EMBL yesterday, today and tomorrow
Friendly faces from the past gathered at EMBL Heidelberg for the last weekend of November to catch up on the latest at the lab, hear what former colleagues are now up to, and well, lots of merriment. The occasion? The first EMBL Alumni Association Reunion: EMBL Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
The reunion was a great success. A mixture of nostalgia, exciting science and interesting ethical discussions made for a meeting with breadth and depth. The Saturday morning practical session produced extremely positive ideas for the future role of the Alumni Association. Angus Lamond reminded members that the Association has an important role to play in supporting former members of the EMBL community at many different levels, as well as providing a means for us to maintain contact with EMBL and work with current staff across the EMBL Units to our mutual benefit. In contrast to the operation of many other alumni organisations, funds generated through EMBL alumni activities will be channeled back into the association rather than as a source of laboratory funding.
For example, one project is to establish active local chapters, a key step towards providing an effective and useful support network for EMBL alumni. Renata Stripecke (EMBL USA) presented her progress in setting up a North American chapter. Enthusiastic chapter leaders are currently active in Spain and Portugal, France, UK, Greece, Switzerland, the Nordic countries, Italy and Austria. We hope that alumni in other countries will soon follow suit.
Sarah Sherwood introduced the restructured Alumni Association website which includes a growing list of services and information. Registered members can search the Members' Directory to find current contact information, biographies and homepages for their former colleagues; the database will soon be expanded to include members' current research interests, facilitating exchange and collaborations. Other services under development include access to enabling technologies and a funding resource center. You'll also find interesting alumni statistics; did you know that there are over 3,500 EMBL alumni throughout the world? Local chapters webpages contain contact information for the chapter head in your area. The revamped website can be a powerful tool to bring together the alumni network; please visit, get in touch and get involved.
Anne Ephrussi presented an overview of the International PhD Programme. She reminded alumni of an initiative set up to link them with PhD candidates who were favourably reviewed for the EMBL programme, but for lack of places available, were not offered positions. Alumni can now have access to this pool of exceptional applicants by contacting the Graduate Office.
Scientific talks from Angus Lamond, Annalisa Pastore, Jan Ellenberg and Johan Ledin demonstrated the high quality of work being carried out by past and present EMBL staff. Johan is the recipient of the first Alumni Association Postdoctoral Fellowship, funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, made possible through the efforts of Lennart Philipson.
Directors General past and present provided us with insights into their strategic vision for the Lab and the challenges it must meet, passing on tips, both political and scientific, to incoming Director General Iain Mattaj. Matthias Wilmanns gave a historical perspective on the development of the Hamburg Outstation and an exciting vision of its future development. Riccardo Cortese charmed us with his wit and élan, reminding us of the early days in the Lab and taking personal responsibility for the former strong Scottish representation, explaining that he needed to counterbalance the perceived southern European bias in the lab with imports from the far north.
Other highlights of the reunion included a concert by EMBL musicians and a lively Scottish ceilidh and traditional Burns night dinner. Artwork donated by Silvia Stabel (a postdoc in Lennart Philipson's lab from 1983 to 1985) was intended to be auctioned off during the evening, but the whiskey tasting had got a bit out of hand, Iain was in his pyjamas and ready for bed, and time simply ran out! Instead, the paintings have now found a permanent home in the Lab in Heidelberg, and can be enjoyed by alumni when they come to visit. A donation has been made to the Association fund.
On behalf of all the participants in the reunion, the Association would like to thank EMBL and all of the staff who worked so hard to make us feel welcome and to ensure that the whole meeting ran smoothly. Meanwhile, we encourage all alumni to get involved in the organisation and benefit from the network.
The EMBL Alumni Association Board