TCRN Conference Grants series: Dr Luke Hesson, Lowy Cancer Research Centre

TCRN Member Luke Hesson TCRN Member Luke Hesson

Developing early–mid career researchers: more than lab coats and test tubes

Early–mid career researchers are at a crucial point in their careers. It’s the make or break time when there’s a small window of opportunity to carve out your own niche research field or to establish yourself in an existing one. So what are the key factors in doing this? The obvious factor is the research itself, but there’s more to it than that. This year I was awarded a TCRN International Conference Grant to attend the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in Chicago, USA. The AACR conference is the world’s leading cancer research conference. This annual meeting is multidisciplinary, involves clinicians and basic scientists, and is not restricted to any particular cancer or research field. In addition, AACR has a strong emphasis on translational research and provides opportunities for open forum discussion on the latest issues to cancer research and the implementation of findings in the clinic. Opportunities to attend meetings such as this are crucial to the development of early–mid career researchers. Below I outline my take on the reasons why attending an international conference should be on every early-mid career researchers “to do” list!

International reputation. Attending this year’s AACR conference was of considerable professional development to myself. I co-authored three posters, presenting one of these, and gave an oral presentation at a minisymposium session. Getting your research out there is a great way to get your name recognised and remembered. Try to meet with leaders in your research field. At the very least you should attend their talks and try to ask them questions. After attending any major meeting I always get a spike in requests for peer review, which is proof that getting your name out there works!

Communicate your research. Communication of your latest research findings is essential. Internationally competitive research can no longer be conducted in isolation with tunnel vision. Communication of ongoing research invites critical appraisal of your work, which ultimately makes it more rigorous and polishes it for publication. Get the viewpoints of as many experts as possible. Perhaps you missed something   crucial that could improve your research?

Collaboration. You can’t be an expert in every aspect of your research so collaborate with researchers who have skills that your research needs. This always speeds up your research output and makes it more comprehensive. Attending international meetings to improve your international reputation can lead to productive collaborations with world leading researchers.

Keeping up to date. For my research the AACR conference is the best chance to gain an appreciation for the latest translational cancer research that encompasses all cancers, disciplines and points of view from basic researchers through to clinicians. However, any major international conference is a great opportunity to glimpse the newest research, sometimes months before it is published.

Support. Getting the advice and mentorship on your research from more experienced colleagues is a must. To improve your research you need the infrastructure that comes with a good research environment. 


Dr Luke Hesson was recipient of a TCRN International Conference Grant for attendance at the American Association for Cancer Research (“AACR”) Annual Meeting, held in Chicago in April 2012.

Luke co-authored three AACR poster presentations, in addition to leading the platform presentation: Nucleosome occupancy at unmethylated promoter CpG islands represents a novel mechanism of epigenetic gene silencing in cancer.

Luke leads the Adult Cancer Program Molecular and Cellular Oncology Laboratory at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, UNSW, where his research team is currently focusing their efforts on understanding the precursor lesions of bowel cancer. He is a lecturer at UNSW and a Cancer Institute NSW Fellow.