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Travel Grant Reports 2002

The Joint Meeting of the 16th International Congress of the International Society for Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis and the 17th International Fibrinogen Workshop
Vivienne Horner
Molecular Pathology, Christchurch School of Medicine

From September 8-13th I attended the Joint Meeting of the 16th International Congress of the International Society for Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis and the 17th International Fibrinogen Workshop. The meeting was held in Munich, Germany at one of the most prestigious Universities; the technical University of Munich, which boasts seven nobel prize winners.

Fibrinogen is the major blood clotting protein, it polymerises to form clots at sites of injury or trauma in the body and then gets degraded (fibrinolysis) to prevent the permanent formation of clots called thromboses, which may later lead to thromboembolism and stroke. The correct functioning of fibrinogen in the blood clotting cascade is very important. Many scientists are interested in investigating how fibrinogen functions and its involvement in other disease processes such as atheriosclerosis, heart disease and cancer to name a few.

The conference was split into two parts, first the fibrinolysis and proteolysis part of the meeting which focused on proteolysis and fibrinolysis in vascular biology, cardiology and cancer. For me the most interesting lectures presented here were those about profiling cancers to determine targets for cancer therapy. Tumour cells cause other normal surrounding cells to produce proteins called metalloproteases (MMP's). MMP's are proteins which degrade other proteins and break down cell membranes so that the cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body and form new tumours (metastases). Different MMP's are produced in different cancers and MMP inhibitors can be used to target the MMP's in cancer therapy and hopefully prevent cancer cell migration.

However so far clinical trials have revealed negative results. There are many reasons for this including, the treatment of different cancers with the same MMP inhibitors and the stage at which treatment is given. If the inhibitors are administered too late in the disease process it has no effect on metastasis. Further research will focus on determining the MMP expression profiles of different cancers and specifying inhibitors for the treatment of those specific cancers.

I also enjoyed the lecture on thrombophilia presented by Dr Marlar from Denver, USA Thrombophilia is a heterogenous disorder, meaning that many genetic factors contribute to its occurrence. Dr Marlar investigated a large set of risk factors and correlated them with the incidence of thrombophilia. He found that by having combined genetic risk factors, the predictive risk of thrombophilia is accumulative. I found these lectures of particular interest as in many families with dysfunctional fibrinogen, which is found to associate with thrombophilia, not all of the effected family members exhibit thrombosis. It has often puzzled other researchers investigating other genetic disorders such as protein C deficiency, which also associates with thrombophilia, as to why this occurs. It is thought that a combination of other genetic factors besides these disorders contribute to a predisposition towards thrombophilia.

The second part of the conference; the fibrinogen workshop, focused on the structure and function of fibrinogen and its involvement in coagulation, vascular disease and wound healing. During the Fibrinogen workshop I presented some of my latest research about a novel dysfunctional fibrinogen found in a patient from Perth. The fibrinogen variant is present in the blood at very low levels and is associated with an increased bleeding tendency. My presentation went very well and I was approached by several other scientists wanting to set up collaborations with my laboratory for various methods that I had used in my research.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the conference and learnt a lot of new information and also have a greater perspective on scientific research and where I would like to head in the future. Thank you very much to the Royal Society of New Zealand - Canterbury Branch for supporting my attendance and providing me with this opportunity.

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Australia New Zealand Geomorphology Group Conference
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
30th Sept - 4th Oct 2002
Danette T W Richards
Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury

Mapping karst landforms
Danette and a friend mapping karst landforms in the Pikikiruna Ranges/Takaka Hill area.

Attendance at the recent Australia New Zealand Geomorphology Group meeting was a excellent opportunity to present my preliminary findings from research undertaken on the eomorphology and environmental impacts on karst, northwest Nelson. Presenting at the meeting required a compilation of initial thoughts and interpretations formed during the previous months study, which will benefit the ongoing research. More importantly, it allowed discussion of those ideas with notable karst geomorphologists, such as Paul Williams, Kevin Kiernan and John Webb. The meeting is renowned as a student friendly conference and was an ideal occasion to present a first conference paper.

The paper focused on the methodology used behind developing a geomorphic inventory of the karst landforms and a geomorphological evolution model. This research comprises part of a broader research project (in progress) assessing environmental impacts on the karst as a result of increasing development and human activities. The study area is situated between the akaka and Riwaka Valleys near Nelson in the north of the South Island, New Zealand. Geomorphological mapping and morphological classification of the karst terrain was used to evaluate environmental change on the Ordovician Arthur Marble and Oligocene Takaka Limestone and has identified 9 landform assemblage zones in which processes, rates and environmental impacts are distinct.

