Blue sky; the Toronto skyline on the close horizon. A church tower to my right – I think it is my right. There is a delightful hubbub in my head – I am in Canada! I am in Toronto! I am lying on a rooftop patio of the most recommended hostel by The Lonely Planet, my favorite travel adviser. I am thinking that I want to implement all the terrific things I have learned at the conference, and about where I am going to go next.
Okay, this is a challenge: which Great Lakes Bioinformatics
(GLBIO)/Canadian Computational Biology (CCBC) workshop should I sign up for? There are several workshops that are of major interest to me and could potentially be helpful for my current research project: proteomics of the zombie ant parasite. Before I can decide, the machine learning (ML) workshop is full, so I sign up for the Cytoscape Networks workshop (Networks, proteins! This might be helpful!).
In the end, I shouldn’t have worried too much. There was space left in both workshops that I did not sign up for, namely software engineering and machine learning, so I could go to all the workshops I was interested in. The software engineering workshop was as basic as expected (thanks to well informing websites of the organizer), but I figured I could learn a couple of helpful tricks to improve upon my coding. The Cytoscape Network workshop was more directed to Biologists than to Bioinformaticians. It presented the Cytoscape software and how to use it. But luckily, I could finally learn something about algorithms such as random forests in the ML workshop (thankfully it was in the evening so I could – miraculously – find a spot for myself). Material for the ML workshop can be found on GitHub (https://github.com/morrislab/mlworkshop).
Before going to the CCBC conference, I became familiar with the field of proteomics. I read a lot of papers and tutorials by authors not yet known to me. It has always been a highlight for me to meet the authors of papers I studied, especially if these papers were of high relevance to my own research. At the CCBC conference, I had the privilege to talk to the leader of the proteomics field, Alexey Nesvizhskii, in person.
My own contribution to the conference was a poster about my proteomics project. Although the project was not yet complete, I presented some preliminary results. Due to numerous questions of people that were not familiar with the project, I could remind myself of the big picture behind it, and its necessity. A fellow German student presented her poster next to mine, and we exchanged our thoughts and challenges.
Going to many talks a day, our attention might wander off from time to time. The keynote speaker Jennifer Gardy however told us a captivating crime story about a tuberculosis outbreak, and how genomics can come to the rescue. Yes, that is what we like! More of that!
In conclusion, I gained a lot from the conference: networking, making friends, and learning new things about my own field. I would like to thank the NSERC-CREATE HPI program for providing travel funds that helped me attend this conference.