A key priority for Fighting Blindness is to support the next generation of vision researchers. Fighting Blindness recently offered Career Development Awards to early-stage researchers and clinicians for training, networking, and collaborations to support their career development. Career Development Award funding was awarded to three early-stage researchers to support their attendance and participation at international conferences such as ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology).
The ARVO annual conference is one of the largest eye and vision research events worldwide, bringing together international experts and early-stage researchers in the field of vision research. The ARVO 2022 conference took place from May 1-4 in Denver, Colorado, and was the first in-person ARVO conference after 2 years due to COVID-19 restrictions. The conference was also held virtually on May 11 and 12 for people who could not attend the event in person.
The event provided an excellent lineup of speakers across a variety of topics related to vision research, including advancements in imaging technology, cellular reprogramming and regenerative treatment strategies, and updates regarding gene therapy and gene editing for eye diseases. An important aspect of this conference is the opportunity for researchers to present their work and network with international researchers and experts in their field.
Two Fighting Blindness Career Development Awardees, Dr Gareth Lingham (Post-Doctoral Researcher – Centre For Eye Research Ireland (CERI)) and Dr Erin Fahey (Post-Doctoral Researcher – Trinity College Dublin), recently attended ARVO 2022 and shared their experiences with us.
Gareth presented his own research as a poster presentation in the final session of the event, which allowed a chance for networking. Gareth said:
The conference presented many opportunities for re-engaging with previous collaborators or establishing new ones. This included researchers looking to leverage the research I was presenting as well as research groups working in similar areas or on similar studies. It was also a good opportunity to meet people face-to-face whom I had previously only communicated with via email and to catch up with existing collaborators.
Erin also participated in the conference by giving an oral paper presentation of her research and she described to Fighting Blindness the benefits this has brought to her career.
I was fortunate to be selected for a paper presentation at the conference, and along with the experience of presenting to a far larger and broader audience than previously, there was great engagement with the talk I gave, with many interesting questions posed afterwards, sparking some new ideas.
As well as opportunities to network and engage with other researchers, the conference also provided knowledge and information that was helpful to their ongoing work and research. Gareth mentioned:
The conference was also a good opportunity to talk to technical representatives from commercial organisations, sort out problems we’re having with products currently at CERI or learn about new products and discuss their research potential.
Erin also emphasised the quality of the cutting-edge research presented at the conference and how applicable it could be to her own work.
… it gave me plenty of ideas to try out in context of my own research, some of which I have already started working on in the lab.
Overall, ARVO 2022 was a very exciting and successful meeting showcasing the significant advancements in eye and vision research of recent years despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, Fighting Blindness want to congratulate Gareth and Erin for receiving these awards and highlight the importance of their research for the vision loss community. We wish them every success in their future careers.