Matthew O'Mara - International Dictyostelium Discoideum Conference, Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort in Tucson AZ

Group Photo, Matthew third row on the left in black shirt

This past summer I was given the opportunity to participate in the 2016 International Dictyostelium Discoideum Conference. The Dicty (short for Dictyostelium Discoideum) conference is an annual conference for research scientists who conduct their research using the model organism Dictyostelium Discoideum. It was held at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort in Tucson, Arizona. The conference was organized by my P.I., Dr. Pascale Charest from the University of Arizona, and co-organizer Dr. Derrick Brazill from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York. 
 
During this conference I was given the opportunity to listen to many highly accomplished scientists talk about the research they were currently conducting. However, I took much more away from this conference than I was expecting. I was able to speak with a post-doctoral researcher from University of Geneva, Switzerland, who inspired me to continue my scientific career. On the first day of the conference this individual gave a talk about his research on the significance of reactive oxygen species produced in Dictyostelium Discoideum. Immediately I was intrigued by his presentation and demeanor in front of such an accomplished audience. He started his presentation with a joke that easily won over the entire audience and drew everyone’s attention. Even though the material being presented was a rather difficult concept to grasp, he presented it in a way that could easily be followed and understood by everyone in the room. On the third day of the conference I was given the chance to personally speak with this individual. Our initial conversation was what many people call “small talk”. We spoke about where we were from and the types of things we enjoyed doing in our free time. As the conversation progressed, I began to learn more about his research. Of course some of the information he was talking about blew right over my head, but he made an effort to break it down in a way that I could understand. 
 
Even though this gentleman is considered a co-worker of mine, we were able to talk casually about our scientific research as if we were close friends. This really inspired me, because as an undergraduate at a conference full of graduate students, post docs, and professors, you begin feel like a little fish swimming in a big pond. It can be very intimidating talking with highly experienced professionals in the field that you are working. However, I was comforted by the fact that the people at this conference all seemed to be extremely friendly and talked to me as if I were just as experienced as them. This experience inspired me to continue pursuing my scientific career. I really enjoyed attending the 2016 International Dictyostelium Discoideum Conference, and I can honestly say that it’s been one of my best experiences in college so far. I hope to be able to attend again next year and share my experience with new members of the Dicty community.