Brain mapping in Beijing
23 July 2012
Dr Rumana Chowdhury, research fellow at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience writes about her experience presenting her PhD research at last month’s Human Brain Mapping Conference in Beijing, China.
Hot. Smoggy. Dim sum….these are some of the words that spring to mind when I think back to my recent trip to the Human Brain Mapping 2012 Conference in Beijing. Oh, and my talk! Yes, this year I was fortunate enough for my conference abstract to be chosen, and subsequently to be invited to give an oral presentation at the conference. After the initial elation at being given the opportunity to discuss my work at an international neuroscience conference to an audience of my peers, colleagues and other renowned scientists, this was swiftly followed by feelings of fear at, well… having to give a talk in front of an audience of my peers, colleagues and other renowned scientists!
Nonetheless, I can whole-heartedly recommend presenting your research at an international conference if you’re ever given the chance. The preparation I put in has been valuable in many different ways. It’s helped me to fully realise the core findings of our study (that the neurotransmitter dopamine has a dose-dependent effect on long-term memory in healthy older adults) and how these results fit into current thinking on the topic (by providing empirical evidence in humans for a neurobiological theory underlying memory consolidation). I’ve gained a better understanding about the implications of this work, most significantly that by manipulating dopamine we may be able to help improve age-related memory problems.
As a final year PhD student, being able to distil all those months of brainstorming, data collection, analysis, analysis and yet more analysis into a few key points has also helped me understand the process involved in more formal research writing, which will certainly be useful when I write grants and papers in the future.
On a personal level, I don’t particularly relish public-speaking but I now realise how important it is to be able to convey your research and ideas to a wider audience. Speaking at this conference was a brilliant chance to practice exactly that. On the day, the talk went much better than I could have hoped and (shock, horror), I actually enjoyed it! More important was the feedback I received from other scientists afterwards. Many were interested in talking to me in more depth about my findings and also share their exciting ideas for related studies
However, let’s not forget the popular words of Jack Torrance: all work and no play make Jack a dull boy! I was lucky enough to take advantage of the amazing conference location and discover the beauty of the Forbidden City, the eerie sterility of Tiananmen Square, delicious Peking duck, nail-biting taxi rides, and the breath-taking expanse of the Great Wall of China. All in all, a very worthwhile experience.