Getting to know the MS trainees

The endMS conference is not only a platform for sharing scientific knowledge, but also a celebration of the dedication and effort that has been demonstrated by MS research trainees across the country. The term ‘trainee’ refers to a junior investigator or young researcher, and can include:

Graduate students who are pursuing masters or doctoral work in MS research and are under the supervision of a senior researcher
Postdoctoral research fellows who conduct research to address very advanced, specific questions about MS
• Researchers who recently assumed faculty positions at academic institutions

The endMS Research and Training Network, which was created and implemented by the MS Society and involves activities such as the endMS Conference, is truly a multi-faceted program through which trainees in any of the above capacities are given invaluable opportunities for research training, career development, collaboration and mentorship.

Throughout the last few days, I have been inspired by the level of talent, passion, and innovation that has been displayed by the trainees. Not only were they presenting high-level research alongside some of the most renowned MS experts in the world, but were actively engaged in the question and answer periods, and even got together during coffee breaks to exchange ideas and ask questions about each others’ experiments.

When the endMS Network was created in 2006, the vision was that it would give rise to the next generation of MS researchers, and at the end of today I felt confident that that goal was achieved.

I wish I could write down all the interesting work in MS that was presented by trainees throughout the conference, but that would require several additional blog posts. Instead, I’ll briefly introduce one MS research trainee who I met during lunch yesterday. His name is Brian Cheng.

During the last session just before lunch, Brian had come up to the microphone to ask a question to the panel of MS researchers. Brian wondered about the mechanism by which viruses influence MS disease, and offered some interesting ideas that were discussed by the panel. I found myself sitting next to Brian at lunch and wanted to learn more about his research background and interests.

As it turns out, he graduated from the University of Ottawa and went on to study microbiology at the University of Chicago, where he is currently funded by the MS Society as a PhD candidate. When he’s not busy doing research, Brian enjoys writing, and recently launched a science blog called Symposcium.

Brian mentioned that he is grateful for funding from the Society as it is absolutely critical in supporting him and his research. He also told me that he views the endMS Network as a unique program, and is happy that opportunities to build relationships with other young researchers are offered here in Canada. Brian hopes to meet people affected by MS in the near future to hear more about their personal journeys and witness the impact of his research in MS.

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