WIC Travel Grant Summary – Carly Schissel – GRC on Chemistry & Biology of Peptides

Gordon Research Conference on the Chemistry and Biology of Peptides (Ventura, CA)

I would like to thank MIT WIC for their support, which helped me attend the Chemistry and Biology of Peptides Gordon Research Seminar and Conference, held in Ventura CA in February 2020. The theme of this year’s Peptide GRC was The Next Generation of Peptide Tools and Therapeutics, and attracted 200 participants in the field.

Shortly after registering for both the GRS and GRC, I was notified that my abstract was selected for an oral presentation at the GRS, the student-organized seminar held just before the conference. My project focuses on designing cell-penetrating peptides to deliver macromolecular cargo using machine learning. I had a fantastic time presenting to and learning from my peers. Other participants were also studying cell-penetrating peptides and small cell-permeable cyclic peptides, and we had excellent conversations regarding the translational applications of peptides. I received valuable feedback and interesting ideas to pursue in the future.

At the end of the seminar, we all voted for our favorite talks, and I was selected as one of two speakers to present at the GRC. I was immensely grateful for this opportunity to present to experts in my field and for the discussions that followed. Presenting alongside professors significantly lowered the barrier to initiating discussions during the evening sessions. I gained valuable insight regarding cell-penetrating peptides in the field, and even sparked a collaboration with a nearby lab.

Attending the conference was also of great personal benefit. Each afternoon had several hours of free time, which allowed me to socialize with my peers on beach hikes and other outings. A large number of us connected through our passion for peptides and chemical biology, and we look forward to crossing paths again in the future. Overall, I would say that attending this conference has been the best experience so far in grad school. I was so grateful for the opportunity to give a talk at the GRC and to have valuable discussions with leaders in the field. I am also especially grateful for the connections I made with other students, postdocs, and professionals, and I look forward to staying connected in the future.

WIC Travel Grant Summary – Rebecca Sebastian – GRC on Stress Proteins in Growth, Development

Gordon Research Conference on Stress Proteins in Growth, Development and Disease, Italy

Thanks to the travel grant from WIC, I was able to attend the Gordon Research Conference and Gordon Research Seminar on Stress Proteins in Growth, Development and Disease in Lucca, Italy. This conference was focused on proteostasis and stress response mechanisms, with talks on topics ranging from biochemical mechanisms of chaperones to developing pharmacological inhibitors of HSF1 for clinical applications. Attending these lectures was invaluable in expanding my awareness of the current research within my field, and I enjoyed hearing sneak previews of unpublished work.

During the conference, I presented a poster on the intersection of SUMOylation and HSF1 regulated chaperone networks during heat shock. My poster was also selected for a short presentation during a poster preview session, which challenged me to summarize critical findings within a 90 second talk. This was my first time presenting a poster and speaking to such a large audience, and I was glad for the opportunity to improve my communication skills. While presenting my poster I received valuable feedback from other professors and other graduate students, including several ideas for new experimental directions that I look forward to implementing.

Attending this conference also gave me a chance to network with graduate students and postdocs at a similar position along their research careers. In particular, the associated Gordon Research Seminar provided graduate students an informal setting to present their research and engage in scientific discussions, which prompted more engagement from early career scientists. Overall, this conference has given me perspective not only on the current research opportunities within my field, but also the diversity of academic life. As I enter my fourth year of graduate school, these conversations and experiences will be helpful in shaping my own career decisions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank WIC once again for their generous support.

WIC Travel Grant – Olivie Fiebig – GRS/GRC on Photosynthesis

Through the support of WIC, I was able to attend the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference on Photosynthesis in Newry, Maine. Gordon Research Conferences (GRCs) are week-long conferences focused on a highly specific topic. The GRC is the main conference that includes professors, while the Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) is a day and a half conference specifically for graduate students and postdocs, allowing them to share their work with their peers.

 

I was selected to give a talk at the GRS and a poster at the GRC. This was my first time attending a conference in graduate school, let alone giving a talk, and it was a great experience. I received excellent feedback on my presentation and my work that will help me determine future directions of my project. Additionally, I met many professors, postdocs, and students from the photosynthesis community and learned about the fascinating research they are doing. Even in a supposedly narrow field like photosynthesis, there is a wide variety of research going on, and I heard talks on topics I previously had known little about. I also made professional connections and potential collaborations that will be beneficial to me as I enter the last few years of my PhD.

 

Thank you to WIC for generously supporting my attendance at the GRS and GRC!

WIC Travel Grant – Stephanie Hart – International Conference on Photochemistry

I’m thankful for support from the WIC Professional Development Grant which allowed me to attend the 2019 International Conference on Photochemistry in Boulder, CO. The content of this conference spanned a broad range of photophysical and photochemical communities, with several sessions devoted to both ultrafast photophysical phenomena and photoredox catalysis, thus aligning well with my research interests. I presented a poster titled, “Enhancing transition metal photocatalytic efficiency with natural light-harvesting systems”, detailing my work on generation and photophysical characterization of biohybrid photocatalysts comprised of ruthenium polypyridyl complexes bound to red algae derived light-harvesting proteins. Given the breadth of this conference, I was able to disseminate these results within the context of both the spectroscopy and photoredox catalysis communities, which was critical to receiving useful feedback from other attendees and gleaning insight into potential new directions for this project.

In addition to an extensive number of talks within my area of research, this conference also afforded me the opportunity meet other PIs, post-docs, and graduate students in my field. This not only allowed for excellent scientific discussion, but also served to bring to my attention other scientific directions and career options I could pursue following graduate school. This conference also served as the all hands meeting for a large collaboration with Princeton and other universities associated with my photocatalysis work, and was thus an excellent opportunity to meet with collaborators and furtherdiscuss the scope of our research goals. While in Colorado I also spent a day climbing Mt. Massive, the second tallest mountain in the central Rockies.

Overall the International Conference on Photochemistry was an excellent first conference as a graduate student owing to its scope and size, and I am very grateful for WIC’s support of my attendance.