This post is written by Katie, about her experiences during the ANTS conference in Brussels.
I attended the three-day ANTS conference in Brussels. On Friday, the last day of the conference, I presented a 25 minute talk on my research and presented a research poster during a 2-hour poster session.
The conference was small (no more than 60-80 people) and did not have nearly as many biologists as I had hoped/expected. My research felt like an outlier, and I did not get much useful feedback – probably partially due to my talk and poster being on the less-attended last day. I had hoped to get a different view on my research by attending ANTS, and it was disappointing that although the paper reviews during the review process did provide this, the conference did not.
I met some interesting people, including a group from University of Pretoria (South Africa). I also spent a good bit of time during the second poster session talking to a Bowdoin College professor. Bowdoin is one of our RoboCup teams, but this professor was one of the two other Computer Science professors at Bowdoin (besides Eric, who leads the Bowdoin RoboCup team).
The conference dinner on the first night consisted of unlimited wine and fancy French food. I had a celery (maybe?) soup, a salmon appetizer, a chicken entree, and sorbet dessert. I talked mainly with the South Africans, a Finnish woman, and a couple from Mexico during dinner.
It was relatively easy to connect with people at coffee breaks and lunches. For lunch the first day some of us went to the university canteen, which I thought was bland and over-priced. For lunch the second day I went with the South Africans to Cantillon brewery, which is a local, family-owned lambic brewery. I went out with many of the students on the last night to have Chinese noodles at Kung Fu Restaurant and drink at Le Roi Des Belges (although I only stayed at the bar for one drink, which ended up being a good choice as I caught the last tram back to the hotel). The Chinese noodle dinner was not cheap, and although it was filling, the hygiene of Kung Fu Restaurant was terrible as they accidentally served me the wrong dish (which I decided to eat and say nothing), but then realized it after I had been eating it for a few minutes, brought me my correct dish, and attempted to serve my original dish to multiple unsuspecting tables (who all seemingly rejected it since it was not what they ordered). Pretty unacceptable.
My favorite dinner was on the second night when I stumbled across a Turkish kebab place on a side street near my hotel. The guy working there did not speak much English, but I eventually got a delicious chicken wrap (with garlic sauce, corn, carrots, lettuce, olives) as well as fries for just Euro 4. Such a steal in comparison to the other places I ate at in Brussels. I guess good, reasonably priced food is possible if you look long enough and get off of the main streets.