The end of the semester has given me an opportunity to reflect on my first symposium experience as a graduate student. I attended the RNA in Motion symposium back in September, but since the deadline for my written review was the end of the semester, I have only had (made?) time recently to really reflect on my experience.
Science aside, what I enjoyed most about the symposium was the mealtimes. Each day during lunch, the organizers provided a map showing assigned seats for all the invited speakers, who were spread out so that there were no more than two invited speakers per table. This made the brightest minds at the conference very accessible–I was able to seek out and speak with two accomplished scientists in depth about their research at these lunches. At other conferences I’ve attended, the scientific big wigs either congregated together at the exclusion of us lesser mortals (as with smaller conferences) or were so busy and spread out that you will be lucky to see them anywhere but delivering a keynote address (as with big conferences). Spreading the invited speakers out at lunchtime was genius and made the whole experience much better.
In terms of cool science, I was intrigued by Jonathan Staley’s work with fidelity mechanisms in RNA splicing, particularly the fact that suboptimal splicing substrates can collect in the cytoplasm and undergo translation. I also enjoyed Alain Laederach’s presentation on ribosnitches and how he used exhaustive search approaches to identify mutations whose effect on RNA structure could be counteracted by another mutation.