840 miles. This is the total distance myself and fellow university of Aberdeen delegates took to journey to the 60th Anniversary BACR conference in Nottingham 2022. Despite being two years late thanks to Covid, I can’t help but feel selfishly glad of this. This 60th anniversary meeting was a highlight of my PhD journey so far. Full of cutting-edge science, kind and engaging individuals from all over the world, and delicious sustenance to keep our brains in full gear during the many hours of incredible science. I couldn’t have asked for a better 2 ½ days.
My biggest ambition, and fear, was to talk to someone I didn’t know. The safety net calls you to stay within your corner; listen to the talks, make your notes and return to your hotel. This is particularly worse when you come in a big group with people you are familiar with; the pull to stay within your comfort zone is strong. However, I wanted to take the plunge to say hello to just one person I had never met before. And this turned into the highlight of the conference for me. Not only did I make meaningful connections on a human level to three individuals’ kind and welcoming, but here I understood the real power in networking. The more our conversations flowed the more I learned about the work they each did, finding a bit about areas of research I had never considered or knew very much about in addition to getting some inspiration for possible directions my work could go with a point of contact who could help me get started.
My goal for my next conference is to be able to approach a speaker or a PI and introduce myself. This is something didn’t have the courage or confidence to do but something this conference has brought me one step closer to.
Moreover, the company representatives offered a unique opportunity to order in some free samples, get some unique discount codes for new products we were interested in and discuss our projects to get suggestions from experts who could offer new insight.
The standout talk for me was the final talk of the conference; “Overcoming the undruggable nature of oncogenic K-Ras” by Kevan Shokat. It was a beautifully presented and engaging mix of basic research, translational science and the pure relentless hard work and perseverance that was vivid in every slide and every work spoken. From start to finish everything was explained in such a way that it did not matter if you were not familiar with the subject matter. Moreover, it was a story and evolution; from the discovery of the KRAS mutation, to its relevance in disease, to the first hunt and development of a small molecule inhibitor, its subsequent moulding, and finally the ingenuity in its evolution to a hapten molecule. A fusion of two molecules to pack a powerful punch. This is the science that excites me. The science that fuses fundamentals with creativity to generate new opportunities for patients. It was inspiring.
The strong community of the BACR was something I had not yet experienced and only left me yearning for the next opportunity to attend such an incredible event. Full of warm people buzzing with excitement about the science was electrifying. It was inspiring to walk around the posters and hear students talk with such passion and openness about the work they are doing and sharing ideas on roadblocks someone had reached. The thought of having a poster terrified me, yet, seeing the warm way everyone was approached and how sharing your work seemed to light a flame inside everyone was very motivating. I am very grateful for this opportunity to have attended the conference. This event has left me inspired, full of new ideas and also considerate of new routes of science I can explore after my PhD is completed. Thank you BACR.
Raquel Ferro, 2nd year PhD student, University of Aberdeen
BACR is a registered charity in England and Wales (289297)
c/o Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James’s, Cancer Genetics Building,
St James's University Hospital, Beckett Street, Leeds LS9 7TF