Over the past ten years, the BioMalPar/EVIMalaR group has been organising an annual malaria conference at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, where leading scientists in the field of malaria biology and immunology gather to share knowledge and assess progress towards finding a vaccine for malaria, a disease which is responsible for over one million deaths annually, among children under five years and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.
In May 2014 I travelled to Heidelberg to attend the 10th edition of the BioMalPar/EVIMalaR Conference and Symposium (12-15 May, 2014), which was on the theme: ‘Biology and Pathology of the Malaria Parasite’. About 380 researchers and postgraduate students from Europe, and overseas (including Africa, America, Asia and Australia) attended the conference. There were presentations on ground-breaking findings on fundamental malaria research. My abstract on the ‘Serological dynamics of multiple Plasmodium species co-infections in a human population’ was accepted for poster presentation. It was a privilege for me to have the preliminary findings of my work showcased at such an august gathering.
With no knowledge in the German language, it was certainly a challenge as to how I would communicate effectively with people when I arrived in Germany. Thankfully, I had a couple of people in the Ashworth Laboratory teaching me some few words such as how to say thank you, please, how are you, etc., the conference was in English and many people in Heidelberg and I guess by extension Germany could speak with me in English.
Presenting my poster on the second day of the conference, I received very positive feedback from people. These comments will invariable help in the next stages of laboratory experiments. The various oral and poster presentations as well as the symposium on the final day enriched my understanding of the current trends in malaria research. There were a lot of scientific ideas and new hypotheses which I intend to explore.
The conference venue at the EMBL was on the outskirts of Heidelberg and the intensive nature of the schedule (9am till late in the night for the first three days) did not allow me to have enough time to explore the historic city of Heidelberg. However, the one free afternoon I had I was able to visit the University of Heidelberg and learned about the history of the ‘students’ prison’ and many more important transitions that the school had gone through. I also visited a Cathedral, the Heidelberg Castle from where one gets a great view of the city and the Old Bridge over river Neckar.
The experience of attending such an international conference gave me the opportunity to meet new people, and expand my contacts to both well established and up and coming scientists in the field of malaria. This presents an opportunity both now and in the future as I pursue a career in research. I am therefore grateful to the Go Abroad fund for the support in helping me attend this conference.