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15 July 2014

Inside BIGSS 2014, Part 2: Where knowledge and fun shook hands

Editor’s note: Guest blogger Khushi Vyas, Outreach Coordinator for the SPIE Student Chapter at Imperial College London, was among students at the biophotonics and imaging graduate summer school 15-20 June at the National Biophotonics Imaging Platform Ireland (NBIPI), National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway. In the second of two posts, Khushi describes the experience of attending the school from a personal perspective.

Wisely -- and happily -- BIGSS organizers ensure that the week is not all work and
no play; above attendees get to know each other better over refreshments after hours.
Galway -- the cultural city of Ireland with Bohemian accents -- played host to the fifth annual Biophotonics and Imaging Summer School (BIGSS), organized by the NUI Galway Applied Optics group and chaired by Professor Martin Leahy, who also leads the NBIPI. A mixed crowd, from first-timers to all-timers, comprised this year’s approximately 50 students who not only attended the technical program but made the school an experience of a lifetime.

Practical workshops, poster sessions, and discussion groups on hot topics in the field of photonics and imaging encouraged us students to engage with and explore our potential.

The welcome reception broke the ice among the participants and got everyone talking, divulging enthusiasms and work interests. Young scientists as well as early-career professionals working in multidisciplinary biophotonics areas came to a common platform from which to understand each others’ research work and future interests.

Throughout the rest of the week, eminent guest speakers from all over the world lectured on trending topics such as fluorescence life-time imaging, photoacoustic imaging, optogenetics, optical coherence tomography, and superresolution microscopy. Each speaker not only covered the fundamentals and applications of the topic, but also talked about their contributions in the area and dedicated a good amount of time to discussions which proved quite useful.

Lectures were complemented by practical workshop sessions in which Professor Leahy and his research group did an excellent job in demonstrating the working and applications of these modalities for in vitro and in vivo imaging.

Practical formats such as the poster session which were integrated into the program helped us realize our potential and encouraged discussions and inspirations based on other’s work. Interactive sessions with guest speakers prompted new ideas and future directions for research work. Lectures and sessions highlighted the importance of developing simple, affordable and accessible imaging techniques that could be translated seamlessly into clinical workflow.

However well-integrated a program is, all work and no play ain’t a very good idea.

Galway from the water: participants enjoy a
cruise on the River Corrib.
Activities including a river cruise, barbeque night, and a gala dinner at Dunguaire Castle made us acquainted beyond our professional lives and aspirations. Networking and bonding got more fuel in relaxed environments, and the city’s charm fostered the budding friendships among attendees.

By the end of the program, our knowledge quotient in the field of biophotonics was raised a notch, thanks to experts in the field. Present and future trends in biophotonics surfaced along with our insight into the field.

In early stages of research life, such experiences contribute invaluably towards a future and motivate one to work towards finding solutions for unmet clinical needs. Along with a renewed energy and streamlined direction for further research, we take home memories, new friendships, and hopes of meeting soon, which are at the heart of such experiences.

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