Welcome from sunny Glasgow! Those who attended Life Sciences 2007 migh actually believe this description of Glasgow weather, as the sun shone for the whole week (I was praying very hard for a successful meeting but didn’t expect miracles!).
I returned from my Summer holiday to find my ‘inbox’ clogged with emails from delegates saying how much they enjoyed Life Sciences 2007 and asking for a replay. As you know, this was the first joint meeting of the BPS, Physiological Society and Biochemical Society. From day one the meeting had a dynamic and exciting atmosphere with over 1300 delegates filtering though the halls at the SECC in Glasgow, sharing symposia, discussions, ideas and coffee – I must give special thanks to Ray Hill (from Merck Sharp Dohme) for his new found skill in serving up a free and continuous supply of cappuccino!
The programme offered something for everyone. Apart from the excellent selection of over 60 symposia and 7 plenaries, entertainment was also high on the agenda and every activity was sold out. Many old relics were found at the drinks reception at the Kelvingrove Art Museum on the first night, also attended by780 delegates. The ‘Glasgow Horror Walking Tour’ and the ‘Gruesome History of Glasgow’ events attracted 55 delegates - nothing like showing off the gentle side of this fine city! In a similar vein the 50 delegates who attended the Plus BeerScience pub-crawl all partook in Glasgow’s ultimate horror - the deep fried Mars bar! One presumes this must have been after a few of our splendid taverns had been frequented. So much for my efforts to convince people that Glasgow has a rich cultural and culinary heritage!
Over 400 people attended the Gala Dinner. After the dinner and speeches the dance floor was quickly filled with delegates Scottish dancing to the Ceilidh band at various speeds from sedate to break-neck, and many proudly sported bruised arms (and privately suffered sore heads) the next day. I wish to thank our speakers for the evening, Ray Hill and Ruth McKernan (on behalf of the sponsors Merck Sharp Dome and Pfizer respectively). Ray finished his talk by stating that this was the first time, apart from at a pantomime, that he had appeared before a Dame. The Dame in question was Nancy Rothwell who gave a wonderfully familiar account of her very first ‘Society’ talk, an experience we have all had and will never forget. Nancy delivered her talk on behalf of the Presidents of the three participating Societies, which just goes to prove that it really does just take one good woman to do the work of three good men!
Similar sentiments were discussed at the ‘Women in Science’ workshop held on the Tuesday afternoon. Ninety women turned up and listened to the experiences of a panel of women who had reached various levels in their careers. This was followed by a lively discussion.
There is clearly a serious need for mentoring to prevent the continued loss of the extremely rich pool of young women scientists that science attracts but doesn’t seem able to hold onto. It was disappointing that only two men chose to attend this session. as clearly many of the solutions to these problems lie in their hands - if only because they hold the majority of senior roles in science.
I would particularly like to take this opportunity to remind you all of the excellent BPS women’s mentoring scheme set up by Prof. Amrita Ahluwalia. Please contact the BPS office for details. The scheme is into its second year and is a unique and valuable resource for all young women pharmacologists.
All the Life sciences 2007 symposia were well-attended and of extremely high quality. Some, as you can imagine, had their moments of humour. Space only allows me to relate one of these. On the last day ‘Short lived mediators in the blood vessel wall’ was organised and chaired by Tim Warner ( London). Tim was in the unique position of first inviting his wife, Jane Mitchell, to speak and then later telling her she had said enough brave man!!
Giuseppe Cirino from Italy gave an account of his work on the effects of hydrogen sulphide on blood vessels, including the human corpus cavernosum. He silenced us all by informing us that in Italy the source of his human corpus cavernosum was, of course, very very big! He then proceeded to describe how in Italy they were adept at ‘fiddling with the tissue’ and this always gave the right results!! Italy, I believe, is now the favoured destination for many of our female pharmacologists!
Arthur Weston was given the unenviable task of addressing the question ‘what is EDHF?’ His was an elegant and comprehensive talk delivered in typical Weston style, in which we were bathed in clouds of potassium and left in no doubt about what EDHF is. When asked why he hadn’t repeated some of his experiments with alternative agonists Arthur exclaimed in indignation it was because these experiments were ‘bloody hard to do!’. I will try that one myself next time I send a rebuttal to an unsatisfied reviewer! I came away with the satisfaction of understanding that really EDHF is only of importance to women…or did I miss something?
A ‘Young Life Scientists’ symposium was held at Strathclyde University on the 8th July, preceding the Life Sciences 2007 meeting. This event was a huge success and congratulations must be extended to the organisers - Susan Chalmers (Strathclyde), Patrick Howorth ( Bristol), Ahmed Khweir ( Glasgow) and Marie Olson (Strath-clyde). With only a small amount of experience in organising scientific events they took on the task and attracted over 170 delegates, with more than 100 abstracts. They pulled together over £5000 of sponsorship from a variety of sources, and thanks go to Stratech, Sigma, Astra Zeneca, scientists. We already provide support through the Bain Fund, the AJ Clark Student-ships, bursaries for focused meetings and mentoring for young women scientists. In addition we will continue our programme of ‘young persons’ symposia and we now have a review lecture for the ‘young pharmacologists’ sponsored by Tocris. The speaker will be selected by our Younger Members’ Sub-committee and will be held at our Winter meetings.
This year’s lecture in Brighton is certain to be compelling as it will be entitled “Lifestyle Drugs: Pharmacology and the Social Agenda” by Prof Rod Flower, a wonderful mentor to many young (and old) pharmacologists. We will also have another ‘Young Pharmacologist of the Year’ competition at Brighton, sponsored by TiPS - so Brighton is an absolute must for all you young pharmacologists. Soon we will also be launching the first of a series of ‘Workshops’ on focused areas of research and we hope these will attract young scientists from home as well as from Europe. The first of these will be held at EPHAR in Manchester next summer and will focus on novel cardiovascular techniques watch out for further details.
So attention all you young pharmacologists out there! Our ‘Younger Members’ Sub-committee is for you, so please tell them what events and activities you would like included in our meetings programme - we really do want to hear from you (contact Steph Francis: firstname.lastname@example.org). Clearly Brighton is a must for you all!
For those of you who are now sold on the delights that Scotland has to offer, remember that this years James Black Conference (‘Cutting Edge Concepts in Lung Pharmacology’) in October will be held at the splendid Crieff Hydro in Perthshire. I can’t promise deep fried Mars bars, horrible history tours, chicken Madras or even good weather - just a stunning progamme, fabulous scenery and leisure facilities and a 24 hour bar!
Meetings Vice President