What not to miss at #TMM2014

Author: Lisa Willemse, 10/20/14

Next week, close to 500 researchers, clinicians, trainees, industry and government representatives will gather in Ottawa for some of the best the stem cell and regenerative medicine research community has to offer. The third Till & McCulloch Meetings is taking place over three days, October 27-29 and we’re going with the theme of three to give you a triumvirate of things not to miss in (you guessed it) three different aspects of the conference.


This might be the toughest category to pick just three, especially when there are some excellent international keynote speakers, this year’s Till & McCulloch Award winner and all eight of the previous Till & McCulloch Award winners taking a turn at the podium. However, it must be done:

  1. Marius Wernig (Stanford School of Medicine) presenting “Induced neural cells for disease modeling and therapy” on Monday, October 27 at 9:45am. Dr. Wernig is one of several high profile international speakers at this year’s meeting, so it was a tough choice, but this topic straddles research, clinical therapy and perhaps even some commercialization issues and therefore puts it right at the forefront of the field.
  2. Tim Caulfield (University of Alberta) presenting “Stem Cell Research and the Drive to Commercialize: Balancing Risks and Benefits” on Tuesday, October 28 at 2:00pm. Tim never fails to provoke reactions and is a terrific presenter to boot. This topic should generate a good deal of interest and discussion.
  3. Under the Microscope talks. I’m kind of cheating here because this is not one presentation, but many. However, if you’ve never been to these sessions (there are two running concurrently), put it on your must see list. These are the next generation of keynote speakers and they’re giving you snack-sized morsels of some very interesting research that has yet to reach the printing press. I kid you not when I say that visiting researchers (i.e. not from a Canadian lab) have named these sessions the best of the conference in previous years.

Networking and Career

Again, lots of opportunity here, given the fact that breakfasts and lunches are included with the registration, so everyone tends to stick around during these longer open times. There is also a strong professional development program included in the conference, organized each year by the Stem Cell Network’s Trainee Communications Committee. Though the bulk of their work is focused on pre-conference sessions that required pre-registration, there is still plenty of time to mark on your schedule if networking and career advancement is your goal:

  1. Meet the Experts hikes. We moved the popular Meet the Experts events outside last year and were rewarded with great weather, amazing vistas and yes, some excellent networking opportunities. Get ready to acquaint yourself with some leading researchers from Canada and abroad while exploring Ottawa and Gatineau’s downtown treasures, including Parliament Hill and the Museum of History. This event is nearly full, so sign up early for the remaining spaces.
  2. Coffee & lunch breaks. What, you thought these were all about the coffee and food? Nope. This is where you check out the job board, talk to a rep from one of our many sponsoring organizations about career options, or introduce yourself to the researcher you’ve been dying to meet. They don’t bite.
  3. Poster sessions. Much like above, except much longer and they come with the added bonus of being able to check out what’s happening in labs across the country and imbibing in something with a different kick than coffee.

Celebrate, View and Share

If a conference were only about presenting science, let’s face it, we could simply share it as a document or webcast. But we all know science conferences, and this on in particular, are about much more than that. Here are some options for pure socializing, celebrating and viewing science in a not-so-scientific way:

  1. Stem Cell Network Legacy Dinner on October 28. If you didn’t preregister for this event, you will be out of luck. For those who did, this event will celebrate 14 years of research and community building with the Stem Cell Network. Bring your memories and stories to share!
  2. Cells I See art contest. Yes, it’s back, now under the leadership of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (On a personal note, I am thankful to CCRM for taking this on, not merely because I will no longer be counting and tabulating hundreds of votes in the wee hours of the morning. Sorry CCRM, I forgot to mention that part). There are some amazing entries this year, so we expect a tight competition with the winner being announced at the end of the conference. Hint for submitting artists: Start a campaign for votes. Bribery with drink tickets is not frowned upon, nor is promotion via Twitter (use the #TMM2014 hashtag!).
  3. More StemCellShorts. We love them. Viewers love them. People who make decisions about science communications awards love them too. There will be two more to add to the current stable of four (watch them here) over the next week, so stay tuned to this blog and to Twitter.

There’s lots we’ve left out, but those who are attending can see it all. And if you won’t be in Ottawa, or even if you will be, watch for conference summaries by Signals bloggers’ Mark Curtis and David Kent. You can also get live reports by following the #TMM2014 hashtag on Twitter.


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Lisa Willemse

Lisa Willemse

Lisa is a science communicator with 15+ years' experience in the fields of regenerative medicine, child development and technology. She launched this blog (first as the Stem Cell Network Blog) in 2009, and served as co-editor until April 2015. She is currently the Senior Communications Advisor for the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and has recently contributed to Motherboard, Science Borealis and the Genome Alberta and Canadian Blood Services blogs. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @WillemseLA.
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