Travelling to Vancouver for Further Insights into the Brain

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The Principal’s Go Abroad Fund allowed me to attend the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) conference which was hosted in Vancouver, Canada from the 24-29th of June, and included some educational courses. I also attended some cultural events recommended by the organisers before and after the conference dates.

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This conference aims to bring together neuroimaging researchers from various disciplines in order to disseminate the most up-to-date research, along with ground-breaking methodological advances, which will only enhance the quality of neuroimaging research and our subsequent understanding of the internal mechanisms and structure of the brain. As my PhD research addresses brain structure deficits in Schizophrenia and what risk factors cause these, participating in this conference could help inform and improve my work.

OHBM is a very large conference that discusses a range of imaging techniques therefore, before I left, I was worried that some of the talks might be too difficult for me to follow and I was a bit nervous about networking with so many prestigious members of the research community.

A major theme from the conference was the concept of ‘big data’, which emphasises the need to collect much larger samples in order to determine specific factors that lead to onset of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Schizophrenia. We were informed about a number of large data sets that are being collected and can be accessed by collaborators around the world, as well as other tools and resources that can be used to help analyse such data. As part of my PhD, I am utilising both small and large data sets in order to address this movement in the field and further therefore, being present at this conference allowed me further insight into such an important topic.

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Attending OHBM also gave me the opportunity to present some of my own PhD work. Presenting this work, within this setting, allowed me to receive feedback from some incredibly influential researcher’s in my area. These valuable insights came at a pivotal time in my PhD career; helping me to determine ways to improve my analyses as well as bring up some extremely interesting points for discussion.

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I also had a great opportunity to network with like-minded researchers and, being in my final year of my doctorate, there is an urgent need for me to pursue other employment opportunities; this networking allowed me to seek out potential partnerships where I could develop my existing research as well as help to enhance the research profile of the University.

Attending events surrounding the conference also allowed me to see, and learn about, some of the local culture and history.

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Overall, achieving the Guarantors of Brain travel grant in order to attend the OHBM conference, provided me with an invaluable experience which allowed me to find ways to both improve and expand on my research at such a pivotal time in my PhD career, as well as to explore future opportunities for research and personal development.

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