I have very recently been to a conference in Australia. As a PhD student, attending conferences is a big perk: I get to go out of my department bubble and see what is done and more importantly how it is done in other labs. In my specific case, it’s even a bigger advantage as I am the only person studying animal models of multiple sclerosis, and the only person studying so many innate immune receptors in my building (and, as far as it feels, in this city). I got some interesting warnings regarding the technical difficulties of my research and I have learned a few things that in hindsight are not that new but I had never given much thought about.
I have attended this conference series before. In fact, I have been there for the last 3 editions: in Germany, Israel and Australia. Organisation wise it does not differ much from event to event and the poster sessions are also always quite a mess. Small rooms, no space between posters, too many posters per session, you name it. This time I had to pitch my poster just before my allocation session. Where did this fail? There were three groups pitching at the same time, in the same hallway, during apero. Regardless to say that 1) no one could hear each other, 2) no one make an effort to go watch the pitches. I felt quite useless there. No feedback on the pitch either.
The positive aspect of this conference was location. Most people find it very far to travel to Australia from Europe, therefore most Americans who would collaborate with European labs also did not attend. This brought the challenge of finding topics and speakers to fill in the program. Most new topics were presented by Canadian and Australian researchers. There are a few interesting things going on, specially when it comes to the immune component of psychiatric and other neurological diseases. Will stay tuned to this in the following years.