First year PhDs complete their training

The 2016 intake of EMBL PhD students
The 2016 intake of the EIPP

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EMBL PhD students celebrate after completing their first two months of training

For the past two months EMBL Heidelberg has hosted around 60 first year PhD students from EMBL’s International PhD Programme (EIPP). From thousands of applicants, the students were selected from over 40 countries to work on their PhD research at one of EMBL’s five sites – Grenoble, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Hinxton and Monterotondo. But before they begin, they first take part in the EMBL PhD Core Course.

The course offers students modules, seminars and practicals to get an overview of the areas of research represented at EMBL. Students learn about the magnetic separation of cells in fruit flies, discuss whether or not we could exist without endogenous retroviruses in our genomes and come up with models for how memory works on cellular and molecular levels.

Another feature of the EIPP curriculum is the PhD Symposium, a three-day conference organised by the previous years intake of students. This year 134 people from all over the world took part. More than a third of attendees were not from EMBL.

As I walked around the foyer during the symposium I was struck by the strong community feeling amongst students. At that time, many I met had only been at EMBL for two weeks. “Meeting people from EMBL sites has been fun,” says Hannah Currant, a first year PhD student who will work at the EBI site in Hinxton, UK. “There are seven of us at EBI, and it’s great seeing what others are working on besides computational biology!”

Attending the symposium offered me a glimpse into the programme. “It’s a nice opportunity to do something scientific but it isn’t research,” says Sergio Triana, also a first year PhD student. “It allows us to interact with scientists and learn about other research happening at EMBL.”

EMBL students get experience organising lots of events – including the symposium, teaching modules, parties and the biannual PhD retreat.

“The Core Course make it easy to meet new people and get to know each other,” says Lena Čalyševa, a first year student in the programme who wants to start a drama and theatre club at EMBL. Other groups outside the lab include Alpine Club, Coding Club (which was started this past year) and EMBL Choir.

With the course now over, the students will transition to their groups and take on research for their PhD. I wish them all luck for the next three years.