Energizing for Renewed Focus
Many of us find time in the summer to reflect on work and recharge our batteries. Vacations, visits with friends, and time with family all help get away from everyday concerns in the lab and gain some perspective to inform the scientific path for the year ahead.
With renewed purpose and motivation comes challenges and questions. Are we investigating and advancing the most important questions in our field? Have new discoveries or tools suggested we change direction or even curtail our work because it is less relevant than before? These are tough questions as we cycle into a new academic year and envision next steps for our research.
Inspiration from ISSCR Meetings
The big picture of biological research can become blurry, or forgotten altogether, as we lose ourselves in the minutia of daily work. Individual research projects are often narrowly focused, and one can get entrenched in the specifics of experimental routines or caught continuing a project started long ago. The value in taking a step back to review and challenge approaches is sometimes overlooked.
In this regard, annual meetings do a great service by exposing us to new directions and scientific discussions that can reignite the drive for discovery and advancement. We come away with fresh ideas and new approaches to consider. Some of us may be starting projects to incorporate new developments, setting up labs, gathering new resources, or following up on contacts made at the meeting to begin collaborations. Redirecting the focus of work can be challenging, particularly when it requires changes in long-held beliefs.
Important Voices to Consider
Scientific exchanges at the meetings are complemented by talks highlighting the value of stem cell research and its impact on broader society, including potential translation to medicine.
This year, Daniel Feller, co-founder of Genetic Cures Australia, introduced us to his son Harry who is living with Usher Syndrome. Daniel commended researchers on their progress and hard work and reminded us that what we do could one day have a real impact on the lives of patients around the world suffering from a multitude of devastating diseases. The reality that research could make a significant difference in people’s lives should provide powerful motivation for our work, even if that work requires re-evaluation, readjustment, and refocusing.
New Opportunities in an Evolving Field
Summers can also be a good time to consider the next steps in career development.
Rapid changes in the stem cell field bring new opportunities, both in academic and non-academic settings, on and off the bench. The meeting was replete with opportunities to explore career options and seek advice from seasoned veterans. Many attendees sat next to experts at one of the Meet the Experts events or attended the Career Panel or Early Career Luncheons and returned home with a new view of the changing career landscape available to them.
It is increasingly clear that industry and the ISSCR significantly overlap in our goals to advance science and human health. For some scientists, connections to industry may be the most effective way to advance a career or project, while others can find unique and inspiring opportunities in colleges, universities, hospitals or research institutes. Many meeting attendees will be following up with new connections established in Melbourne during a successful Job Match program that connected job seekers with those looking to fill opportunities in a variety of scientific settings.
Moving Science Forward
As we move into the new academic year, the ISSCR is planning several international symposia. “Changing the Face of Modern Medicine: Stem Cells & Gene Therapy” will take place 16-19 October, 2018, in Lausanne, Switzerland, in collaboration with the European Society for Gene Therapy, the French Society of Gene Therapy, and local organizers. The meeting will provide an intimate setting for interacting with colleagues on a span of topics ranging from molecules to muscle, organoids to oncology, vectors to vaccines, and more. Speakers include ISSCR members Amy Wagers, Fiona Watt, Kevin Eggan, Deepak Srivastava, Lorenz Studer, Ludovic Vallier, Gordon Keller, Amander Clark, Jürgen Knoblich, Rudolf Jaenisch, and many other leaders in the field. Registration for the symposium is open. Additional international meetings are set for 2019 in Amsterdam, Seoul, and Toronto.
For me, the start of the new academic year brings with it the new opportunity to serve as your next ISSCR president. I look forward to sharing my perspectives with you in the Pulse newsletter and encourage you to take part in the important activities of the Society over the course of the next year. And if you have thoughts about how to enhance the Society please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do my best to get back to you in a timely manner.
ISSCR President, 2018-2019