2018 KAG Graduate Student Travel Fund Recipients

Geno Guerra:

I am incredibly thankful to the KAG travel grant for the support to attend the 2018 Society for Molecular Biology & Evolution Meeting. This annual conference is held at various locations around the world, this year it was hosted in Yokohama, Japan. Approximately 1000 students, post docs, and professors attended this year's event. Topics ranged from new machine learning approaches to study the population history of a species, to a hypothesis on how tuberculosis was introduced to the Americas via seal migration from Southern Africa using ancient DNA techniques. The chance to be exposed to so many of the trending topics in the field opened my eyes to where I fit in to the community, and where my research can make an impact. I also had the chance to hear from many different research groups that I am considering applying for post-doc positions with.

On the first day of the conference was the first of two poster sessions, with 200 of the 400 posters being displayed and presented. As part of this first day, I presented a poster titled "Inferring phylogenetic parameters from genomic data using coalescent theory " on my main ongoing project with advisor Rasmus Nielsen. This gave me the chance to talk to other graduate students from around the world who were also working in phylogenetics, as we all had different ideas and opinions  on where the field should immediately be heading. From this, I later visited their posters to get insights into their work, and understand what issues they believed needed to be addressed.

I was fortunate to receive an award for "Best Graduate Student Poster" at the end of the conference along with two other students. This was validation I strongly appreciated and motivates me to continue to work hard to make a large impact on the genetics community as a statistician.

I could not recommend the KAG travel grant more, it helped provide me the support to fly across the world to interact with a broader community than I had ever had the chance to before. The amount of perspectives I saw was enlightening, and highly motivating. Thank you again to the KAG travel grant. I encourage all students who would like to share their work to apply for the grant and go!


Kellie Ottoboni:

The KAG travel fund supported me in my trip to Bregenz, Austria to present at the Third International Joint Conference on Electronic Voting. This was a small interdisciplinary conference that brought together experts in e-voting from all over the world. I heard talks on a wide range of subjects, from legal issues with e-voting in Germany to statistical analysis of who uses e-voting in Estonia to new cryptographically secure protocols for e-voting.

I gave two presentations at the conference. The first talk was at the PhD Colloquium and compared frequentist and Bayesian methods for post-election audits. I received the award for the best PhD Colloquium presentation. The second talk was given during the main conference and concerned a new method for auditing stratified samples of ballots. The corresponding paper was accepted to the conference proceedings.

This was the most intimate and social conference I've been to. Receptions were organized each evening and as the conference was so small, I had the chance to meet many of the participants. The highlight social event was the Bregenz cheese road, a dinner featuring samples of 15 local cheeses and apple strudel.

As Bregenz doesn't have an airport, I had to travel across Switzerland to get to the conference. It was an excellent chance for me to see a part of the world I've never been to before. I'm grateful that the KAG travel fund helped offset the cost of transportation so I could attend this memorable conference.