This year, the 55th annual Irish Association of Cancer Research (IACR) conference took place in the Europa Hotel in Belfast from Wednesday 20th to Friday 22nd February. We, as a class, were lucky to attend the conference as part of our studies. On Wednesday, the conference opened with a Junior Council Session and a seminar titled “Insights into Cancer Research”. The latter was especially interesting, as it included presentations from a cancer survivor, a cancer nurse, and cancer researchers. Hearing each of the speakers diverse outlook on what research means to them was really interesting, as often, survivors interests can be overlooked in regards to current research.
On Thursday, there was a seminar involving short oral poster presentations. These were given mostly by PhD students which was interesting, as they are young students like us, and they already have so much knowledge in their areas of research. After lunch, there was a session designated to cancer and immune metabolism. This was extremely relevant to us, as there are students in our class currently doing projects related to DNA methylation, immune cell killing and caspase activation pathways. Perhaps a highlight for us, was a talk given by Dr. Robert O’Connor, head of research for the Irish Cancer Society. He outlined the need for transparency in current research, and the importance of communication between clinicians, researchers and patients. On Thursday evening, there was a formal poster session, including posters presented by PhD students from NUIG. The posters were a huge help in understanding recent work and published papers and gave us all a huge insight into each of our specific areas of interest.
The opportunity to network at the conference was something we hadn’t been exposed to before, and while it was daunting, it also allowed us to meet researchers whose work we have been studying the past few months. We met researchers who may have completed a similar MSc programme to us, before going on to complete their PhDs; this in itself was motivating. Fridays seminars focused on survivorship in cancer, digital pathology and the proffered papers. These papers covered a huge range of topics, including the role of complement cascades, the relationship between cancer and obesity, and growth factor signalling.
Overall, the conference was a hugely positive experience for us. Not only did we get a huge insight into the work being done, both in Irish universities and abroad, it also allowed us to meet new people, who may in the future be our employers. The seminar also allowed us to get to know each other more as a class, and I think that that was probably one of the biggest benefits to such a small class. The conference next year will be held in Galway, and I believe it will be an amazing opportunity to highlight the outstanding work being done right here in NUIG.