So, thanks to funding from Mental Health Research UK and the Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology, University of Nottingham, I had the opportunity to go to Florence, Italy for the 4th Biennial Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) conference last month. The SIRS conference is one of the biggest meetings in the field of schizophrenia research and I was very excited about it but also a bit nervous at the same time as I was presenting a poster there, and it was the very first time I was presenting something at such a big international conference! It was also the first time I was visiting Italy, so that was a bonus! The conference lasted for 5 days, and it was pretty intense. Talks started at 8.30 in the morning and things wrapped up at around 5.30 – 6 in the evening on most days. In the mornings, there were plenary sessions and in the afternoons, there were concurrent symposia and you had to pick and choose which one you wanted to attend each day. I chose the topics that were most relevant to my own research, such as recent advances in structural and functional brain imaging, novel approaches to treatment in schizophrenia and using neuroimaging to predict treatment response and functional outcomes.
On the second day, I had my poster presentation. I was presenting my work on shared white matter dysconnectivity in psychosis, work that I had started during my MSc. Although I was a bit nervous, I told myself that this was my work, and I know what I have done, how I have done it and why, so I shouldn’t worry because I will be able to answer anything anyone asks me. Half an hour into the poster session, I realized I didn’t have any reason to worry at all. People came to talk to me, they asked me a few questions and I answered them and it all went very smoothly! It was nice to see that people were interested in our research and some even asked me to send them a copy of the poster by email. And, the best part (I found out about this via email after I returned from Florence), my poster was shortlisted for a poster award and was in the top 40 out of over 800 posters! Although I didn’t win the award, I was very happy about this and I couldn’t have asked for more from my first ever poster at my first conference.
Overall, this conference was a fantastic learning experience and I’m very thankful to MHRUK and my department for making this visit possible. It was great to be able to see what other researchers in the field are doing, and this made me feel a lot more motivated and enthusiastic about my own research. It’s been a month since my return from Italy, and I feel I’ve done a lot more in this past month than in the previous two.. Looks like some conferencing and spending a week in a beautiful city that you haven’t been to before can do wonders for your PhD!