fantastic talk on Systems Biology of Abiotically-Stressed Grapes – it was very clear, and I learned loads about why salinity increases that are equal in water deficit to the same deficit through drought are less harmful to the plant than the drought. Also, Duccio Cavialieri's talk on Evolution of transcriptional regulatory networks in yeast populations on grapes, which was interesting and offered some really cool pictures of yeast colonies, was another highlight.
  • Tuesday: Joe Gray's talk on Molecular-marker-guided treatment in breast cancer provided real insight into how research can inform clinicians and drug development. Secondly is Susanna-Assunta Sansone and Philippe Aldebert's talk on integrated standards for omics data, which really brought home how integration of standards is important to really making it easier to integrate data.The third mention is for the short 15-minute talk by Nigel Carter on DECIPHER, a really interesting use of Ensembl to link up data on rare and new diseaase phenotypes and genotypes across the world.
  • Wednesday: Naama Barkai and her talk on Evolution of gene expression taught me a lot on a subject that I didn't really know much about before. Steven Oliver's talk on Flux control analysis and the systems biology of the eukaryotic cell. Though my note-taking was probably some of the flimsiest of the conference for his talk, it wasn't due to lack of interest. He is a great speaker who elicted probably the most laughs by the audience of any of the speakers on any of the days. He compared to the budding yeast to the pi muson budding out from the photon (at least I think that's what it was!) with fantastic effect, and mentioned FuGE, a project important in my work. Finally, Atul Butte had a highly entertaining and interesting talk on another termI hadn't heard about yet: translational bioinformatics, which is very similar in subject to what Joe Gray had talked about the day before.

 
It was my first MGED conference: most who were there had been to many before. I did meet a few newbies like me, though. And, while the audience participation with respect to asking questions was a little lower than I have seen in other conferences, the participation *outside* of the meeting hall was much higher. That's a tradeoff that I'm more than happy with. I saw virtually everyone stay for the entire time in each of the poster sessions: something virtually unheard of in most conferences. While the great Italian wine may have had something to do with it, it was also obvious that it was the talks and posters that people really wanted to stay and talk about. Other people I spoke with also remarked on this behaviour in a positive way. Everyone simply seemed to be enjoying themselves both social and academically. It was a relaxed, interesting, and fun conference in a beautiful location. I also think the conference bags were a big hit: you were given either a shiny silver or a shiny black one (mine is silver), which was a refreshing change from the boring looks of the ones you get from other conferences.

In fact, the true highlight for me was getting 3rd place in the poster competition. With it came a beautiful flower (shown below), a cash prize, and a warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. My poster was on SyMBA, my FuGE-based database and web interface (among other things) for holding and archiving experimental data and metadata. You can download the poster shortly on the SyMBA website – I'll put it up in the next few days and then update this post. I really want to thank the judges who thought my work – and my presentation of that work – was worthy of a prize, and also all the people that came up and asked me questions during the first poster session. Chatting with you all for two hours straight was loads of fun – even though it meant I didn't get to the wine until the end of the session! All of my A4 printouts of my poster were also gone before the end of the second poster session – always a good sign.

I encourage everyone who's interested to look at my posts of the conference over the past week. Please let me know of any errors or omissions you'd like me to sort out. I was taking notes while the speakers were talking, then saving the post as soon as they finished, so there are bound to be parts that could benefit from some help.

Next year's conference is in Arizona, and it would be great to experience one of these meetings again. A big thank-you to the organizers and to the judges, and to the attendees and speakers.

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