Escape from the snowy Alberta to learn about Anthelmintics by Edina Szabo

I have been fortunate enough to spend a week away from the -20 °C and the white covers of Alberta and put my bikini on during the breaks of a very exciting conference in Florida.

The Anthelmintics: Discovery to Resistance was the third of the anthelmintic conference series that are usually based in the south of USA. The hotel that hosted the event was located right at the harbour, and about 5 minutes walk from the sandy beach of the Gulf of Mexico. The conference schedule was set up to benefit all attendees having a long lunchtime break to explore the surroundings. I have definitely taken advantage of that time to have a long stroll along the beach, and luckily had a short period of time when I could actually enjoy sunbathing as well.

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Our days started off with breakfast at the venue followed by the first two sessions of oral presentations. After the long lunch break, we were all fresh to continue with another session of presentations and the poster pitches before the poster session in the evenings. I really liked the schedule of the day, having to start early and finishing late with a decent break in between. This schedule gave us time to chat to other researchers, explore local food, and just generally to network.

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I have learnt a lot from the presentations on drug discoveries and resistance, and tried to understand some from the bioinformatics field. I enjoyed Dave Curran’s talk, who recently moved away from Calgary to join a group at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The talk I enjoyed the most was about the host-seeking behaviour of skin-penetrating nematodes by Elissa Hallem, an invited speaker from UCLA. She was talking about the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying host seeking of nematodes. They have found that the strongest attractants are also mosquito attractants, and currently using CRISPR-Cas9 to investigate the molecular basis of these behaviours.

Another talk by Janis Weeks, from University of Oregon & Nemametrix, also caught my attention on feeding in Haemonchus contortus larvae. They have characterized pharyngeal pumping, which involved in feeding, using video-microscopy, and identified a neuromodulator as the stimulus for the pumping behaviour. Microfluidics device, so called “chips”, was developed to record electropharyngeograms from parasitic and non-parasitic nematodes.

I also had a chance to chat to our collaborator, Peter Roy from the University of Toronto, and discuss future steps regarding our recent experiment. During the poster session I had great feedback on my research, which I am going to take into consideration when setting up new experiments.

Before the poster sessions, each presenter had a chance to introduce their research briefly and invite people to their poster later in the evening. Aaron Maule from the University of Belfast was very well prepared for the poster pitch by giving us a very well delivered speech in the form of a rhyme that everyone enjoyed very much.

The whole atmosphere was great all the way through the conference, as it was a smaller event we had a lot of chance to talk to other researchers and have greater discussions. Even though it was a short time in the sunshine state of the US, it was a great opportunity and time spent before we headed back to the snowy mountains.

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