Written by: Elsa Kuijper
“Good morning, good afternoon, good evening to you all!” – that’s how most of the presentations start at an international conference nowadays. Joining the virtual meetings from home at different parts of the world, an early morning meeting for one can be during the night for the other.
In the beginning of December, instead of going to Long Island New York, several members of our group joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting from their homes, online. Although attending from home saved us a jetlag, it was an intense week with conference hours from 16 to 23 o’clock. However, we were not at the worst place on the world as was confirmed by a somewhat sleepy researcher presenting from Australia in the middle of the night.
The conference was called ‘Neurodegenerative Diseases; Biology & Therapeutics’ and offered a great overview on disease mechanisms and treatment for several neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and Huntington’s disease. Interesting aspects of shared concepts between these diseases were discussed by keynote speaker Virginia Lee. For our group, it was good to see the progress being made on antisense therapeutics for different neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, findings about the role of microglia in neurodegeneration were discussed – a glial cell type that we investigate in our group as well.
Also in this virtual conference, there was the opportunity to ‘Meet the speaker’. As PhD-students we could sign up for a short video call with two of the speakers. Together with 4 other PhD-students I spoke to Goncalo Castelo-Branco and Fenghua Hu about their research into oligodendrocytes and lysosomal trafficking respectively. The advantage of networking was there online as well, as I got to know that one of the postdocs in Castelo-Branco’s lab is doing the same injection technique as we are trying to set up now, so she could offer us some help.
The corona pandemic makes doing a PhD a different experience, without the networking opportunities abroad that would normally come along with doing research. To still get the feeling of being at a conference, we as NeuroD PhD-students made our own little conference at one of our homes – a different experience than being on Long Island, but just as gezellig nevertheless!