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To Australia and back, via New Zealand

Published: 10 Feb 2020
Category: Prizes, awards and grants
By Gareth Purvis

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In early 2019, I was awarded the BPS and ASCEPT Outstanding Young Investigator Award. This award affords the recipient to travel to an Australian laboratory to learn new experimental techniques and gain new experiences in an international setting.

A little about me…

I gained my Bachelors’ degree in Biology from the University of York, and went on to obtain a MRes and PhD in Cardiovascular Pharmacology studying at the Willian Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary, University of London on a British Heart foundation funded 4-year studentship. Following my PhD I moved to the University of Oxford, where I currently work in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. My current research involves using single cell transcriptomics to understand the early transcriptional events involved in monocyte recruitment to reveal novel pathways and targets that have therapeutic benefit in Cardiovascular Disease and diabetes. Enough about me!


What did I get up to in Australia?

Following what was the longest two flights of my life I arrived in ‘sunny’ Australia, I only say this because it rained the day I arrived. From here I flew to Melbourne, where to my absolute horror it was also raining! The next day I woke up to a bliss 24 °C, which is more than warm enough for me. I chose to visit the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, specifically to visit Prof Rebecca Ritchie. I had previously met Rebecca at the BPS annual meeting Pharmacology17. We both at the time had a strong an interest in AnnexinA1 and diabetes. On arrival at the Baker I was swiftly integrated into her very large lab group, and taken under the wing of the very talented Dr Helena Qin (and the rest of the team). I was also given the opportunity to meet not only her team, but also many the other group leads with the Institute. As a specialist heart and diabetes centre I was particularly interested in learning and observing many of the unique techniques that were on offer there. I observed Echocardiography (thanks Anida and Mandy), wire myograph (Anida) and live cell metabolism assay using the Oroboros machine (Mitchel).
 
During my 3 weeks in Melbourne, I was also l able to attend the Alfred Research Alliance Early-Mid Career Researcher Symposium held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow researchers in the biomedical field who are all at the same career stage as myself. It was also followed by and amazing conference dinner overlooking the cricket ground. About half way through my 3 weeks in Melbourne it was World Diabetes Day. Along with Prof Ritchie and other member of the Baker Institute I was invited to attended the 2019 World Diabetes Day Reception at the State Library of Victoria, hosted by Diabetes Victoria. This was a great event celebrating the amazing research being done in the state of Victoria to combat diabetes and a great opportunity to mingle with the wider academic community who are working in diabetes in Victoria. While I was visiting Melbourne I also was able to visit the Department of Pharmacology at Monash University and the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology (PAM) at La Trobe University. I was also invited to share my current research in two lecture one at the Baker institute and one at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS). Apart from the science Melbourne had a lot to offer and my host lab were amazing; who knew bare-foot bowls and beer was a national sport!
 
As the title of the blog suggests I left Melbourne after 3 very enjoyable weeks to go home; but not without a visit to New Zealand. I was able to coordinate my 3-week trip to Australia to also attend the ASCEPT Annual meeting, which happened to be held in Queenstown, New Zealand. At the opening ceremony we were treated to a traditional Haka. Again, the venue of the conference was amazing, and the science was equally as good. Luckily, most members of the Ritchie Lab were also attending the meeting and presented some very impressive new data by both poster presentation and oral communication. I was very pleased to listen to talks and meet the contenders for the reciprocal award to which I was awarded.


Conclusions…

I am very grateful to the BPS and ASCEPT for this award. I learnt a great deal from the trip to the Ritchie Lab, not only did I learn new experimental techniques that I can foster in my research moving forward, but I have built a new network of internationally excellent scientist with whom I cannot wait to collaborate in the future. To anyone reading this blog and thinking whether they should apply for the BPS and ASCEPT Outstanding Young Investigator Award, DO IT!! Reach out to an Australian PI, write the application, and submit it! For me it was a great experience and I couldn’t recommend it more.
 

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