UNSW Sydney hosts 5th EMBL Australia PhD Course

EMBL Australia, PhD Course, Single Molecule Science

Sixty of the nation's finest first and second year PhD students converged at UNSW Sydney last month to participate in the annual EMBL Australia PhD course.

Inspired by the compulsory pre-doctoral training program for students at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the home-grown EMBL Australia PhD course is now in its fifth year. And this year it was held at UNSW Sydney—from 1–13 July—giving us the opportunity to show off our campus and local talent pool.

PhD candidates—all students of the life sciences—were selected from all over Australia to attend the two-week-long course that exposed them to the latest research ranging from structural biology to animal models, developmental biology to bioinformatics, advanced microscopy to plant biology. The course also included tours of our state-of-the-art facilities, career insights and panel discussions, as well as networking opportunities.

Leading Australian researchers from different states, at various career stages, gave rare glimpses into how scientific careers are forged, and how projects change over time—including mistakes, failures and personal struggles that are a part of most success stories, but are seldom told.

Dr Yann Gambin, one of the organisers of the PhD course, and EMBL Australia group leader at UNSW’s Single Molecule Science said that they wanted to inspire the students with amazing research, but we also wanted to take them behind the scenes.

“It was totally different from any talk I have given before because it required divulging some personal information before the audience could make sense of some of the decisions I took along the way,” says Professor Kerry-Anne Rye, Deputy Head (Research) of UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences.

The students were not the only ones affected by the lively atmosphere during the two weeks.

“When an audience engages like this, it stimulates everyone in the room; you kick ideas around and explore options which otherwise would be passed by. It does not happen all that often but when it does, there is nothing quite like it!” says Professor Peter Gunning, Head of School of Medical Sciences at UNSW Sydney, who captivated the audience with the evolution of an overarching project from his group that spanned over 15 years.

Each day, a different student took over the @EMBLAustralia twitter handle to live tweet from the course using the hashtag #EMBLAPhD.

A tweet from a course participant hailing from University of Queensland summed up the fortnight beautifully:

“Thank you @EMBLAustralia for the opportunity of spending two amazing weeks knowing other (bright) PhD students Down Under! Totally mesmerised by the quality of research lead by our senior investigators and truly inspired to becoming one myself”.

Organising committee:

Dr Yann Gambin & Dr Abigail Pollock; EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science, UNSW Sydney

Dr Ville-Petteri Mäkinen; EMBL Australia at South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute

Alex Langer & Rochelle Ades; EMBL Australia Headquarters, Monash University

Date Published: 
Thursday, 9 August 2018