I was kindly awarded a BALR travel award to attend the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2019 in Madrid, Spain. I am truly grateful for the BALR supporting my attendance at this conference as it has allowed me to experience the excitement of an international congress and engage in the latest advances and current research in respiratory science from scientists at the top of their field. Due to the sheer size of the congress, there are always parallel sessions and talks of interest, so you are never left bored! My personal highlights involved talks about host-pathogen interactions, including sessions such as ‘Mechanisms underlying acute exacerbation of respiratory disease’ and ‘Infections, the microbiome and host defence peptides in the development and progression of asthma’. Luckily, the ERS have acknowledged that individuals may miss out on attending parallel sessions and have developed Congress Replay, a platform that allows registered attendees to view talks after the congress has ended – so you are truly spoilt for choice!
I was fortunate that my abstract (Macrophage inflammatory responses to Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) are strain-dependent) was selected for a poster discussion in the session ‘Mechanisms underlying respiratory infection’. The format of the poster discussion session involves presenters delivering a two minute oral presentation, followed by a group discussion of each poster. This format essentially allowed me to practice my elevator pitch – summarising my work in two minutes was a useful exercise and much more challenging than one would think! My PhD focuses on host-pathogen interactions in the respiratory tract, and this session brought together similarly-minded researchers from across the globe who are investigating other pathogens, varying immune cells and different underlying mechanisms contributing to infection in the setting of different lung diseases. This variation on a theme was educational and thought-provoking as it allows you to ponder on your own work in a much broader context and network with peers working in a similar area to you.
I thoroughly recommend submitting an abstract to future congresses - not least because the ERS chooses stunning host venues which often affords you the opportunity to catch the last bit of sun before heading back into the lab as winter approaches!