September 8, 2022, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
My first in-person conference in four years
Edward Peake, a postgraduate in the Faculty of Medicine, on attending the Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) 2022 conference with help from the Researcher Academy’s CTTF Fund.
I was heading to London on the train for the first time in two years. The last in-person conferences I’d attended were in Montreal and Toronto in May 2018. Now Covid was apparent only by its absence. A few people wore facemasks; the majority were unhindered by the virus that had upended plans for international meetings in Australia and Vancouver in previous years.
As the train rattled along, I was pleased to have arranged to meet so many old friends and colleagues. This year, for the first time in three decades the conference was in London, only 48 minutes from my home in Cambridge. Since moving my studies to part-time and relocating cities for work I was surprised at how much I was looking forward to my trip. I had enjoyed being able to cycle to the station. There were no indeterminable queues at the airport or navigation of unfamiliar cities.
The conference venue was vast. Exhibition and presentation halls branched off the main atrium. At the registration station I flashed my NHS App and took my lanyard and conference programme. Thumbing through the sessions it was clear the conference had succumbed to the grip of AI mania. The new kid on the block, machine learning on steroids, AI was aggressively dominating the research landscape. It had an answer to every problem. Image reconstruction? Do it with a neural network. Diagnosis? Of course, it was better than the radiologist!
“Each stall held a revolutionary new technology, MRI coils that were as light as a blanket, deep learning that halved imaging times, cameras to track patients’ movements and eliminated image artifacts. Even the digital posters were well attended. Somehow I had landed three back-to-back poster presentation sessions on a Thursday afternoon.”
Despite the noise there were several very significant works presented. Deuterium brain imaging, nano-particle tracking, portable MRI scanners and even some outstanding papers on AI to name but a few. The future was certainly promising. But clinical excellence isn’t standardised, and best practices take time to become standard practice.
From dawn to dusk I sat through educational sessions, tutorials, plenaries, power pitches and study group business meetings. These were punctuated by walks around the exhibition hall, talking to new start-ups, or queuing for free coffee from the established manufacturers. Each stall held a revolutionary new technology, MRI coils that were as light as a blanket, deep learning that halved imaging times, cameras to track patients’ movements and eliminated image artifacts. Even the digital posters were well attended. Somehow I had landed three back-to-back poster presentation sessions on a Thursday afternoon.
Evenings were good too. I was invited to attend our manufacturer’s research summit and product launch – held at swanky London venues. On the third night the British Chapter social was a welcome reunion. It was good to join fellow physicists. The location, a hipster bar under the A1020 overpass in the post-industrialised docklands of east London. My exit at 11 p.m. was early compared to many other Nottingham postgrads and alumni who stayed up to see the sun rise.
Several weeks later, a questionnaire landed in my inbox. How did we do? Do you want to come to Montreal next year?
I checked my lateral flow test. Negative. I’d avoided what was being dubbed the London plague on Twitter.
10/10. And yes, I’ll see you all in Canada.