Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Retreating is crucial to advance

Despite representing a large part of the scientific community, few events are exclusively aimed at postdoctoral researchers. The postdoc committee at BI thought it would be pertinent to fill this gap and, as developing a network of international collaborators is an important element towards an independent research career, we thought it would also be particularly relevant to bring together an international community of postdoctoral researchers. So, with the support of the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) and Institute’s Postdoc Committees, Claire Senner (Hemberger group), Danika Hill (Linterman group) and I (Rugg-Gunn group) contacted other Institutes within the EU-LIFE network to detemine the interest for participating in a postdoc retreat.

EU-LIFE is an alliance of 13 top Life Science research centres that together support and strengthen European research excellence.  Based on our initial investigations, we quickly discovered that the  Intituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia in Portugal organises an annual postdoc retreat and immediately they invited us to join them. Thus, the 1st International joint postdoc retreat was concieved as a platform for sharing scientific ideas and to network with international fellow postdoctoral researchers from distinct backgrounds.
And so, from 18-20th October, 58 postdocs from the Babraham Institute (UK), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Portugal) met in the Portuguese coastal town of Vimeiro. Across 3 days, there were fascinating talks and poster presentations covering the research topics common to the three research Institutes. Keynote speaker Prof. Mariano Barbacid set the high standard of the meeting by highlighting his efforts in identifying suitable targets for the most common cancer genes TP53 and KRAS. Three other internationally renowned scientists were also invited to join the retreat. Prof. Jane Parker talked about host-pathogen coevolution and how plants resist microbial attack, Dr. Gad Asher spoke about how rhythmic oxygen levels can reset circadian clocks, and Prof. George Coupland revisited his research into the genetic control of reproduction by seasonal cues in plants. Postdocs then shared their own research, which covered the diverse fields of centrosome control in cancer, the molecular triggers during embryonic development or neurodegeneration, and immune responses to pathogens.  This session allowed all 58 postdoc attendees to share their latest exciting research and learn from areas that otherwise they would not usually hear from.
This retreat was an invaluable opportunity to share and disseminate internationally, the research produced by postdocts at Babraham. It was easy to find common ground in shared scientific questions, similar techniques, or career stages across the multidisciplinary research areas. Thus, active interactions and networking occurred easily and organically throughout the retreat. An analogy was drawn by Prof. Jonathan Howard (Director of IGC and BI alumni) during his opening speech, when he made reference to the Duke of Wellington's miltary strategy, he said; "retreating is crucial to advance". And so the 1st International Joint Postdoc Retreat has advanced and in doing so has brought an exciting and stimulating postdoctoral community together - it most definitely inspired new ideas and interactions.  We hope that future advances will result in even greater connection and collaboration across the EU-LIFE network. 
The retreat was sponsored by Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Babraham Institute, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, The Company of Biologists, EMBO, Science Services, Roche and Vimeiro.

With thanks to Blog contributors Clara Novo, Danika Hill and Claire Senner.


26 October, 2017

By Clara Novo