By Latrice Landry, PhD
In-Sketch with Ninad Oak
As members of the American Society of Human Genetics gathered for the 2022 Annual Conference in Los Angeles, the mark of the pandemic and its aftermath still lingered. This was the first time many members met in person—in general, many felt thrilled to once again experience this after a long time. The stark differences between this year and years past were the options to mask or un-mask and remain socially distant or not.
Each passing day of the conference gave us a chance to hear the sentiments of members who were experiencing this conference for the first time since the loss of some dearly beloved friends and colleagues. This was a moving reminder of the bonds we form along our journeys in science and one of the best attributes of in-person conferences—seeing old friends. The exhibit hall was as exciting as ever. There were lots of great giveaways, gourmet cookies and opportunities to check out the latest tech. Some companies had signs that they donated to a non-profit organization instead of giveaways. There were so many posters and lots of great science.
Like any experienced conference attendee would say—the single best advice for anyone planning to attend an in-person conference in the future is “pack an empty water bottle”. You will surely need it when you RSVP and attend the industry party invites. These opportunities seem to always please the crowd, either for the famous entertainment, free food, cool ambience or opportunity to connect.
Additionally, if the in-person conference wasn’t enough, ASHG hosted a virtual event in November, a complement to the annual conference. This event was free to all who registered for the annual meeting and available at a cost to those who didn’t. Both events highlighted the talent of our community, rigorous science and the value of ASHG membership. However, there was one noteworthy thing you may have missed if you are not on social media: Conference In-Sketch with Ninad Oak.
For many conference attendees, the start of participation, networking and communication are the most challenging. However, it doesn’t have to be! A conference is a chance for all of us to forget our daily lives and deep-dive into the core of what motivates us all— science and the people! For example, member Ninad Oak always enters his conferences with an iPad in hand and a clear mind. Ninad is a Bioinformatics Research Scientist at St. Jude and is known for tweeting sketches of conference proceedings. Check out his ongoing portfolio of sketches at http://ninadoak.com/sketchnotes/. In an interview with Ninad, he explains that sketching helps him follow the talk. He takes notes of the important/intriguing points and then networks with people to develop his knowledge and build his participation in the field!
Take a peek at some of his sketches below, as we follow his thoughts over the days of the conference. A summary of ASHG 2022 in-sketch, by Ninad Oak.
[sketch 1- see layout]
On 10/26/22, Ninad’s sketches captured sessions on single-cell sequencing, polygenic scores, cancer genomics and targeted therapy evaluation for rare diseases. These were hot topics during ASHG 2022. You will note the use of color and space in the sketches. Ninad mentioned that he tries to focus on the figures he thinks he can replicate and tries to use as much color as possible to provide aesthetics to the sketch.
[sketch 2- see layout]
On 10/27/22, the sessions were just as exciting with a focus on understanding genomic architecture with the use of large datasets, understanding equity and building capacity with indigenous populations, a focus on the underpinnings of differential gene expression and of course the presidential symposium on African genomics—a stand out. He highlights the outline and focuses on visual recognition rather than detail in real-time sketching.
[sketch 3- see layout]
On 10/28/22, a popular session on clinical genomics deliberated the interpretation and dissemination of variants of uncertain significance (VUSs). The discussion, as captured, was dynamic and exciting. He uses a grid to center the talks around the key question.
Ninad (@ninadoak) encourages other ASHG members to join him in sketching conference sessions as a fun way to follow the discussion and network. As a novice to the real-time sketch, be forewarned you may need to practice and invest in a good tablet pen before your speed and skill can parallel Ninad’s.
So, inspired by Ninad’s sketching, I attempted to capture a few sketches of my own from the digital forum. The conclusion is—real-time sketching is hard! After trying to sketch several sessions, I decided to share a text-based synopsis. Not as fun as the sketch—I know. But, I will keep up the practice (smile). Digital Forum 2022 in Text, by Latrice Landry.
On 11/15/22 – The plenary discussions moderated by Kiran Musunuru on Australia’s National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, the identification of mendelian genes through evaluation of ~100, 000 exomes, and the use of the UK biobank for new therapeutic target discovery were especially exciting. Of note was the interaction between the principal investigator, post-docs and lab members in some of the presentations to the team to discuss the process and projects.
On 11/16/22 – The plenary discussions moderated by Erica Davis were just as exciting for the same reason. This was one of the first forums where you could ask questions of an entire research team and dig into the process from various viewpoints. However, the Epstein Award winner session was one of my favorite sessions. It was great to hear from these early career scientists about their work and also to be able to see the breadth and depth of research being conducted by ASHG members.
As a participant in both the Annual Meeting and the Digital Forum, I can say neither disappointed. I saw colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while, listened to some really great presentations, made some new connections, and now I aspire to develop a new skill—sketching my way through the conference!
Until next year—have a safe and productive end of the year everyone!