By Ben Ainsworth (University of Southampton)
What a weekend.Kick-off for me was in the middle of last week – an overnight flight from London meant that I arrived in Cape Town with a day to spare before the International Anxiety Disorders Conference 2013 (IADS) – which was lucky, as my poster presentation was left in Gatwick departure lounge, and I had time to contact the helpful guys at Imago-Visual Printing to churn out another copy!
I found time to make contact with JP Fouche at the CUBIC institute in the afternoon, which turned out fantastically: it took a grand total of about 45 seconds in the building before I was observing a cortical thickness scan, after which I was shown my desk and plans were made to share transport to the conference in the morning (something I was pleased about, as a good chunk of my Friday was spent sitting frustrated in Cape Town one-way systems, heading in the opposite direction to wherever I was trying to get to…!).
IADS 2013 was by far one of the best conferences I’ve had the pleasure of attending/presenting at, ever. Having only one speaker at any one time meant that presentations were unilaterally interesting, smartly run, well-attended and all of the speakers were right at the forefront of their respective research fields (granted, there isn’t yet a massive skin-picking field… but it’s on its way…). Tea and coffee (or a variety of refreshing produce from the free smoothie bar) was taken in the stunning backdrop of the Spier Wine Estate, with the striking Stellenbosch mountain range looming in the backdrop. Evenings were spent enjoying the local produce!But for me, the best experience of IADS was, by far, being thrust into the vibrant, surprisingly large EUSARNAD research group that had descended onto Spier. On Saturday evening, at the first EUSARNAD colloquium, established leaders in their research fields were heavily outnumbered by researchers relating to each other on the skills they’d learnt (in institutions all over the world), the relationships they’d formed and the plans they had for continuing their work. As the ‘newbie’, I found it both inspiring and challenging – this lot were clearly no slackers!
Some of the researchers were coming to the end of their respective exchange postings, and about to move on to the next challenge – so the evening was spent enjoying the scenery while they passed on tips and advice they’d learnt while here. For me, it really summed up the driving force behind the initiative: I’ve only been here for 4 days, but I’ve formed bonds with several researchers with totally different skillsets to me who are working towards the same goal – it’s really exciting for the future!