Christin Sander on Organizing the 2019 Molecular Imaging Congress

Gary Boas

This year’s meeting of the World Molecular Imaging Congress (WMIC), held last month in Montreal, was by all accounts a roaring success. And much of this success can be attributed to the efforts of the Martinos Center’s Christin Sander, who served as the meeting’s Program Committee Co-chair.

Sander, a young investigator in the Center, has devoted her career thus far to working in the field of molecular imaging. She joined the Martinos community while still a graduate student at MIT and quickly set to work with the Center’s recently installed simultaneous PET/MR scanner, applying it to the study of receptor dynamics in the brain, at the molecular level, and their link to brain function. After completing her PhD in 2014, she stayed on to continue her research with multimodal functional brain imaging, looking to advance understandings of brain disorders in psychiatry and drug addiction by mapping molecular and receptor signaling pathways of the living brain. In recognition of her many achievements, she was promoted to Instructor in 2017 and to Assistant Professor last month.

Even as she was building her research program in the Center, Sander established herself as a vital member of the World Molecular Imaging Society, host of the annual WMIC. After several years of involvement with the society, primarily through her research, she was asked to join the Program Committee, which is tasked with organizing its scientific program. She served on the Program Committee for three years – including as Category Chair for the Neuroscience section, in which role she oversaw scientific abstract submissions, reviews and recommendations for the WMIC.

“I suppose the society and scientific community valued my involvement and teamwork in at least in some of these roles,” she says, with characteristic modesty, “[because] the Board and incoming President nominated me to become Program Committee Co-chair for organizing the WMIC 2019.”

The board wouldn’t be disappointed. Sander and fellow Co-chair Ferdia Gallagher of the University of Cambridge put together a lively and robust program bringing together the many, varied aspects of the field. For the theme of the meeting, they chose: The Dynamics of Life: Integrating Molecular Imaging. The choice had a dual significance. First, it reflected the integration of molecular imaging with multi-disciplinary and multi-modal techniques to develop understandings of dynamic molecular processes in living organisms that ultimately lead to diagnostic and therapeutic advances. At the same time, integrating labs and people from diverse scientific backgrounds was of vital importance to advance the mission of the society and the meeting.

In organizing the program, the Co-chairs were given the freedom to implement an array of new ideas. One of the elements about which Sander was particularly passionate was the effort to increase the visibility and involvement of trainees, whom she describes as the “rising stars” of science. This broad effort encompassed speed networking sessions; a “trainee corner” in the exhibition hall that played host to informal discussions topics on a range of topics; a Science Elevator, where trainees got to try out brief pitches of the concepts covered in their abstracts; and special Highlights sessions with the highest-scored abstracts. Together, the initiatives gave trainees innumerable opportunities to engage with other scientists and with the society as a whole.

Looking back on the experience, Sander says she enjoyed gaining a better understanding of what goes into running a scientific society like the WMIS, “and especially getting to know all the amazing people involved in the organization, whether it’s the scientists that volunteer their time to help advance the scientific mission and direction or staff dedicated to the cause of the society. It’s a team effort to organize a conference and to bring all the elements together,” she says, “and we had a superb team that supported and worked with us to make the WMIC 2019 a vibrant and successful meeting for everyone.”