Today is the last day of the AAI 2014 annual meeting. AAI is the American Association of Immunologists and the meeting is annual 5 day affair of talks, and talks, and talks 😉 and poster sessions, an expo, and some social events. This is the first big conference I have been to- and as a first-year grad student it’s pretty exciting that I am here. Luckily, the conference was held in Pittsburgh this year, so I didn’t have to travel very far. If it was in another city I don’t know if I would have been able to go.
I don’t feel the need to go into details about the specific talks I heard, but instead I just want to share my thoughts on the meeting and what I got out of it.
1) The science: There is so much going on in immunology! Luckily, there were a lot of sessions on cancer immunotherapy, so I mostly focused my time on those. But so much research going on in other areas of immunology are tangentially related to each other, so I also went to talks on some other topics, including vaccines and vascular inflammation. I learned a lot by listening to these talks, especially since I probably would never have picked up a paper in some of these areas. Another interesting observation that one of my friends who was also at the meeting actually brought up was that some of the things we learned as fact during our immunology course last semester were discussed here as cutting edge/new/questioned research! Obviously science is perpetually in a state of flux, but I found it interesting how much is being discovered and debated every day.
2) The meeting gave me an idea of what a career in immunology could look like. Lots of the talks were about stories that took years or even decades to evolve. There also was an exhibit highlighting advances and important discoveries in immunology over the last 100 years and a board to predict what the next 100 years will look like. (Random fact: Did you know that the first chemokine to be discovered was IL-8?) All together, it gave me a lot of positive thoughts about a career in research and sticking with immunology.
3) The expo floor was like immunology Christmas! All of the exhibitors (and there were a lot– biotech companies, publishing groups, tech companies, and more) had giveaways at their booths. I made out like a bandit- besides the typical pens and notepads, I got 6 T-shirts, 2 hats, a pair of sunglasses, 3 stuffed animals, lots of chocolate 😉 …you get the picture. I also picked up some useful lab stuff including a couple of timers, water bath floaters, and an eppendorf tube rack. Of course this wasn’t the important part of the meeting, but it certainly made things fun! In subsequent years when I actually have a project, I’m sure the expo will be kore useful because I will be in a position to order supplies and reagents. This year, I got some information about those things but mostly enjoyed browsing and picking up nerdy shirts to wear next week.
Overall I had a ton of fun at this year’s AAI meeting. 5 straight days of immunology certainly was tiring, but I am very glad I had the opportunity to be here. I learned a lot, set some new goals for the future, and mostly enjoyed surrounding myself with so much science. It’s cool to feel like a real part of the scientific community.