Michell Salcan: My Wonderful Experience at LANET 2023 in Cusco, Peru

The Open Bioinformatics Foundation (OBF) Event Fellowship program aims to promote diverse participation at events promoting open-source bioinformatics software development and open science practices in the biological research community. Michell Salcan, an undergraduate at the Universidad Regional Amazonica Ikiami, was awarded an OBF Event Fellowship to attend The 3rd Latin American Conference on Complex Networks in Cusco, Peru.

The week of August 21 to 25 has been one of the most beautiful and satisfying experiences of my personal life and the beginning of my professional life because I had the opportunity to attend and present my undergraduate thesis at the LANET 2023 event.

Photo of Qoricancha Temple, one of the most representative archeological places of the Inca Empire.

During the event, there were introductory talks, talks on research lines of network science or complex networks applied to different fields of science, and cultural and tourist activities organised by Andean University of Cusco. Throughout the days, networks were reviewed to understand social, dynamic, technological, biological, neuroscience, and epidemiological aspects like opinion states, modelling crime, Kuramoto Oscillators, synchronisation of neuron models, and metapopulation models to explain the spread of diseases.

The main talk that captivated me was entitled “Identification of areas for the release of Wolbachia for dengue control using a metapopulation model,” which is mainly based on the biological control of the vectors that transmit the dengue virus. This talk particularly resonated with me because my work, “Bipartite network modelling and analysis to understand the dynamics of dengue incidence in Ecuador during the 2014-2021 period”, is based on identifying the main areas for the chemical control of these vectors.

Speakers discussed the limitations of their research, with the lack of open data being the main problem in many of them. Since access to certain types of data is not free, or in some other cases, the data ceased to be accessible a few years ago, it is no longer possible to update the research. Many speakers, including me, promoted open source and open data approaches. As I have mentioned many times, open source allows collaborations between scientists, promoting the accessibility, modification, distribution, and expansion of software in various lines of study.

Photo of Shirley giving her talk about the dengue epidemiological network.

On the day of my talk, I was nervous at first since it was my first time at this type of event, and I felt scared. Then friends that I had made during that week told me, “You will do super well, you are wonderful and talented,” and “Just enjoy the adrenaline.” After that, I understood that I was not the only one and that probably many experts like them always felt nervous before giving a presentation, and that beyond the nerves, perhaps it was simply the emotion.

In my presentation, I was able to relax more and was able to explain my research. At the end, there were congratulatory comments which made me feel proud. But there were also constructive comments that motivated me more to continue in my line of research and to perfect my disease diffusion model. Also, it allowed me to engage in conversation with an invited speaker whose research was also based on the spread of dengue, and she offered to review my work, which made me very happy.

I understood then that this event allows you to get to know other places and cultures, make friends, and establish collaborations. For that, I sincerely thank the Open Bioinformatics Foundation for their support. Without it, my participation in LANET would not have been possible.

Photo of Shirley with other LANET participants from Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Peru.

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