The perks of being an IDEAS Researcher: part 3 by Nicolas Ballarini


I am sure that after reading our previous blogs on conferences (this and this) you were wondering where we would head next… And yes, you guessed right: ISCB. This was the 37th annual meeting for the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics and it was, naturally, THE conference to attend for us, clinical biostatisticians. As soon as I landed in Birmingham, UK, I began to hesitate weather my English skills were as good as I thought: I was not even able to successfully order a sandwich at a café! However, I was ready to meet with the other IDEAS researchers one more time and for 5 days of statistic fun non-stop,
The first day of the conference was dedicated to optional courses. I have to say that after so many years of being a student I am very demanding when it comes to attending a course. I decided to give the course ‘Analysis of omic data’ a try. What I most liked about the course is that our instructor provided some exercises to do in the class but also plenty of resources for us to explore afterwards. I was engaged for the eight hours of the course and very satisfied, and this seem to be the case for the other courses as well as I heard good critics for them too. To celebrate the end of the courses, the organizers treated us with a well deserved students’ dinner at a bar. Although I may have made a bad choice for my dish here, the dinner was a great way to wrap up the day, catching up with friends and meeting other students that I would see pretty often in the following days.

The next three days were dedicated to talks, talks and talks, and posters. Plenary talks included the popular @DiegoKuonen giving an overview of big data and the importance of networking in the digital era; and Sir David Spiegelhalter talking about sex. Well, actually this last one was more on numbers related to sex in UK, still appealing for the type of audience he had. Like in JSM and other big conferences, the agenda included simultaneous sessions divided by topics. I tried to focus more on the sessions in personalised medicine since the presentations were more related to my research topic, but sometimes i manage to switch to other topics too, depending what sounded more interesting to me. On Wednesday morning I had my 30 minutes of fame and presented my poster receiving some good feedback.

By the fifth day of the conference we were already used to the talks and the British sandwiches. The attendees divided into two large groups: there were those experienced researchers that had mini symposiums especially dedicated to “clinical trials in small populations” and “strengthening analytical thinking for observational studies”; and there were students, like me, that received advice to become, hopefully, an experienced researcher in some years. This student’s’ day proved to be, in my opinion, very successful. The talks were more focused on the experience of PhD students rather than the research results, and I left with that feeling of belonging to a larger group, in which many others are going through the same kind of problems. This feeling was also enhanced by the rather informal activities we managed to sneak in, ranging from a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon (maybe the inspiration I needed to write this) including a 5 o’clock tea with scones, running in the mornings, and dinner together with other students. Oh! and I should not forget about that night that an IDEAS team beat a team of other students in a pub quiz!

On Friday morning I started my way back to Vienna, closing great experience as my first time at an ISCB meeting. See you in Vigo next year!

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