Researcher perspective: Herstmonceux Retreat 2012

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Today’s missive is a guest post from Samantha Hodges, 1st year PhD student in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). Sam talks about her experiences at the 2012 Drosphila Retreat, an interdisciplinary event organised by Dr Sarah Newbury’s team, and partially funded by the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative (RLI) fund.

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Monday 30th July 2012

Today, all of the Drosophila research groups from Sussex are heading out to East Sussex to Herstmonceux Castle for the annual Drosophila Retreat. The Retreat consists of three days of presentations and break out discussion groups. This year 23 delegates will be attending and three outside speakers will also give presentations on two evenings.

As a first year PhD student I do not know what to expect and I can say I am quite nervous about what it is going to be like. We had a lovely drive to Herstmonceux Castle which is set in beautiful countryside and I was quite eager to have a walk around the grounds.

The first day got under way as soon as we arrived with presentations by Dr Claudio Alonso’s research group. This was followed by a discussion group session where we broke out into smaller groups to discuss individual presentations and then to present our views back to the group as a whole. This was a really good opportunity to discuss techniques and to gain feedback and advice from colleagues. As a first year it was a great way to get to know other researchers working for the University and to know what research they were involved in.

The evening’s activities involved a pub quiz created by Chris Jones and Joe Waldron. This was a fun activity and a great way to relax with the group. There were several rounds, some science related where we embarrassed ourselves with our lack of general science knowledge, some general knowledge rounds and a special Olympic round. It was great fun and I even managed to be part of the winning team, along with Richard Kaschula, Chris Sampson and Wan Liu!!

Tuesday 31st July 2012

I arrived early for breakfast to make sure I could get some energy for the day. Food was served at set times in a main canteen and the choice was excellent. Each day we had coffee and biscuit breaks in between sessions, so I can safely say none of us went hungry! Tuesday was filled with presentations and discussion groups from Professor Juan Couso’s group. In the evening we welcomed Konrad Paszkiewicz and Karen Moore from the University of Exeter to talk to us about RNA Sequencing.

Wednesday 1st August 2012

Wednesday was the last full day of the retreat and the day I had to present my work to the group. The day started with presentations and discussions from Dr Ted Morrow’s research group. I found this session particularly interesting as Ted’s research is more evolutionary than any of the other groups and it was great to get advice from a different research perspective.

After a quick lunch it was the turn of Dr Sarah Newbury’s research group and I was the second presenter. Everything went well and we had a very useful discussion about our work afterwards. We then were all excited about the end of retreat party!! Balloons were blown up and everyone headed to the pub for a few rounds of pool and darts before the balloon volleyball got underway in the castle. No clear rules or tactics made for a fantastic (and loud) game of balloon volleyball which involved using a balloon as a bat to hit another balloon to the other side of the room (far more fun than you would expect!!) We then hit the dance floor for another chance to embarrass ourselves in front of our colleagues!!

Overall I can say the retreat has been a great few days. It was a great opportunity for me to meet fellow Drosophila researchers and to get help and advice on my project; it will be interesting to see what new advances people have made at next year’s retreat.


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