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MWC 2017 Research Symposium Highlights

20 December 2017

The Maurice Wilkins Centre 2017 Research Symposium was held at the University of Otago, Dunedin, from 4 to 5 December. We report on the highlights of what was a highly informative and memorable couple of days attended by more than 130 researchers from around New Zealand.

The 2017 MWC Research Symposium commenced on what seemed like a very warm morning. Much of the country was experiencing unseasonally hot weather with temperatures in the 30s expected for the days ahead in some parts of Otago.

MWC 2017 Research Symp1

More than 130 delegates from across New Zealand attended the MWC 2017 Research Symposium at the University of Otago.

A chance to reflect on our recent achievements

MWC Principal Investigator and local stalwart Professor Greg Cook welcomed attendees and suggested it was a good thing that Aucklanders were complaining about the heat. He then invited MWC Board Member Professor Warren Tate up on to the stage to officially open the symposium.

Addressing the packed room, Professor Tate commended the achievements of Maurice Wilkins Centre researchers over the past few years, saying he was incredibly enthusiastic about what the centre is doing and how it has evolved.

“It's been a real privilege being a part of that,” he said. “In the last two or three years, they've been gaining the majority of grants from the top investment agencies like HAC and Marsden. There have been numbers of patents, there's been huge numbers of papers in top impact journals, and there have been spin-off companies. So one is seeing a broad range of achievements.”

Professor Tate also praised the centre’s involvement in broader initiatives such as engaging with emerging researchers, communities, schools, Māori, and international institutions, before declaring the symposium officially open.

An opportunity to see a fantastic range of science

MWC Director Professor Rod Dunbar added a few words before kicking off the first session. “Today is a great opportunity to see across the entire gamut of Maurice Wilkins Centre work that we're doing. And that's continued tomorrow in the early career sessions. We're going to see a fantastic range of science.”

Indeed, the full programme – including presentations by investigators across all the centre’s research themes, early career researcher talks, poster presentation awards, and skills workshops – can briefly be summarised as follows:

Day one dominated by main research themes

The first day of the conference featured a wide range of talks covering research being conducted across the MWC’s various themes:

  • Session 1 on ‘Cancer – Tumour microenvironment’ was chaired by Bill Denny, and included presentations by Rod Dunbar, Margaret Currie, Antony Braithwaite and Aniruddha Chatterjee.
  • Session 2 on ‘Cancer – Approaches to therapy’. Chaired by Antony Braithwaite, this session saw talks by Bill Denny, Ian Hermans, Jasna Rakonjac and Rod Dunbar (on behalf of Sarah Hook).
  • Session 3 on ‘Infectious disease’ chaired by Greg Cook featured speakers Michael Berney, Stephanie Dawes, Nikki Moreland, and Margaret Brimble.
  • Session 4 – ‘Diabetes and metabolic disorders’ included presentations by Peter Shepherd (also the chair), Tony Merriman, Sharon Ladyman, Debbie Hay, Brie Sorrenson and Troy Merry.

To conclude the opening day, attendees visited the adjacent atrium to view a large number of poster presentations by MWC Affiliate Investigators.

Poster Indigo1

The poster presentation session provided an excellent opportunity for researchers at varying stages of their academic careers to network and discuss their work.  

Second day devoted to early career researchers

The second day’s programme focused on the great work being done by MWC affiliates and early career researchers, as well as some highly useful career advice and publication skills sessions. It was organised by the MWC Early Career Steering Committee, chaired by Chris Guise, and featured three main sessions:

  • Session 1 – Joanna Hicks and Wanting Jiao co-chaired a great session featuring oral presentations by early career researchers Sean Bisset, Anna Cooper, Martina Foglizzo, Liam Harold, Luke Henderson, Inken Kelch, Lydia Liew, Jordan McCone and Kyle van de Bittner.
  • Session 2 – Emily Parker and Chris Guise co-chaired a panel discussion on the vast array of challenges faced by researchers in New Zealand looking to progress their academic careers. Panel members included Emily Parker, Jane Allison, Aniruddha Chatterjee, Gary Evans, Jodie Johnston, and Dean Singleton.
  • Session 3 – 'The art of publication writing' - a skills session chaired by Dan Furkert, with Peter Shepherd, Antony Braithwaite and Debbie Hay talking about the important points of writing a research article and accompanying cover letter, and providing much insight into what journal editors are looking for.

MWC 2017 Symp Ecrs

The Maurice Wilkins Centre Early Career Steering Committee. Left to right: Indigo Matisi, Joanna Hicks, Dan Furkert, Chris Guise (Chair), Wanting Jiao, Jodie Johnston, and Sunali Mehta.

Awards ceremony concludes successful symposium

The symposium finished on a high note with awards given out to the best oral and poster presentations by Affiliate Investigators.

Oral presentation award winners included Kyle van de Bittner (first, $3500 travel prize) and Anna Cooper (second, $2500), while poster presentation award winners were Lauren Yule (first, $1000), Jared Freeman (second, $1000), Tamasin Taylor, Aqfan Jamaluddin and Jeremy Raynes (all highly commended, $500), and Megan Jamieson and Phillip Grant (both commended, $250).