First trip abroad sees PhD Candidate win Immunology prize

Michelle Vo

Sight seeing at the British Museum, London, en route to ECI 2012, Glasgow.

There comes a time in people’s careers when they have to step up. However, for Michelle Vo, this was no ordinary challenge.

It required a new passport, a 33,000km round trip, competition from 11 international PhD candidates and quite literally ‘stepping up’ into the bright lights of the big stage.  Adding to the excitement, this was also Michelle’s first time abroad.

Michelle was selected to present at the European Congress of Immunology (ECI) 2012, in Glasgow, Scotland, with an audience from 31 European countries and beyond, where she picked up the 2nd place prize in the Bright Sparks in ECImmunology.

‘A “bright spark” is defined… as someone who is thought of as particularly smart and quick-witted (…and sometimes, perhaps, a little too smart and quick-witted)…’

Such bright sparks were the focus of much attention at the tri-annual ECImmunology congress, earlier this month, which was held by the European Federation of Immunological Studies and the British Immunology Society. ECI’s aim is to support young scientists through fellowships and travel grants, as well as support research and promote public awareness of immunology.

Michelle was first selected to conduct a poster presentation of her research into the factors regulating the severity of immune mediated acute hepatitis, after submitting her abstract to the ECI.   It was not until 2 weeks prior to leaving for the conference that she learned she had also been selected to do an oral presentation for the Bright Spark award.


Bagpipes were played at the opening of the conference.

Despite the time crunch, Michelle was excited. Three and a half years into her PhD, she says that this was “the most prestigious event I have been asked to attend”.

When asked what she has taken away from the experience she says in addition to the prize of £350 (roughly $550 AUD),  “the experience really increased my knowledge of research happening in the field of immunology worldwide, especially its quality”.

Bouncing through the corridors of the Centenary Institute after her return she says “this award has doubled my energy and focus for research”. So we expect to hear of even more achievements from Michelle in the near future – watch this space.

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