Travel report: 22nd international vascular biology meeting

Reesha Solanki

The 22nd international vascular biology meeting was held in Oakland, San Francisco, California organized by North American Vascular Biology Organization. There were multiple conference themes; Vascular development and ageing, emerging topics and new technologies, vascular physiology, vascular beds and cells, vasculature in disease, vascular diseases and translational research. The conference was held from 13-17th October 2022, where attendees could choose talks running in concurrent sessions as well as attend the many keynote lectures from speakers around the world. In addition to the talks, trainees were able to go to eye-opener sessions such as “Industry as a career path” as well as “Meet the PI” where you were able to have breakfast with the PI of your choosing to discuss anything ranging from career options to a general get-to-know chat.

This conference is one of the largest dedicated to vascular research which aligns directly to my PhD with 100 speakers from at least 15 different countries. The IVBM is attended by world leading vascular biologists, as well as early career scientists, providing me with an ideal networking opportunity to meet current and future leaders in vascular research. I am now in the 3rd year of my PhD which I believe is the best stage of my training to attend. My main aim was to improve upon my presentation and networking skills on an international stage. In addition to the conference sessions, the chance to network with other early career researchers in similar situations was a very valuable experience. I also interacted with the vendors during the poster sessions which enabled me to learn about the new research technologies available to support lab work.

I was able to attend many talks over the four days but I was particularly interested in the talk by PhD student Maria Faleeva on the role of SOX9 in ageing vascular smooth muscle cells. This talk was similar to some aspects of my research as I work on the impact of ageing on vascular smooth muscle cells. It was enjoyable to listen to Maria talk through her PhD research so far as we are at the same point in our career. Another talk was on modular hyaluronic acid hydrogels to generate lymphatic networks for tissue engineering applications from the Hanjaya-Putra Lab. As I work with a hydrogel system on my own cells, I was intrigued to learn the different techniques utilised by other labs as an innovative therapeutic strategy. I listened to world leading researchers in cardiovascular disease such as Professor Ralf Adams from the Max Planck Institute on his research on vascular plasticity.

On the Friday I attended the “Meet the PI” eye-opener session, this was particularly valuable as I was able to interact with the PI of my choosing which was a great opportunity to discuss research from another lab group and to understand the options I have in future post-doc positions as well as discuss general career queries. It was inspiring and motivational to be able to discuss the highs and lows of a PhD with others in-person as the past two years of a pandemic has led to less networking and social events.

Another eye-opener sessions was “Industry as a career path”, as a 3rd year PhD student I am considering my options for future careers and wanted to further understand whether industry or academia would be a better fit for me. There were some motivational speakers who worked in industry talking about their different career opportunities as well as the benefits and risks associated. This gave me a greater insight on which companies and what roles I could have in a career in industry.

I presented my poster on the role of HDAC6 in vascular smooth muscle cell and DNA damage during the Saturday poster session. This was my first in-person conference as a PhD student due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it was enjoyable to chat to fellow researchers face to face. It was a great opportunity to present my work as well as discuss ideas on how to further progress my research and improve upon data already generated.  During the poster sessions I learnt a lot from talking to other researchers allowing me to generate ideas to further my own research and create solutions.

On the Sunday I attended the gala dinner which was held on a cruise in the Bay Area of San Francisco. This was the perfect event to socialise with other researchers as well as enjoy the beautiful sights San Francisco had to offer! I was able to explore San Francisco with my lab and friends I made at the conference which will make this an experience that I will never forget!

Overall, the IVBM conference allowed me to engage with and learn from researchers from a range of cardiovascular disciplines. This was extremely beneficial as I was able to generate solutions to research questions by learning from colleagues during poster sessions in addition to now having a better outlook on future career opportunities. I would like to thank the BSCR and the University of East Anglia for my travel bursary for otherwise I would not be able to have this incredible professional and personal experience.