My First American Society of Parasitologists Conference| By Emmanuel Pila

About a month ago, I had the privilege of attending the American Society of Parasitologists’ (ASP) Conference – precisely, between July 11-14, 2016. Being the 91st such gathering (for this society) of scientists from industry, government, and academia whose common interest is the study and teaching of parasitology, this year’s meeting was held at The Westin, Edmonton. This was a unique and exciting event for me for several reasons.

I was excited because this was my first time attending the ASP conference. Moreover, it was one of those occasions when you get to take time off from doing the work to actually talk about it. It was a conference I was looking forward to because, unlike previous conferences where my contributions were work-in-progress, I had a near-complete story to present which was more exciting. As it turned out, the conference had the biggest audience of scientists with shared research interests with our lab (Hanington Lab) that I have ever met, with a good number working on the same host-parasite (snail-trematode) model about which I presented.

The conference ran for four days from Monday to Thursday, with oral presentations of research throughout out these days on various themes: Host-Parasite Interactions, Life Cycles and Epidemiology; Taxonomy, Systematics and Phylogeny; Evolutionary Ecology; Biochemistry, Physiology and Immunology; Chemotherapeutic and Drug/Vector; and Genomics and Molecular Biology. In between these, there were symposia organized by various groups, and a poster session on Thursday afternoon. I gave two presentations (oral and poster) at this conference that I believe were well-received, judging from the questions, feedback and interest from the audience which was satisfying.

Other highlights of the conference included the presentation of ASP Eminent Parasitologist Lectureship Award on Tuesday morning. The recipient of the 2016 award was Nobel Laureate Dr. William C. Campbell who was the 2015 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Campbell is recognized for his work leading to the discovery of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. He gave a great and thought-provoking talk on the future of chemotherapy in parasite control, calling for re-examination of current methods of new-drug discovery. On Wednesday evening, there was a banquet hosted at the Muttart Conservatory where we were treated to assorted food and beverages and conservatory access. Located in Edmonton downtown area, the conservatory has four striking glass pyramids, each housing plants from different biomes and reportedly represents one of Canada’s largest botanical collections.

In summary, I had a great time at this conference as it provided me the opportunity to present my research to an audience of very similar research interests, listen to quality presentations from other researchers and meet new people. I recommend this conference to all HPI trainees and faculty as it has so much to offer. There were so many interesting presentations on host-parasite interactions; in fact, the HPI theme was the only that ran on every day of the conference. What a great place to be as a host-parasite interactions researcher!

I want to thank the NSERC-CREATE Host-Parasite Interactions program for providing the financial support that enabled me attend this conference. It was definitely beneficial.

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