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand - Canterbury Branch for the grant allowing me to subsidise travel to the conference.

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8th International Pacific Rim Biotechnology Conference
Auckland, New Zealand
17-20 November 2002
Naomi Ling
Plant and Microbial Sciences Department, University of Canterbury

Naomi Ling

I am very grateful to RSNZ (Royal Society of New Zealand) Canterbury branch for a travel grant to attend the above conference at Auckland.

We were very fortunate to have a notable line-up of international speakers such as Dr. Dennis Fenton from Amgen and local speakers such Dr. James Watson from Genesis Research and Development. Presentations of the various speakers gave me a better understanding of the Biotechnology status in New Zealand, the important role of marketing in Biotechnology and the GM study conducted in New Zealand, as well as GM issues in Asia.

The analysing technique, MVT (Multiyvariate Testing Technique) presented during the conference was eye-opening. It was also very encouraging to know that many cutting edge biotechnology researches are being carried out in New Zealand. I was especially impressed by the projects investigated at HortResearch and Crop & Food.

During the conference, I presented a poster on my Master's study. The study was on the investigation of factors that influence in vitro potato rhizoseceretion during micropropagation of potato, especially the effect of carbohydrate and light.

This conference was not only a good learning experience for me but I was also given an opportunity to meet many peoples from different background both local and international.

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Microbes and Molecules 2002 Conference: Physiology, Health and the Environment
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ
26 - 29 November 2002
Lily Chin
MSc student
Plant and Microbial Sciences Department, University of Canterbury

Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Symphytum officinale (Comfrey). Lily has been testing the relationship between lead (Pb) accumulation and polyphenol/tannin levels in this plant.

The Microbes and Molecules 2002 Conference was held at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch on 26-29 November 2002. As a joint venture by three societies; NZSPP, NZMS and NZSBMB, the conference showcased a wide range of interesting research areas, ranging from BSE and Prion Diseases to Plant Development.

One of the highlights for me was the session on the plant cell walls. The speakers covered topics on the cell wall structure, composition and processes, which had implications for areas such as the forestry, farming and fruit industries. It was one of a number of sessions from which I not only gained new ideas on research methodology for my future research, but also an insight into current research happening in New Zealand universities and companies.

At the conference, I was able to display some of my research on plant based clean up of heavy metals through one of two well-attended lunch with poster sessions. It was also a chance to meet people with different research interests. I would like thank the Royal Society of New Zealand - Canterbury Branch, for a Travel Award which assisted me in my attendance to what was my first conference. It was a most valuable and enjoyable experience.

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The sixth international conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS2002)
Biarritz, France
5 - 8 June 2002
Amali Weerasinghe

ITS2002 presented a forum for research covering various aspects of intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS). There were about 300 participants for the conference from all over the world.

The conference program consisted of several workshops, tutorials, poster sessions, main sessions and a Young Researcher's Track. The workshops and the tutorials were held in Sen Sebastian, Spain from 2-4 June 2002. The Young Researcher's Track (YRT) provides an opportunity for post graduate students to present their research and obtain feedback from senior researchers.

Hundred and seventeen abstracts were presented at the conference, either in oral form or poster form. Twelve papers were presented at the YRT. The central issues for ITS in the future were identified as dialogues, narrative, motivations and emotions. I was particularly interested about how meta-cognitive skills can be modelled and supported by ITS as the researchers believe that ITS should not only teach the domain knowledge to students , but also help them to acquire meta-cognitive skills such as reflection, self-explanation and so on.

My paper "Exploring the effects of self-explanation in the context of a database design tutor" was presented at the YRT. In my research, I investigate whether self-explanation, which is described as an activity of explaining to oneself in an attempt to make sense of new information, either presented in a text or in some other medium, can facilitate deep learning in an open-ended domain like database modeling. I received positive feedback from the people who attended my presentation.

I also had the opportunity to meet many researchers in the area who do research about various aspects of ITS.

After attending the conference, I realized that our group (Intelligent Computer Tutoring Group (ICTG)) at University of Canterbury have the potential to do high quality research even with limited resources.

I would like to thank RSNZ-CB for the financial assistance to attend this conference.

