PLANT NUTRITION TRUST REPORT
My name is Chandnee Ramkissoon and I am a 2ndyear PhD student in soil sciences at the University of Adelaide. I am currently working on a selenium biofortification project, which looks at the optimisation of commercial fertiliser formulations to improve selenium levels in wheat. Last year, I was lucky enough to have been awarded a travel grant from the Plant Nutrition Trust, to attend the 5thInternational Conference on Selenium in the Environment and Human Health, held in August at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
The conference was officially composed of two serial symposia; for the first time held in parallel at the same site and having overlapping plenary sessions, poster sessions and social events. The two symposia were The 11th International Symposium on Selenium in Biology and Medicine and the 5thInternational Conference on Selenium in the Environment and Human Health. I was one among 330 delegates from 41 countries to attend this conference and it was one of the most rewarding experiences ever.
With my current research interest in mind, I opted to attend most lectures about selenium biofortification studies from researchers from all around the world, while sneaking to a few of the most fascinating inter-disciplinary ones running in parallel sessions. Before attending the conference, I was looking forward to meet a few researchers whose work have inspired me personally. For example, some excellent work about selenium biofortification has been ongoing in Malawi since the 2000’s to help residents overcome or prevent selenium deficiency in an affordable manner. Dr Chilimba and Dr Martin Broadley, pioneers of such projects, passionately explained their journey to making such agronomic practices a reality in Malawi and briefly touched on what the next steps to ensure continuity would be. Those lectures, coupled with subsequent Q&A sessions were highly insightful. I was also very pleased to be given the chance to showcase my work in the form of a poster during the poster sessions over the 3 days at the conference. This gave me the opportunity to be critically appraised for my work and be given advice for follow-up steps. This whole experience was therefore very motivating and certainly very rewarding.
The networking and social activities were an important aspect of the conference as well. On the last day of the conference, all delegates were invited to attend a scrumptious reception at the Stockholm City Hall, which is incidentally the venue of the Nobel Prize ceremony every year. It was therefore an absolute honour to be amongst such an elite crowd at such an impressive venue and be addressed by the Mayor of Stockholm on that day. She highlighted how the collective work of scientists and policy makers around the world are helping to address world challenges sustainably and it was a moment of pride to be standing there at that time then. My personal favourite social activity during that trip remains an outing to the Berzelius Laboratory, found on a small nearby island to Stockholm. That laboratory was in fact the exact same location where selenium was accidentally’ discovered by Berzelius, famous Swedish chemist, about 200 years ago! The whole trip on that day ended with a fabulous cruise dinner while we made our way back to Stockholm.
Overall, this conference was overwhelmingly enriching in a sense that I came back more inspired than I have ever been to maintain my research into selenium biofortification and expand upon a bigger picture regarding its impact on the scientific community and greater world. I sincerely thank the Plant Nutrition Trust for giving me the financial opportunity to attend my first international conference in Stockholm to celebrate the 200 years of Selenium discovery.