안녕하세요 Annyeonghaseyo! Hello from South Korea!
By Mikaeel Valli
On Tuesday April 4th, 2019 at 1:17 pm, an email appeared in my inbox titled “IBRO Award Notification.” I quickly opened the email to discover that I was selected to receive the 2019 World Congress Travel Award. This helped to fund my attendance at the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)’s 10th conference held in Daegu, South Korea happening in September 2019! Words cannot describe how ecstatic and honoured I was to receive this email. I applied to this funding opportunity thinking there was nothing to lose, but I did not think I would be selected for this award.
Five months passed since the nomination email and I was on my way to South Korea. After a grueling 14-hour flight, I took a three-hour bullet train ride from Seoul to Daegu; which is located south-east of the country. It was literally a 24-hour journey from leaving my home in Toronto to entering my Airbnb in Daegu.
The next day was the start of the four-day conference, which was rich with keynote speakers who were sharing the latest updates of their research, many informative symposiums and thousands of posters. I appreciated how IBRO provided a platform for attendees to access the wide-ranging topics in neuroscience beyond our research focus. Topics ranged from the cellular level to macroscopic whole brain level to brain disease impact on the population level. Through conversations with a diverse community of neuroscientists from many continents around the world, I realized that despite the far distance that lay between us, we share similar difficulties, challenges and experiences in neuroscience research.
I appreciated the efforts made by the conference organizers to share both science and the Korean culture. During their banquet reception, they had a fashion show displaying the beautiful traditional Hanbok outfits—traditional Korean clothing—and Korean musical performances for everyone to experience. In addition, IBRO also partnered with the Korea Tourism Organization to provide guided tours to many must-see destinations. I visited two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Sites near Daegu. In Gyeongju, it contained the beautiful and colorful Bulgaksa temple while in Hapcheon, it had the Haeinsa Temple. This location is home to the entire Buddha Scripture carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks. Following the conference, I dedicated an extra ten days to explore the main sites in South Korea. I took the bullet train to Busan to visit the large coastal city and smelt the saltwater of the Pacific Ocean. Another highlight was visiting the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple that was intricately built on a cliff by the ocean. Last but not least, my trip ended by travelling back up north to Seoul. This bustling city with many modern skyscrapers was seamlessly entrenched with historical palaces and temples.
The opportunity to meet diverse neuroscientists around the world at the IBRO conference and to visit the beautiful historical, modern and natural landmarks has made my first trip to Asia a memorable one. I cannot wait to visit Korea again!
IMS writer & Executive Editor Mikaeel Valli is currently completing his PhD with a specialization in neuroscience at IMS. He is working with Dr. Antonio Strafella and his lab using neuroimaging techniques to ultimately better understand the underlying pathophysiology of Parkinsons’ disease.