Experiences of ERS 2019: Holly Keir
This year I was able to attend the European Respiratory Society Annual Congress in Madrid thanks to a travel bursary awarded by the BALR. As one of the largest respiratory conferences in the world, the ERS congress provides a unique opportunity to view studies from a diverse range of respiratory specialities. At this conference I was able to present two pieces of work, as well as chairing a session. On Monday I gave a thematic poster presentation, and had a very enjoyable two hours discussing my work with other researchers. As a third year PhD student this opportunity was particularly beneficial, as it pushes me to think more broadly about my findings, as well as testing my knowledge. I chaired my first ever thematic poster session midday on Tuesday, which was entitled “Complex Respiratory Infections in Clinical Practice”. As a basic scientist the idea of chairing a clinical session was quite daunting, but with some preparation and the guidance of my experienced co-chairs the whole session was a great experience. On Wednesday morning I gave an oral presentation on “Neutrophil Extracellular Traps and the lung microbiome in bronchiectasis”. It was an exciting experience presenting my work to other researchers in the field, and the questions that followed have motivated me to explore other avenues of this work. The ERS congress provides a friendly and supportive atmosphere for early career members to present their work. Sessions are structured to generate lively discussions, providing a fantastic and quite unique learning opportunity for young researchers. There are important clinical aspects to my PhD project, and as a scientist I find it very helpful to interact with clinicians and to broaden my clinical knowledge. The conference has helped me to keep an up to date understanding of both new research and clinical developments in the field of bronchiectasis and COPD, as well as learning more about other respiratory diseases. Being able to attend the ERS 2019 allowed me to develop communication skills as well as receiving valuable feedback on my work from experts in the field, all made possible by receiving a BALR travel award.