This year saw the start of the Merimée Programme funded by the French government. The programme allows students from the three public universities in Barcelona (UB, UPF and UAB) to attend the Journées CBS2, a student 3-day conference held in Montpellier. Luckily, I was one of those picked to attend.
The conferences included short talks by PhD students, as well as lectures from internationally renowned specialists, and finally poster sessions for those of us at earlier stages in our research.
My personal favourites included Isabelle Mansuy, an Early-Life Stress and Epigenetics specialist from Zurich. She talked, amongst other things, about the use of micro-RNAs in sperm and blood serum samples to study trans-generational effects of stress. PhD student, Amélie Tora gave an interesting talk about glutamatergic synpses. Her research involves looking at how metabotrophic glutamate receptors show differential chloride ion sensitivity, which may help to understand further how glutamatergic transmission is regulated.
Cancer was a very popular topic during the conference, with a particularly interesting talk from Professor Simon Wain-Hobson. He suggested that mutations in our DNA are actually good for us, as they have protected us throughout history particularly from viral attack. He explained that previously, the number of people who died from cancer was almost insignificant compared with those who died from other illness. However, now that we have other external methods to protect us we are living longer. Therefore, these mutations that previously protected us into our 20’s and 30’s are starting to damage us when we reach our 40’s and beyond. This raised some interesting philosophical and moral questions, such as our ability, or lack of it to prevent cancer.
Out of the nine representatives from Barcelona, two gave talks on their research and three of us presented posters. All in all the experience was a very positive one. We were well looked after by students and staff and the conference allowed us to make contact with other students or researchers working in similar areas. And to anyone thinking of applying next year, do it, it’s a great experience!