In each academic field, there is at least one major specialized conference where people working in the same research topic gather to disseminate and update the newest findings. For those who are working with Listeria and Listeriosis, that is ISOPOL, standing for the “International Symposium on Problems of Listeria and Listeriosis”.

The ISOPOL has been organized once in a three-year round in countries all around the world since 1957. This symposium attracted participants from all over the world with backgrounds ranging from cell biology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, microbiology, genomics, post-genomics, to diagnostics and typing methods, which are related to Listeria and Listeriosis. In the year of 2019, the 20th ISOPOL symposium was held in Toronto, Canada. It was a great pleasure for me to attend this symposium in the last September. Now that I have time to share with you my journey to this symposium.

It started off with an email from the manager of Pathsense project in December 2018. That was how I know about this symposium. Immediately, by looking at the scientific committee, I decided that I have to attend this symposium no matter how. I then forwarded that email to my principal investigator. There was no response. Perhaps it was too early or I did not have enough data for a complete story. Six months later, once I had a relatively thorough data set, I was confident to convince my boss, and it was quickly accepted. I was so excited. I will tell you why in the following paragraphs.

Figure 1. (Left) The logo of ISOPOL 2019. (Middle) I was presenting my poster and (right) standing in front of Toronto city hall

In that symposium, I had an opportunity to present my work of protein mobility in the cytoplasm of Listeria in different conditions which I found completely novel for people in the field of listeriology. Apart from that, I had a chance to listen to the latest update of the listeriosis outbreak in Africa and lesson learnt from that, to attend the talks of Martin Weidman, Marc Lecuit, Nancy Freitag, Martin Loessner, Dan Portnoy and to talk to Darren Higgins, those whose papers I regularly read from. And more than that, endless discussions with other fellows brought me the feeling of being involved in a community of people working with Listeria and Listeriosis. I find that it is the best memory of the symposium.

I had a wonderful time exploring a new continent. Well, though one city cannot represent for the whole continent, that was the first time I step on North America and I really appreciated that moment. I had a similar feeling to the first time I arrived in Amsterdam for the interview for the Pathsense project. Besides, I spent my spare time visiting several famous places in Ontario province such as the Casa Loma Castle, Niagara Falls, Royal Ontario Museum, High Park.

In short, that was a great trip (and a little bit tiring though as my flight back to Amsterdam was delayed for 25 hours, I was stuck in Montreal Airport). However, never have I ever felt involved in a scientific community like this before. Not only I have met my colleagues in Pathsense project again, but fellows from all over the world working in the field of Listeriology and learned more about Listeria and Listeriosis.

Figure 2. Some of the pictures I had during the trip. (A) Beautiful sunshine at the Casa Loma castle (B) a view of a modern city of Toronto from a ferry to Toronto Island. (C) A quick biking tour around the island. (D) Me at the magnificent Niagara Falls and (E) with a (stuffed) bear in a souvenir shop.

Those points are the bright site. There were also things that I am not really happy with, for instance, from questioning skills after the talks and networking skills to the issue of travelling by plane to the conference and the climax change. Those could be small or big things. I would rather discuss in another blog. Below is the picture of the protest of the youth on the street of Toronto during the symposium time that I witnessed and I was so touched by the young generation caring about the mother nature and the planet.

Figure 3. The youth of Toronto on the street rising voices on the planet issues