Science, scenery, socks and social networking

Third annual Canadian Glycomics Symposium & AGM wraps up in majestic Canadian Rockies

by Bernie Poitras

More than 225 participants took part in the 2018 Canadian Glycomics Symposium and Annual General Meeting (AGM) May 7-11 in scenic Banff.

“This is an important event for the Canadian glycomics community because it’s the only national event where we can network, review projects and collaborate face to face about our ongoing projects, and also hear about cutting-edge science from outside of Canada,” says Todd Lowary, Scientific Director, GlycoNet. “This whole week really underscores the value we place on collaboration and sharing information to achieve scientific breakthroughs. We get work done, but we also have some fun too.”

The week began with the AGM on May 7 and 8 with project presentations from Network Investigators and skills development workshops for HQP trainees.

“The Essential Presentation Skills workshop was by far my favourite because it was fun and interactive and most importantly, it provided me with techniques to actively work on my presentation skills,” says Hanna Ostapska, HQP Trainee, McGill University. “I learned and had multiple opportunities to practice effective techniques to improve the quality of my voice and calm performance jitters.”

“The value in taking this workshop is that I have already used several of these techniques to prepare for my lightning talk at the Symposium and can continue to improve my presentation skills over time by practicing these techniques,” she says.

The AGM wrapped up with a mixer event Tuesday night where participants met up for informal networking. People competed in a competitive game of rock, paper, scissors eventually crowning a champion and bragging rights for at least until next year.

“The highlight of the week, for me, is always the Pub Night (trainee mixer),” says Francois LeMauff, Post-doctoral Fellow, McGill University. “It’s a great time for networking and meeting new people in an informal setting.”

The Symposium opened on Wednesday, May 9 with a keynote address from Dr. Imogen Coe who spoke about equity, diversity and inclusion in science. Dr. Coe’s talk generated a lot of discussion amongst attendees.

Throughout the Symposium, attendees heard from more than 20 speakers from across the world including keynote sessions each day and selected talks and lightning talks on Thursday and Friday.

“Everyone on our collaborative team – most of whom are new to GlycoNet – enjoyed the Symposium tremendously,” said Chris Phenix, Network Investigator, University of Saskatchewan. “It was great to discuss important issues and try to overcome challenges we encounter in glycoscience as a group.  Having such a diverse network of high quality scientists to learn from and work with is great.”

“It was great to see the talks where the speaker pointed out difficult challenges they are facing in their projects,” says Phenix. “High level research is obviously very challenging, and we must overcome technical or biological hurdles to learn something new and make progress. So, I always appreciate the talks that discuss the remaining issues head-on in addition to any achievements made in a project.”

Poster presentation award recipients included: (from left to right): Richard Brunton, University of Alberta; Ashley Brott, University of Guelph; Lharbi Dridi, McGill University; Ryan Simard, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal – IRCM & Sara Vicaretti, UBC Okanagan. Zaid Ahmed Sameer (not pictured).

On Thursday, May 10, more than 90 trainees presented their abstract posters – six of whom were judged as award-winning. The winning poster presentations were from Lharbi Dridi (McGill University), Zaid Sameer (McMaster University), Ryan Simard (Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal), Ashley Brott (University of Guelph), Sara Vicaretti (University of British Columbia Okanagan), and Richard Brunton (University of Alberta).

Francois Le Mauff, one of the poster presenters, was impressed at the sheer quantity of projects presented throughout the conference.

“It’s great to see all the projects going on under the GlycoNet banner at one time – it is impressive,” says Le Mauff, “I really like the lightning talks – it’s a great idea to promote research in an innovative, brief presentation. I would like to see more of that kind of presentation style at future Symposia.”

In addition to GlycoNet researchers, trainees, and external academic staff, industry representatives also attended the Symposium as sponsors and exhibitors to support the event.

“GlycoSyn is proud to sponsor the Third Annual Canadian Glycomics Symposium,” says Anushka Jayasuriya, Business Development Manager, GlycoSyn. “The quality of glycomics research in Canada is world class. GlycoSyn is excited with the prospect of assisting GlycoNet in its efforts toward innovative therapeutic breakthroughs, including their drug development efforts.

Industry representatives set up exhibitor tables allowing trainees and Network Investigators to interact with industry – an interaction that benefited both groups.

Sponsors step up: Form left, Julie Wong, New England Biolabs Ltd. and Jim Kapron, Bruker, at exhibitor tables at the Symposium in Banff.

“It was a great experience – and a real intimate venue,” says Julie Wong, Territory Manager, Western Canada, New England Biolabs, Ltd. “It really gave me a great opportunity to talk to the end users of our products. I was able to understand the complexity of the work that the investigators do. I wasn’t aware of the Symposium before so I was very happy to be able to attend as an exhibitor. I would support it again next year!”

“The entire week was very successful, and I’m confident it will only grow when we convene again in Banff in 2019,” says Todd Lowary.

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