I thought it’d be nice to write a summary of my experience at SMBE before returning from Vienna. I’m sitting in the central train station here, fresh off a 12-hour train journey from Berlin. My flight back to Toronto is not for another few hours, and I finally have a nice chunk of time beside an electrical outlet! Here goes:
I will say the most obvious thing first: overall, the conference was really stimulating. There were lots of fantastic talks, and everything was impeccably timed thanks to a centralized gong (I think this was good or bad depending on how you like your talks – though everything moved along really smoothly, it made for fewer public discussions/semi-arguments during question period).
The next thing that comes to mind is that evolutionary biologists love twitter. According to SMBE, 8000 tweets used the official SMBE hashtag, which was (apparently) “trending” daily. I can confirm that people were live-tweeting talks like nothing else. It was really hard to keep up with these, so I gave up pretty early on. I did have a triumphant twitter moment, however: a couple of people tweeted about my talk and even asked questions! Somehow it felt great to be able to answer questions in person and online moments after speaking. On the flip side, it was also nice to be able to tweet at someone if you couldn’t catch them in person. The future is now, and so on.
Finally, the science. Some of the most exciting symposia for me were “Beyond equilibrium”, “Evolution of molecular pathways and networks”, “Inferring fitness landscapes from experimental evolution”, and the Fitch talks. I really enjoyed Joshua Schraiber’s talk, in which he described using yeast gene expression data to model stabilizing selection and lineage specific evolution of E.R. stress in sensu stricto Saccharomyces yeasts. Ville Mustonen talked about investigating how heterogeneous populations develop by crossing two different strains of cerevisiae, with some really nice results (for example, no pool became fully clonal under drug conditions). Joanna Masel convincingly showed that C-terminal extensions in yeast are facilitated by intrinsic disorder, claiming that high intrinsic disorder confers “pre-adaptation”! We also heard about the “1002 genomes” project for yeast, which aims to increase yeast population genomics data while reducing the population structure that accompanies currently available genomes. There should be around 300 new wine yeast genomes available by the end of the year!
Of course, there is much more where this came from, but I will sign off and leave it here for now. See (some of) you soon!