NoCaSS 2013

Last year, fellow JIC blogger Annis Richardson and I decided we wanted to set up and run a new student conference. As you may have read on this blog before, one of the perks of being a PhD student is getting to attend conferences where you present and discuss your work with colleagues, and hear all about new research in the field that you work in. Whilst this is a great opportunity to network with project leaders at the forefront of research, this can also be an intimidating experience for a new PhD student. So a conference with just students can be a nice way to practise for a scarier conference, whilst also being a fun way to network with other students.

Out of this, NoCaSS 2013 was born. NoCaSS stands for Norwich-Cambridge Student Symposium, which was focussed on plant and microbial sciences (we rejected the more amusing earlier draft title of “Camwich” because we thought this wouldn’t be taken as seriously…!). This conference brought together around 85 students from The John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, The Genome Analysis Centre (all Norwich) and students from University of Cambridge Department of Plant Sciences and the Cambridge Sainsbury Laboratory for a one-day symposium. Both Annis and I were undergraduates at the Plant Sciences department in Cambridge, as were many other JIC students – so this seemed like the ideal opportunity to maintain and strengthen this link in plant sciences in East Anglia. A good friend of mine, Daisy Hessenberger, is doing her PhD in Cambridge so was ideally placed to liaise for us on the other side and make sure plenty of people signed up!

Our keynote speaker

So, we put together a group of students at JIC to plan and execute a conference. Despite it being only one-day long, there were a surprising number of things that needed planning and sorting! These jobs included advertising, sponsorship, organising a keynote speaker, planning abstract submission and judging, catering, abstract books and planning the day. After lots of hard work from many students, the day was a great success! It included talks from students at both institutes, poster sessions, and a great networking session where teams (including students from both locations) came up with a grant proposal idea for plants in space. We concluded the talks with a keynote lecture from Professor Ian Baldwin, which I can honestly say was one of the most interesting and inspiring scientific talks that I have ever attended. You can check out his work here. The day was concluded with home-made pizza and volleyball, which was a great way to get to know the other students better and more informally.

Lively poster discussions at NoCaSS 2013

So why am I telling you about a conference that happened a year ago? Well, the best thing is – when we set up NoCaSS we really wanted this to be the first of many conferences like this – and the great news is that this conference is happening again this year, this time hosted in Cambridge! Lots of students are signed up once again, and hopefully it will be just as successful, and the conference will continue for years to come.

For more information on NoCaSS, see the website, and see the video of last years event:

By Jo Harrison, a 3rd year PhD student in the lab of Steph Bornemann

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