Conferences & Workshops
As a budding scientist, conferences and workshops are important parts of your PhD. Conferences enable you to put faces to the big names in molecular biology and present your work to other people. Giving a talk or showing a poster of your research can be an excellent way of getting feedback from other people who will be able to offer a fresh perspective and make suggestions that your supervisor and you might have missed.
Just chatting informally at conferences to people with different backgrounds can be hugely rewarding. Later on, if you're looking around for potential labs to do a post-doc, conferences are a good neutral ground to approach potential supervisors without having to commit yourself. The type of conferences you go to will, of course, depend ont he field you work in, and your supervisor will give you useful suggestions about which ones to attend and when. Workshops are run to teach a particular set of skills, such as cryo-EM. These are usually somewhat more expensive than conferences and more intense. Because of the large amount of expertise in the LMB, you may never need to go to a workshop ar all during your time here. It will be difficult to justify going on a confocal microscope workshop, for example, when the instruments were developed by people in the LMB.
Both workshops and conferences tend to be held in rather nice parts fo the world, like California, which is an incentive to go!
The MRC provides LMB students with £1200 over the course of the studentship. This should be enough to at least cover the cost of one national and one major overseas conference. Your college may also be an excellent source of additional funding. Many meetings offer financial support for PhD students, and you can join the Cambridge Philosophical Society, which offers funding to members of at least one year's standing. The MRC funds a number of courses throughout its graduate schools program. These are usually aimed at 2nd and 3rd year MRC funded students, and cover such topics as technical writing, personal communication skills and management. The number of places on these courses is usually limited, so it helps to send off the application forms as soon as you get to them.
The LMB has recently introduced funding (Roberts money) for all students at the LMB, which can be spent on general courses and transferable skills training. It is worth spending a little time finding out about the various courses on offer: some of them can be useful!