When harsh winter weather hits East Asia, ACBI members from the region have a craving for humid, summer-like weather. A temporary weekend getaway – that’s the hidden theme of the ACBI meeting series held normally in January and February in tropical cities of Southeast Asian countries.
Unlike the previous ACBI meeting series, however, the 2017 Meeting was held in early fall, September 2-3, 2017, in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. The country is known to go through a long and enduring winter weather, and the lowest temperature hits -25 degrees Celsius in January. If we visit Mongolia in such period, we might just end up drinking a lot of vodka and purchasing cashmere sweaters and gloves made in Mongolia to keep ourselves warm. This might help boost their economy to some extent, but we will visit the country for the sake of accelerating scientific discussions and establishing mutually beneficial network. This time alone, we decided to hold our annual conference in late summer when Mongolia enjoys sun shines and clear blue skies.
The ACBI 2017 Ulaanbaatar Meeting was thus convened from September 2nd through 3rd, 2017, at the Ulaanbaatar Hotel in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. A total of 35 ACBI members from Japan (24), Korea (4), and China (7) flew all the way from their respective home countries to Ulaanbaatar. In addition to the regular ACBI members, 8 local researchers from National University of Mongolia, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Mongolian University of Life Sciences, and Mongolian State University of Agriculture, were invited to socialize with the ACBI members during the conference period.
Asian Chemical Biology Initiative 2017 Ulaanbaatar Meeting
Professor Motonari Uesugi, Chief Organizer of the ACBI, broke the ice of the meeting. He started his welcome talk by reminding ACBI’s shared goals: 1) to accelerate collaborations among ACBI-member countries, 2) to promote chemical biology in the ACBI sub-member countries, and 3) to streamline chemical biology teaching by leveraging online learning platforms.
Following his introduction, ACBI members presented their ongoing research for 13 minutes each, including questions. Discussions and brainstorming continued and extended during coffee and lunch breaks, with the intention of grasping opportunities for joint projects.
A part of the Scientific Sessions was devoted to 5 researchers from Mongolia, each of whom briefly presented their respective schools and ongoing research for 5 minutes each, and joined exchanging ideas for international collaborations and personnel exchange plans with the ACBI members.
Tutorial & Student Interview Sessions
To promote chemical biology in emerging countries of Southeast Asia, ACBI has been trying to proactively recruit students in good academic standing to the ﬁeld. Four months before the Ulaanbaatar meeting, Mongolian students majoring in chemistry and biology were invited to visit the ACBI website (http://www.asianchembio.jp) to browse the member database and were encouraged to register for an interview opportunity of the Ulaanbaatar Meeting. From among the 47 applications received from the entire nation, 32 students were invited to attend the event held on September 3rd.
The afternoon event kicked off with 3 tutorial lectures by leading ACBI members. Topics covered were “Introduction to Chemical Biology” by Dr. Motonari Uesugi
of Kyoto University, “Bioimaging” by Dr. Young-Tae Chang of Pohang University of Science and Technology, and “Target Identification” by Dr. Minoru Yoshida of RIKEN. The tutorial session concluded with a presentation entitled “Study Chemical Biology Abroad” by a Mongolian student Mr. Enkhsukh Lkhamkhuu. In the local language of Mongolian, he elaborated on his experiences studying in Hokkaido University, Japan, and touched on fellowship opportunities open to Mongolian students who wish to study abroad.
Following the tutorial lectures were interview sessions set up in a speed interviewing format. The ACBI professors had an opportunity to meet with about 8 students each and talk with them about research and scholarships for overseas graduate programs in chemical biology in individual countries or at speciﬁc institutions. Each10-minute slot went like a flash as every pair was so engaged in their conversations and fully maximized the allocated time period.
ACBI Ties with Mongolia
After due discussion, ACBI has agreed to welcome Mongolia to join the ACBI as a sub-member country. Prof. Uesugi mentioned a possibility of providing a week-long ACBI-sponsored class in Mongolia, for the purposes of training Mongolian students and young faculty members with the basics and applications of chemical biology, and aiding local universities with establishing interdisciplinary research institutes. Further discussion and planning will be undertaken between the ACBI and the Mongolian side.
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Ulaanbaatar’s chilly mornings and nights of early September gave a hint of autumn already. But the “Mongolian” way of hospitality warmed our hearts, and consequently, the Ulaanbaatar Meeting ended ever so successfully. Salute to Chinggis Khan Vodka, 5 bottles of which the conference attendees consumed in 1 night!