EMBO YOUNG INVESTIGATORS – INTERVIEW Óscar, you are one of 28 scientists who received the prestigious International Early Career Scientist award. How does it compare to other prizes you have received? Each award has a big impact. The status of an EMBO Young Investigator is a great asset within the European community. You gain visibility with your European partners at a very critical step of your career, namely when you are starting your own lab. HHMI gives you worldwide visibility – partic- ularly in the United States. A key aspect of the HHMI award is the flexibility of the funds. Awardees receive more than 600,000 US dollars that can be used at the discretion of the researcher for any purpose that is related to science. How different was the application process? The process is kept very simple with only a few general questions in the initial phase followed by a final interview at HHMI headquarters. The differ- ence is that the HHMI selection process is a person-based approach whereas EU grants are project based and require a description of all milestones. I personally favour the HHMI system because it is impossible to foresee what you are going to do in the next five years. If you work on the frontiers of the life sciences then you have to enter exploratory routes every now and then. If you already know what you will be doing five years from now, then it cannot be considered cutting-edge science. EMBO Young Investigators receive early career awards The US-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has selected 28 scientists for the 2012 International Early Career Scientist award. Four of the awardees are EMBO Young Investigators. Luísa M.Figueiredo, Óscar Fernández–Capetillo, Fyodor A. Kondrashov and Marcin Nowotny have received as much as 650,000 US dollars for five years. EMBOencounters spoke to ÓSCAR FERNÁNDEZ– CAPETILLO about his plans to use the funding and about what it takes to become a HHMI grantee. Oscar Fernández-Capetillo, head of the Genomic Instability Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) in Madrid, Spain. Any clue as to why you have been selected? I don’t know. The panel of applicants was really diverse and included people who work in systems biology, cancer, ageing and bioinformatics, to name just a few. The main thing that interested the selection committee was having your own approach and being creative. The field was irrelevant. Could you describe the focus of your current research? We have invested a lot of effort over the last few years to find out what replication stress is and how this type of stress impacts cancer and ageing. This stress happens every time that a cell replicates its DNA, but is also induced by oncogenes. We try to exploit this type of knowledge to attack cancer cells. How are you going to use the money? I will use it to do things that are not covered by my other grants, includ- ing the development of new techniques or paying for expensive methodolo- gies such as high-throughput sequencing. Thanks to the flexibility of these funds, I will also be able to pay members of my lab that need some extra months to finish their research. The current situation in Spain is dramatic, even more so for people at the postdoctoral stage trying to continue their careers in Spain. EMBO Young Investigator Meeting 2012 in Lisbon Lisbon was the place to be for young group leaders keen on learning more about each other’s projects. 64 of them came to the three-day EMBO Young Investigators meeting held at the Gulbenkian Institute of Science. A highlight of the meeting was a visit to The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a recently opened multidisciplinary centre for translational research situated in a beautiful location on the waterfront of Lisbon. The EMBO Journal editor Hartmut Vodermaier also attended this year’s meeting to give a talk about the challenges of the scientific reviewing and publishing process for both authors and referees as well as for editors and publishers. His presentation was followed by a lively discussion on the various initiatives recently started by The EMBO Journal and other EMBO Scientific Publications aimed at improving the reviewing process. 6 EMBOencounters | Summer 2012 | communications@embo.org ©2012 EMBO © Mónica Bettencourt-Dias