ICAR2016 Student Perspective: Marie Bruser

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Published on: July 26, 2016

Thanks to Marie Bruser for putting together her thoughts from the ICAR2016 meeting.

The annual Arabidopsis conference was held in GyeongJu in South Korea this year. I was fortunate to go, thanks for some extra funding from the Gatsby Foundation and GARNet.

Going to the conference I of course looked forward to my own supervisor Lars Østergaard’s talk. But I also had some other sessions and speakers I was really excited about. And they did not disappoint. Sabrina Sabatini wonderfully explained her elegant model of auxin and cytokinin distribution in the root, Dolf Weijers showed some stunning images of the Arabidopsis embryo which were only rivalled by Minako Ueda with her live-cell imaging of cell divisions, microtubule arrangement and mitochondria in the zygote. There was also Annika Weimer from the Bergmann lab who told the story of how formative divisions occur in the root and the stomata, followed by a great description of the sepal cellular arrangements by Adrienne Roeder. She outlined the effect of ATML1 levels on cells division versus endoreduplication.

Tom Beeckman’s talk was also great where he presented his Science paper, published in January, on a cyclical auxin signal coupled to cell death which determines lateral root formation. I had read his paper and discussed it in a journal club but it was brilliant to hear the story told by the person most excited and motivated about it! One of the most important things I learned from these sessions was not to dismiss Domains of Unknown Function (DUFs). Hunting down a DUF, Dolf Weijers and his lab found a protein beautifully localized in the corner of cells, playing a role in determining the cell division plane. And who wouldn’t want to name a protein!?

I also want to highlight two talks from the transporter session, a topic not directly relevant to what I do. Yi-Fang Tsay neatly described her research on nitrogen transporters. She identified one that was involved in transporting N from old to new plant parts in times of low N (NRT1.7) and others that transported nitrogen in high N conditions (NRT1.11 and NRT1.12). The other talk, by José A Féijo, showed that transport in the plant can be a lot more complex, with a large network of genes involved in calcium transport in the pollen tube.

But for me the best talk came from a very relaxed and confident John Bowman in the session on shoot development. His theory that leaves are modified shoots has led him to attempt to modify leaves in a way that they revert back to the indeterminate growth of shoots. And he has succeeded, producing Arabidopsis leaves that are crinkled, a little like kale, and grow indeterminately. His talk was delivered in a very clear manner and kept me fascinated all the way through, even though he was the last of his session. And even though it was my favourite talk, it was one I took the fewest notes on and I believe that is because I was so captivated by his story that I just sat back and listened and simply forgot about notetaking!
PIN_BruserAnd there is one more thing I really got to appreciate at this, my first large conference: that the talks are just one part of the event. The few hours you get around the talks; during coffee and lunch times, dinner, poster sessions and drinks, are the times that probably matter just as much. They give you the chance to talk to the people you have just seen present. They give you the chance to meet people you admire and talk to them on a first name basis. They allow you to meet scientists from all over the world, from all career stages. They make you realise that everyone else, same as you, is there to have a great time talking science and experiencing a different country. And most of all, it makes you appreciate that in the end, no matter what stage of your career you are, you are part of a community that is interested in a common topic, driven by curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.

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