Building Bridges in Medical Sciences Conference 2017 - A reflection

by Wai Wan (Vivian) SZE-TO on 15 March 2017


Building Bridges in Medical Sciences (BBMS) is a student-run conference that brings together scientists from different disciplines, career stages and countries. This year is the 9th Edition of the Conference, which took place on the 10th March 2017 at St. John’s College. Timed only two days after International Women’s Day and with a female majority on the organising committee, this year’s conference particularly hoped to attract women in sciences. As such, invitations sent out to speakers were also carefully selected and monitored to make sure a balanced number of both male and female scientists were reached. This year, we have the privilege of hosting seven renowned experts – Dr. Clare Turnbull, Dr. Simon Warner, Dr. Selina Wray, Dr. Shouleh Nikzad, Prof. Andrew Hayward, Dr. Tamar Geiger, and Prof. David Heymann.

After attending last year’s conference, I decided to volunteer myself to be part of the organising committee (pictured right). Being a PhD candidate in Medicine (Infectious Diseases Epidemiology and Clinical Informatics) myself, this conference created a platform for me to reflect on the current interdisciplinary approaches in tackling pertinent challenges. During the conference, we were encouraged to appreciate how cutting-edge research from the speakers’ respective fields aids each other. All seven speakers stressed the importance of bringing people from different expertise and background to work together. For instance, expertise among the invited speakers are diverse, yet still linked to medical sciences. That way, people start innovating and start inspiring each other to think differently.

I noted the following key quotes from some of the speakers and their talk highlights:

“Genome is beautifully simple and incredibly complex. They share commonness yet contain unique features. Your genome is aiding the yield of current medical diagnosis.” - Dr. Clare Turnbull (Clinical Lead for the 100,000 Genomes Project Cancer Programme)

The use of “friendly mosquito” vector in getting rid of pests. – Dr. Simon Warner (Chief Scientific Officer from Oxitec)

“Dementia is more than Alzheimer’s disease; it is a collection of symptoms. Dementia is a huge problem economically and population-wise. There is an urge to develop better disease management therapeutics.” - Dr. Selina Wray (Senior Research Associate in Neurology from UCL) as an early career researcher sharing her tips and reflections on her career path

“What do you want to do if you don’t have the required tool today? It is all about partnerships. Innovation leads to discovery leads to more innovation for more discovery.” - Dr. Shouleh Nikzad (Principal Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) as a woman in Astrophysics

“Big data promises possibilities pitfalls. Even though you have got all those good advancements of diagnosis tools or treatments, if you can’t connect those to good services, it doesn’t make any differences.” - Prof. Andrew Hayward (Head, Department of Infectious Disease Informatics, Farr Institute at UCL)

“Often in the lab, we can fantasise a lot of ideas, but when you do the project with clinicians, it changes our perspective to see how research translate into applications.” - Dr. Tamar Geiger (Assistant Professor in Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Cancer proteomics on cancer research)

 “Transmission is stoppable by community engagement, which is lacking during the West Africa outbreak. We need to strengthen not just the public health, but the overall healthcare system, including the developing countries’.” - Prof. David Heymann (Head and Senior Fellow at Centre on Global Health Security; Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at LSHTM)

You can follow us on Twitter for additional event highlights: @bbmscambridge and #BBMS17

Being part of the BBMS organising committee is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Every single member of the organising committee is extremely supportive and self-motivated. This enabled us opportunities to create an event from the ground up, and to see the beauty of networking. If you would like to take part in the organising committee for next year’s conference, please email us here

As for every scientific paper, there is an acknowledgement session. Thanks to all attendees, especially those who stayed till the very end. Thanks to the start-ups, poster presenters and poster judges for their exciting research and efforts. Thanks to the sponsors for their kind support. Many thanks to the School of Clinical Medicine and Prof. Tony Kouzarides for making this conference possible, and to St John’s College for hosting us. Special thanks to the organising committee for all their hard work!