I am a senior studying Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. I have worked in the Zarnescu lab for 15 months now, using fruit flies as a model organism for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and studying them to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of the disease. As a result of this work, I recently had the opportunity to travel to and present at the Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC) in Orlando, Florida. Organized by the Genetics Society of America, TAGC was the first ever meeting of its kind, combining the annual meetings of seven genetics model organism communities—Drosophila, Mouse, C. elegans, Yeast, Zebrafish, Ciliates, and Population, Evolutionary, and Quantitative Genetics—into one joint meeting.
To say that the meeting was massive would be an understatement. With over 3000 presenters, the plethora of people and networking opportunities was astounding. Although I could not help feeling overwhelmed at the size of the meeting, it was exciting to have such a cornucopia of knowledge at my disposal. In addition to the sheer number, the joint nature of the meeting also provided an opportunity to explore and learn about research being conducted in other model organisms, both similar to and vastly different from the research with which I am familiar. While the Drosophila presentations tended to be more relevant and useful to my work, I was able to learn some incredibly interesting and useful things from other models as well, even if the majority of the content was a bit beyond my ken.
For me, however, the most engaging aspect of the meeting was the poster sessions. Spread out over three days, these sessions allowed me to endlessly browse and discuss nearly every topic I could imagine, and several of which I never even conceived. I also had the opportunity to present a poster on my own work, which spurred a number of excellent conversations with passersby, and even inspired a couple of new directions in my project. This last part was the most valuable for me, simply because it was an opportunity to have engaging conversations about my work outside of the familiar lab setting, an experience which helped me grow both as a person and as a researcher. As a result, I am very much looking forward to continuing to attend conferences and having more of these experiences in the future.