CBR Travel Awards Support Scientists’ Learning at the AABB 2020 Virtual Conference

By Dr. Mona Khorshidfar, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Devine Lab, & Wayne Zhao, PhD Candidate, Devine Lab

Read a version of this story posted on the Canadian Blood Services Research, Education, and Discovery (R.E.D.) blog.

 


The Centre for Blood Research (CBR) Travel Award provides graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with the opportunity to attend first-class scientific conferences. Not only can awardees present their own research, but they can also access networking opportunities and a sneak peak at the newest cutting-edge research and technologies.

Two members of the CBR from the Devine lab, Dr. Mona Khorshidfar, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and Wayne Zhao, a PhD Candidate, received CBR Travel Awards to attend the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) Annual Meeting in 2020. Under the current COVID-19 guidelines, the conference had gone virtual for the first time.

 

Mona: I was delighted to participate in my first AABB meeting from October 3rd to 5th, 2020. It was a wonderful experience to attend a worldwide conference from the comfort of my home office and to follow along with oral speeches, as well as browse the posters, bookstore, and exhibitions. The AABB team sent several emails before the meeting, giving access information and direction to the participants. The AABB support team were cooperative and replied to emails in a timely manner, something that is of critical importance when hosting a virtual conference. I was able to easily schedule and add oral talks that interested me to my own personal online schedule, which allowed me to navigate the conference with ease.

Wayne: Although the attendees were not physically in the same venue this year, I could still experience the passion of blood researchers from all over the world. The AABB organizing committee employed a virtual platform which was very engaging for the participants. Special care had been taken to make connections with other researchers. For example, the virtual platform had an ‘attendee connect’ option which any conference registrant could use to talk to each other virtually.

Mona: Most of the talks were clinical, with a large focus on COVID-19 research. Some of my favourite talks centred on the hemovigilance system at hospitals, but I also had the opportunity to improve my knowledge about pediatric transfusion medicine and blood donation safety. During the conference, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a poster that contained relevant data to one of my future projects around washing platelets.

“During the conference, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a poster that contained relevant data to one of my future projects around to washing platelets.”

— Dr. Mona Khorshidfar

In addition to the presentations, I also attended “Networking Rooms” based on specific topics, for which I preferred the “Blood Center” room. These rooms were designed for group conversations where participants had the opportunity to ask questions related to the topic. Experienced individuals and researchers that conducted a group discussion to answer the questions and advance others’ knowledge on the topic.

Wayne: Like Mona, I also noticed an explosion in the amount of COVID-19-related research presented at AABB, with multiple special oral sessions that explored the correlation between COVID-19 and blood coagulation. I presented my poster on the “in vitro and Metabolomic Analysis of Cold-Stored Platelets” and received constructive feedback for my research while connecting with researchers from the United States, who also worked on blood component storage.

While listening to other researchers, I developed a particular interest around presentations on blood banking policies. From these talks, I realized how important it was for hospitals to work together with blood banks on inventory management, distribution, and storage. Prior to attending this conference, I had no idea that this collaborative relationship would be so important for the health of the patients.

“From these talks, I realized how important it was for hospitals to work together with blood banks on inventory management, distribution, and storage. Prior to attending this conference, I had no idea that this collaborative relationship would be so important for the health of the patients.”

— Wayne Zhao

Mona: Attending a virtual conference was a distinct experience for me, though I hope I can participate in person next year.

Wayne: By attending AABB with the CBR Travel Award, I’ve discovered many new interests in blood research related to blood banking and inventory management, and new insights into COVID-19 research.

 

Mona and Wayne wish the thank the CBR for supporting their attendance at the 2020 AABB Conference. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students are encouraged to read more and apply for CBR Travel Award opportunities here.