Group picture from the LMB-FMI Student Symposium (click to enlarge)



August 3, 2015

Building a research network at the LMB-FMI Student Symposium

Early in July, 2015, 30 PhD students from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) joined 90 students from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge (UK) for a two-day event designed to promote scientific and personal development. At this first joint LMB-FMI Student Symposium, the participants benefited from the unique environment of a meeting organized by and for graduate students. In addition, they welcomed eight eminent scientists, who presented their research and discussed their ideas at length with the students.

The two-day symposium program featured presentations by leading scientists in the fields of epigenetics, neurobiology, structural and synthetic biology, and by students from the FMI and the LMB. Additional opportunities to present results and ideas were provided by poster sessions and social events. The feedback – both from the invited speakers and from the participants – underscores the value and the high quality of this retreat.

Wendy Bickmore, an invited speaker who is the new Director of the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit at Edinburgh University, commented: “I found this such an inspirational event. I was inspired by the science presented – from invited speakers and students alike – and I was inspired by the enthusiasm and the passion for science shown by the PhD students from the FMI and the LMB. Congratulations to all involved!”

The PhD students appreciated the wide variety of topics covered at the event. Giovanna Brancati (from Helge Grosshans’ group) said: “I loved the interdisciplinarity of the talks, from ncRNAs to directed evolution of enzymes, structural biology to cancer. It’s not so easy to have the chance to attend a meeting with experts in different fields. It was extremely inspiring!” Dominik Hartl (from Dirk Schübeler’s group) added: “It gave me the opportunity to interact with people working on topics outside of my field. Especially the talks from the invited speakers were very inspiring for me.” Johannes Wilbertz (from Jeff Chao’s group) agreed: “I valued this meeting especially because it was big enough to be exposed to a wide range of science, while at the same time also being small enough to learn about individual careers, ideas, and experiences during the PhD.”

Jointly organized PhD symposia have been held four times over the last 8 years, each time with a different partner institute. As well as giving the coordinators the experience of organizing a meeting, these events provide a unique platform for interactions among PhD students.

Giovanna Brancati concluded: “As a member of the organizing committee, I was involved in the organization of every single detail. We had to find the speakers, deal with the sponsors, prepare the program, and schedule travel… It was a lot of work, but we learned what it means to organize such an event. Of course, it was a lot of fun, too!”

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