By: Erik K.
The annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in conjunction with Experimental Biology has been an integral part of my graduate education. This year marked the fourth time I have presented my work at the conference. I arrived in balmy New Orleans at midday on Saturday and immediately hit the ground running. After checking in to my hotel, I strolled over to the Ernest N. Morial convention center. Of course, I couldn't pass up stopping through the Riverwalk Marketplace to pick up a crawfish po-boy from Messina's for lunch along the way. Sated and happy, I gave a quick glance in the program book for the afternoon sessions then headed off to locate the session room. My first session of the conference was the ASN/Proctor & Gamble Graduate Student Research Award Oral Competition. I have always enjoyed this session not only because of the broad focus on innovative graduate student research but also because, invariably, I at least recognize one or more of the presenters. The talks in this yearly competition span from in vitro work to translational studies and, generally, cover the major hot topics in nutrition research. This year was no exception. Talks touched on everything from red wine polyphenols and cancer to the effect of n-3 PUFA on T cells. All the competitors did an excellent job speaking, handled questions very well and I learned a great deal. Saturday night found me at dinner with old and new friends, colleagues and professors as well as a quick jaunt through the French Quarter to see the sights.
Sunday morning dawned and I still had both a poster competition and an oral presentation in front of me. Beignets and cafÉ au lait from the world-famous CafÉ Du Monde quickly quieted any apprehension butterflies. A quick trip to the speaker practice room didn't hurt either. Starting off the afternoon, I presented my poster in a group of about 15 others during the business meeting of the Nutritional Immunology Research Interest Section (RIS). I have always enjoyed giving poster presentations since it allows for more one-on-one interaction and allows me to clarify and address specific questions as they arise. Unfortunately, since the poster session was a competition, I wasn't able to view all of the posters in detail; however, the few I did get to read show great promise in the future of nutritional modulation of the immune system. Immediately following my RIS meeting, I hustled back over to the convention center and I spoke about my work in the minisymposium entitled “Nutritional Immunology I.” Giving an oral presentation is a totally different experience and mindset from presenting a poster. Aside from having to be the main focus of a large room, I take pleasure in being able to tell the “story” of my research in an uninterrupted ten to twelve minute span. Along with my presentation on obesity and influenza infection, topics covered the effects of vitamin E, EGCG and curcumin on different aspects of the immune response. Overall, I was quite pleased to see the advances labs are making in understanding how what we eat affects our ability to fight infection. Following the symposium, Sunday night was capped off with the ASN awards ceremony followed by some lab bonding over delicious Cajun cuisine.
Monday morning saw me returning to North Carolina and the pile of
papers on my lab desk. Despite only having spent 48 hours at
Experimental Biology, I came away excited about the state of
nutrition research, especially in the field on nutritional
immunology. Of course, I wish I could have spent more time down
in New Orleans. There were plenty of other sessions which
interested me as well as plenty of other major names in nutrition
I wanted to meet. As I go into my final year of dissertation
research, I look forward to next year in Anaheim at Experimental
Biology 2010. Not only for the knowledge and overview of
scientific advancement in nutrition research, but also for the
memories and experience I take away each year.