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1st Asia-Pacific Forum for Graduate Students Research in Tourism
Macao, SAR, China May 22nd, 2002
Patrick Maher
Ph.D. Candidate
Human Sciences Division, Lincoln University

Tourists on the beach: Macquarie Island, AAT (Photo: P. Maher)

In New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, tourism is an important economic provider, but also a growing concern. Through the assistance of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch Travel and Research Award I was able to attend the 1st Asia-Pacific Forum for Graduate Students Research in Tourism; part of the 5th Biennial Conference on Tourism in Asia.

The forum, held in Macao, was an excellent opportunity to meet graduate students from around the region whose research coincides with my own. The morning of the forum was spent in a discussion workshop on forging an academic career pursuing quality tourism research. In the afternoon, graduate students presented their research on many tourism related topics. I presented a theoretical paper based on my Ph.D. research, titled To the Ice and Back: An examination of Antarctic tourist experience. My research examines the way in which tourist's experience Antarctica and whether their on-site experience coincides with their anticipation and reflection. Overall, the graduate papers were well received, and the audience gave valuable feedback.

While in the Hong Kong and Macao for a further 8 days I was also able to explore the scenery and culture. By being a tourist myself, it was invaluable to see how tourism in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region is so different from the tourism I am studying in Antarctica. Tourism for Hong Kong and Macao is mass numbers and large hotels/attractions not the clean, green ecotourism of New Zealand or the penguins and polar history of Antarctica.

Thank you to the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand for providing me with the financial support that enabled me to attend this forum. As a result of this forum, I was able to present and publish my Ph.D. research and meet valuable professional contacts.

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5th International Symposium on Polymer Therapeutics: From Laboratory to Clinical Practice
Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff, UK
3-5 January 2002
Marie Squire
Chemistry Department, University of Canterbury

Marie in the lab preparing NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) samples

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch for a grant which gave me the opportunity to attend the 5th International Symposium on Polymer Therapeutics: From Laboratory to Clinical Practice at the Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff, UK from the 3-5 January 2002. As a PhD student in the Chemistry Department at the University of Canterbury the conference was especially beneficial to me as my research is on the development of polymer therapeutics that incorporate cytotoxic natural products.

This symposium provided a forum for the interdisciplinary exchange of the latest developments, techniques and advances in knowledge in this emerging field. The programme recognized the importance of the basic disciplines of chemistry and biology in realizing the transfer of ideas from laboratory to clinic.

A growing number of polymer therapeutics are approved by Regulatory Authorities for routine clinical use, in treatment of cancer, infectious diseases and multiple sclerosis. The 5th International Symposium on Polymer Therapeutics updated the delegates on the industrial and medical progress in the transfer of polymer therapeutics to the clinic. It was exciting and motivating to see the positive results of a number of drugs, from both Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

We were presented with a very experienced and impressive line-up of speakers. Most notable were the plenary lectures from Jean-Marie Lehn (Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg and Collège de France, Paris) the 1987 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (Collège de France, Paris) the 1991 Nobel Laureate in Physics.

Most importantly, for me, this was an international symposium that gave young scientists an opportunity to actively participate. I was able to present both a poster and a short oral presentation of my work. This was a good learning experience for me. I was able to share my research and then receive ideas and feedback from experienced delegates from a wide range of disciplines.

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First International Symposium on Biological Control of Arthropods
13-18 January 2002, Honolulu, Hawaii
Jason Tylianakis
University of Canterbury

parasitoid (Aphidius rhopalosiphi) parasitising a rose grain aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum)

A Royal Society travel and research award allowed me to attend the First International Symposium on Biological Control of Arthropods in Honolulu, Hawaii on the 13-18 January 2002.

Biological control (use of one organism, such as a predator or parasite, to control another) is becoming increasingly important in agriculture, as the harmful effects of pesticides on people and the environment become more widely known. This symposium covered all major areas of arthropod biological control, focusing mainly on control of insects and mites. Papers were presented on classical natural enemy releases and augmentative biological control (many releases over time), as well as habitat manipulation for natural enemy conservation, potential non-target effects of introduced enemies and new technologies (molecular and GM) that have applications for biocontrol.

I presented a poster and co-authored a paper on the enhancement of parasitic wasps through increased floral diversity. We showed that the longevity and reproductive capacity of these wasps can be enhanced by planting certain flowering plants, for the wasps to feed on, adjacent to crops. Knowledge of the ecology of an organism can thus be used to enhance its efficacy as a biocontrol agent. Increased floral diversity can enhance beneficial insects in a variety of ways, leading to pest management that works in harmony with the environment, rather than against it.

I am very grateful to the Royal Society for providing me with the opportunity to attend this symposium, where I was able to present my Masters research and meet people who will influence my career.

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