4 February 2019 – 34 PhD students working in the labs of EMBO Young Investigators and Installation Grantees began the new year with an intense week of learning new skills and discussing their science. They participated in the annual EMBO Young Investigator Programme PhD Course that took place in Heidelberg between 14 and 19 January 2019.
The goal of the course is to provide the students with training in skills required for a scientific career alongside a broad overview of research in the life sciences. It is organized by EMBO together with several EMBO Young Investigators.
Mariana Ascensão Ferreira, a PhD student at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal, says her supervisor, Nuno Barbosa-Morais, encouraged her to apply. Another PhD student had attended the course back in 2016 and, explains Ferreira, had come back “with several tips to improve communication, presentation and writing practices”.
Another attendee, Andres M. Herrero-Ruiz, a PhD student working with Silvia Jimeno-González and Felipe Cortés-Ledesma at CABIMAR (Centro Andaluz de Biología Molecular y Medicina Regenerativa) in Sevilla, Spain also knew about the course from other students in the lab. And, like Ferreira, was looking to improve his communication skills. “I wanted to take part because I’m aware how important it is to be clear and organized to effectively communicate with others,” he says.
Developing career skills
In addition to presenting their research as talks or posters and hearing scientific presentations from EMBO Young Investigators, the students spent the majority of the week taking part in a variety of soft-skills training. These included sessions on presenting science to different audiences through writing, oral presentations and figures; career advice; an introduction to grant writing; and learning how to review a manuscript.
“I brought back to the lab several tips and tricks that are easy to share and to remember in our daily jobs,” reflects Ferreira. “Probably one of the most important things I learnt is that it is worth taking some time to understand the interests of the audience when presenting my work.”
Herrero-Ruiz says one of his favourite parts was the ‘Introduction to grant writing’ lecture. “It was a really interesting exercise that required the use of all the concepts discussed during the course,” he explains. “We had to carefully choose the scope and depth of the background, propose an interesting question and summarize the critical results to formulate a proposal based on our own work.”
Both Ferreira and Herrero-Ruiz also commented positively on the opportunity to meet other PhD students and to hear from several EMBO Young Investigators who shared insights into their work as well as their career. Valle Montalvo Romeral, a PhD student in Guadalupe Sabio Buzo at the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Madrid, Spain, adds that she left the course with a clearer idea of what to do next in her career and increased confidence in herself. She concludes: “I learnt different tools to improve myself, in both a professional and a personal way.”