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Experiences of ATS 2023: Rachel Walters

I am very grateful to have been awarded the BALR ATS travel award which supported me in my travel to the ATS conference 2023, held in Washington DC. My PhD was focused on pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) whereas my current work has shifted to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The ATS gave me a great opportunity to both present work from my previous lab and learn more about the disease I focus on now.

At the conference, I was given the opportunity to present my PhD work (which was recently published in Circulation) to an international audience for the first time. It was a nerve-wracking experience but the feedback I got and the discussions that occurred after the talk made it all worth it. Colleagues from my previous lab now have potential collaborations they are pursuing based on these discussions.

Due to the large number of talks and poster sessions that were organised, the ATS allowed me to explore a wide range of respiratory research. For example, I learnt about emerging models of IPF, was able to participate in discussions about cellular heterogeneity and saw how breakthroughs in our understanding of IPF genetics are impacting patients and their families. I especially enjoyed the poster discussion sessions which gave you a longer period to discuss people’s work in more detail. I came out of each of these sessions with new contacts and potential collaborators. Additionally, with the authors' permission, I was also able to share some of what I saw with colleagues back home, extending the impact of the ATS to my whole research group. Although the ATS is huge and many talks are happening at the same time, the incredibly designed ATS app makes organising your days and finding where your next session is located a complete breeze.

Thank you to BALR for awarding me with this travel grant. I would thoroughly recommend the ATS conference to any researcher. The scope of individuals it caters to, both clinical and basic science, makes it a wonderful opportunity for respiratory scientists.

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