By Valentina Gifford, University of Oxford
In March, I attended the The Dynamic Cell III meeting in Manchester, where, with great excitement, I presented my first poster. The meeting started with the Students/Postdocs symposium, where we got the chance to warm up and have a quick taste of the amazing research that was about to follow. Then, a perfect mix of more experienced and early-career scientists set the context for an inspiring scientific discussion, that brought together a wide variety of topics, all focusing on understanding cell functions, such as motility and cell-cell interactions. The quality of the presentations was outstanding and everybody was able to share his enthusiasm.
But let’s talk about my poster presentation: since it was my first experience, I was quite nervous! Nevertheless, I immediately realized that the atmosphere was really welcoming and people were open for productive discussions. My main concern was not getting enough people to come to my poster, but with great excitement, I had a lot of ‘customers’. People were truly engaged in my research project and I was asked a lot of questions, either on my results and on the techniques applied. I had the chance to talk with peers and experienced scientists and they all brought new ideas and inspiration. At the end of the session I was truly exhausted, but I felt so excited and enthusiastic that I couldn’t sleep: after all my first poster presentation was done and I’ve never enjoyed so much talking about my research to other scientists.
Now, what do I take home from this experience? I can say that apart from the valuable feedback and the new ideas about my research, I have been filled with enthusiasm and confidence. As Anne Bertolotti commented: “Doing research is a lot of fun and moving around the world is the key recipe to get in contact with a great variety of people and minds that would help to solve our complex scientific questions!”.
I’d like to share with you all a few things I have learnt from this experience that I hope will be as helpful as an already optimized protocol for an experiment!
- Be confident! No matter how nervous you feel, confidence is one of the top ingredients to engage people and even yourself, in your research.
- Be clear! People do not usually know your project and even if they are aware of the background it is hard for them to get the ‘whole picture’ in just a couple of minutes.
- Try to always engage whoever is standing in front of your poster, even if he does not ask anything. A lot of people came to me and did not initially dare to ask questions; it can be for shyness or other reasons, but you will always give a good impression if you show you are ready to feed their interest.
- Enjoy it as much as possible! I would say this does not only count for a poster presentation but for anything related to scientific research. Being a PhD student is hard enough and we have to make our journey enjoyable to produce great results.
I am a second year DPhil student from the University of Oxford, working on the intracellular trafficking of the invasion promoting membrane-anchored metalloproteinase MMP-14. I did a Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and during my Erasmus project in Oxford I realised I wanted to do a PhD on a slightly more biological field. When I am not in the lab I love spending my time cooking, doing yoga and socialising. I love giving my contribution and help to whichever environment/community I am part of – I have been welfare representative of the graduate students in my college for over a year and student representative in my department since last October.