Symposium Highlights Work of State’s Most Prominent Researchers

Marian Frank
Marian Frank
Event Brings Together Arizona Scientists to Share Work and Collaborate

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and the Arizona Wellbeing Commons at Arizona State University hosted a symposium on June 7 at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus to present research pertaining to virology, immunology, microbiomes and infectious disease.

The symposium included three sessions, each followed by rapid-fire poster presentations. The first session covered immunology and the host response to infection; the second covered applied microbiome research to enhance health outcomes; and the third covered the tracking of immune responses and viruses. During each session, three to four researchers from UA, ASU or Northern Arizona University presented on their research projects.

The symposium invited professors, postdocs, graduate students and trainees from across the state.

Grant McFadden, PhD
Grant McFadden, PhD
“The concept is to bring people within the state who work in the general area to interact, talk, collaborate and learn from each other’s science,” said Grant McFadden, PhD, co-host of the event and director of the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy at ASU.

Paul Boehmer, PhD, interim associate dean for research at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, was the other symposium co-host.

“The purpose of this event is to bring together Arizona scientists to share their work and stimulate collaboration and information sharing,” he said. “The bigger goal out of all of this, and from all of the research we conduct in basic medical sciences, is to have a greater impact on health.”

Researchers voiced that regional meetings like the one at the biomedical campus are more rare than one would think, but they are a strong source of collaboration within the community.

“Institutions are good at two kinds of meetings. One is a really local thing like a seminar series; and they are also really good at international meetings where people from all over the world come,” said Nels Elde, PhD, an associate professor and evolutionary geneticist at the University of Utah and keynote speaker at the symposium.

“The big hole here is a regional meeting like this where we take advantage of all the things happening in the neighborhood and then come together in ways that even though we are so close, it’s really rare that it happens. It’s a missing conversation in science. That’s why I think a meeting like this can be very powerful.”

Although regional meetings offer plenty of collaborative opportunities, it can be a challenge to generate interest. But with more than 140 registrants, Dr. McFadden noted that progress has been made in attracting researchers to events like the one last month.

“They are not easy to do; the natural barrier for scientists is that they are focused on their domain, getting money and doing their own research,” Dr. McFadden said. “Getting people to do this and follow the wider theme takes some work. But I would say so far, we can say we are making headway.”

Ultimately, the goal of the symposium was to foster potential collaborations among researchers. It also served to present new perspectives to up-and-coming scientists, particularly on the cultures of different research institutes.

“We all have our own cultures, and to start to mingle those together even locally, you start to compare things in different ways,” Dr. Elde said. “For trainees, postdocs and students, it can be very powerful to have those comparison points.”

Progress is born from collaboration, and even well-established researchers can benefit from such exposure.

“What’s really great here is the intermingling of really basic science (like how infectious microbes work) all the way through how we might modulate these interactions or design therapies or interventions,” Dr. Elde added. “To have people in the room doing both things — that might seem distinct, but as we bridge those interests — that’s a really powerful opportunity.”

This story originally appeared on ASU Now. 

Story By: Gabrielle Hirneise

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About the College

Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated 500 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and more than 2,000 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy.