How EMBO fosters exchange with Taiwan
Heidelberg, 3 April 2017 – “My friends and colleagues in Europe told me it’s a competitive but excellent programme, so I decided to apply,” says Yuki Nakamura, who was selected to carry out research on lipid diversity in plant growth and development at the Academia Sinica in Taipei and joined the EMBO Young Investigator Programme in 2015. “Being part of the EMBO Young Investigator Programme has definitely helped my career.”
Nakamura was eligible to apply to the programme because of a cooperation agreement between EMBO and the Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology and Academia Sinica, signed more than four years ago. In addition to young group leaders like Nakamura, the agreement allows postdocs and established scientists who are based at Taiwanese institutes to benefit from EMBO funding and training opportunities. The cooperation was established as part of EMBO Global Activities in order to support global exchange and researcher mobility between Europe and the rest of the world
Becoming part of a network
EMBO Member Bertrand Jordan, Marseille, France, was an early advocate for strengthening the ties between European and Taiwanese researchers. Talking about his experience of interacting with scientists in Taiwan at the time, he says: “Taiwan has a dynamic and well-funded life sciences establishment, in a number of universities but also in the Academia Sinica. There was a definite wish to extend contacts and collaborations beyond the USA, where many scientists trained.”
Scientists based in Taiwan can apply for EMBO Long- and Short-Term Fellowships or, like Nakamura, to the Young Investigator programme. After studying and working in Japan, Singapore, Germany and Taiwan, Nakamura became aware of the programme through Academica Sinica. He found forming connections with other researchers especially valuable. “Because Taiwan is geographically distant from Europe, interacting with colleagues is costly. Thanks to travel support, I can visit Europe more often for scientific discussions and collaborations.
“Giving invited lectures at major European universities and conferences has greatly increased my networks. I have established new collaborations with scientists in Europe and connected with a few EMBO Members with a common research interest.”
A different way of thinking
Tsung-Pin Pai received an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship to carry out postdoctoral research in Josef Penninger’s lab at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna. Like Nakamura, he values the networking opportunities this has offered him. Through his work in Penninger’s lab, Pai has "established collaborations with PIs from Australia, France, USA and Taiwan. [Thanks to the fellowship] I connected with more with scientists from the rest of the world.”
Talking about how he benefited from the EMBO Fellowship, Pai also describes another aspect of personal and professional development. Moving to Vienna was a culture shock that helped him to approach his research in a completely different way. “It was like I reset myself,” he explains. “It felt like I had never touched a pipet before and had to learn from the very beginning. Living abroad changed my perspective and helped a lot – I learnt a new way of thinking and managing my experiments and my time.
“The approach to work is different here – in addition to working hard, working smart is important. Josef [Penninger] allows me to build up my own theory to establish the concept of my project. And people in the lab come from more than ten countries and are experts in different aspects. This is different from the Taiwanese lab I was in, which had a very solid central topic. The diversity and collaboration opened my mind and changed my view of science.”
Exchange at scientific meetings
As part of the cooperation agreements, EMBO also funds scientific events in Taiwan, such as the EMBO Conference on “Neural Development” or the Global Exchange Lecture Course on “Structural and biophysical methods for biological macromolecules in solution”, both of which took place in Taipei in 2015. In addition, EMBO encourages scientific exchange by providing funding for the attendance of scientists from Taiwanese institutions at EMBO events and for EMBO Members and Young Investigators speaking at scientific meetings in Taiwan.
Associate EMBO Member Chi-Huey Wong, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, found that “after signing the cooperation agreement, more scientists from Europe visited Taiwan to give lectures and participate in scientific meetings, and more Taiwanese researchers and faculty members visited Europe to advance their study and work.”
Bertrand Jordan confirms that the cooperation agreement has led to an increase in the number of contacts between Taiwanese and European researchers. Drawing on his own experience, he continues to encourage forming these connections: “The Taiwanese life sciences sector is dynamic and offers excellent facilities. Making use of EMBO’s support, any scientist should consider it as a target for collaborations.”
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