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  • Adrian Cioanca

Trip to Heidelberg - great science and spectacular views

It’s late November 2019, and having received a travel award from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory I was on my way to Heidelberg to attend the 2019 EMBL PhD Symposium. This event brings together PhD students from around the world and allows them to interact and present their work in a friendly and collaborative environment. In addition to talks by students, the organisers also put together a series of talks from experts in diverse disciplines. This year’s topics ranged from philosophy to stem-cell derived meat to developmental biology and big data.

Heidelberg is incredibly picturesque and perhaps now it is a good time steal a few quotes from A Tramp Aboard by Mark Twain

“The town lays stretched along the river, its intricate cobweb of streets jewelled with twinkling lights; there were rows of lights on the bridges; these flung lances of light upon the water.”

“…a billowy upheaval of vivid green foliage, a rifle-shot removed, rises the huge ruin of Heidelberg Castle, with empty window arches, ivy-mailed battlements, mouldering towers – the Lear of inanimate nature-deserted, discrowned, beaten by storms, but royal still, and beautiful.”

I hope this paints a picture but arriving there at the end of autumn there are few things to add. The EMBL campus was surrounded by trees with tawny leaves, although most have now fallen and are strewing the ground forming fiery hues.

Apart from the few guest speakers, all the attendees were PhD students. The work presented was truly remarkable and it made me aware of the quality of work performed by fellow PhD students from around the world.

After presenting my work on the microRNA changes in Muller cells during retinal degeneration, I received valuable and constructive feedback helpful for moving this project forward. Besides discussing my work, I also learnt key aspects about transitioning from PhD to postdoctoral positions in other countries. This may become valuable information if I consider working overseas post-graduation.

The broad theme of the symposium stimulated cross-disciplinary discussions and highlighted the challenges faced by other researchers. I am incredibly grateful for their efforts tackling current and future challenges faced by humanity.

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