Thursday March 26th 2015 marked the fourth Annual British Heart Foundation 4-year PhD Student Conference. This year, the BHF-funded event was hosted by the University of Cambridge at St Catharine’s College. The conference was attended by 135 PhD students from universities spanning the entirety of the UK including Oxford, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and four universities in London - Imperial, UCL, KCL and QMUL. The aim of this conference was to have an exciting day of talks, posters and networking, bringing BHF-funded students together for an initial meeting as well as creating lasting links via email and social media.
The day began in the college’s spacious post-modern amphitheatre, the McGrath Centre, with a welcome from the main conference organiser, Amanda Kennedy (2nd year PhD student at the University of Cambridge). 15 students from across the 9 institutions were selected to give short talks, and these were split into three sessions throughout the day. These sessions, chaired by students from Cambridge, were interspersed with two poster sessions. The poster sessions were held in the college’s new café/bar area, the same area used for lunch and refreshments breaks, meaning the posters were visible all day optimising the amount of time people had to look round all 32 of them!
Our keynote speaker, Prof. Jim Deuchars from the University of Leeds gave a fascinating and interactive talk on the Vagus (or wanderer in Latin) nerve, illustrating the wonders of the autonomic nervous system on cardiac control. His presentation was infused with science, humour and even the opportunity to sing and dance on stage - a great mix that was highly appreciated by the attendees and spurred very interesting discussions.
A prize giving marked the end of the day events and the start of the evening. The oral presentation prize, sponsored by Abcam, was awarded to Rajesh Mistry from Kings College London for his fascinating work on hydrogen sulphide and its beneficial actions in the regulation of vascular homeostasis. The poster presentation prize went to Sophie Saxton from the University of Manchester for her work on sympathetic nerve control of vessel contractility. The conference dinner followed in the college’s dining hall. This was the first time a dinner had been included at this event and it appeared to be very popular, providing the perfect platform for relaxed, scientific conversation. Those that travelled far to come to Cambridge were accommodated in local colleges and hotels, giving plenty of time the next day to have a look around our wonderful city before travelling home.
A great amount of instructive and positive feedback was received, which can be built on to improve this conference further next year. Two students who had attended previous years shared their gratitude to the organisers - Gareth Purvis from QMUL kindly stated, “It was nice to see the same faces”, Amelia Howarth from the University of Edinburgh said “It gets better and better every year”.
The entire student-run team would like to express their sincere thanks to the BHF for major sponsorship of this conference, as well as to St Catharine’s College for sponsorship of the venue and catering, and finally to Abcam for sponsoring the oral presentation prize. We would also like to express our gratitude to Prof Martin Bennett, Dr Anthony Davenport, Suzanne Diston and Suzy Blows for their extensive support throughout the organisation of this conference. In addition, a big thank you goes to all our presenters and delegates who travelled from near and far to attend the conference and make it into the great day it was. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!
Let’s keep the field of cardiovascular research thriving!
Madeline McNamara (1st year PhD) & Amanda Kennedy (2nd year PhD) University of Cambridge