Our laboratory spent October 6 – 18, 2014 in New South Whales, Australia, attending the 8th International Conference on Heme Oxygenase, BioIron, and Oxidative Stress. Luckily, and despite about 70 hours of total travel time to and from Sydney, we spent more time exploring the tropical city of Cairnes, Australia than we did in our seats at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney. The meeting is a small symposium that usually includes about 80 – 120 researchers from all over the world whose specific focus is on the enzyme, heme oxygenase. Sydney is a beautiful city that honestly gives you the feeling of being in a major U.S. metropolitan area. Luckily Sydney is not in the U.S. because the sheer number and quality of bakeries, gelaterrias (this actually is a word), and coffee shops would raise the U.S. obesity rate by at least another 10%. We visited the Opera House, Darley Harbor, the Bay Bridge and even took a public transport ferry to Manly Bay. Thai food, which we ate for basically every meal, appears to (surprisingly) be a staple in Australian Cuisine, overshadowed only by kangaroo filet and crocodile sausage.
After a clean sweep at the meeting, with our lab winning 3 of the 5 awards for best abstract and best oral presentation by a post-doc, the meeting ended and we extended our “business” trip by a week to vacation in Cairnes, Australia, which we picked because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the Australian rain forest. Snorkeling and scuba diving the GBR was definitely one of the coolest things that I have ever done. Riding a glass-bottom gondola through the rain forest canopy and cruising around looking for crocodiles on a dingy that looked like it came straight out of the movie Jaws were both a close second. Our meeting down unda’ was the perfect mix of business and pleasure, wholly exemplifying the awesomeness that is graduate school. I would definitely add opportunities to attend meetings in new and adventurous locations to the list of things to consider when picking a PhD lab.
-Travis D. Hull (GS-4)