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Alumni Relations News 2012

24 September 2012

EMBL staff, alumni and friends get-together at The EMBO Meeting

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Lotta Maidment (EMBO), Sandrine Pizette and Caroline Medioni (EMBL Nicoise alumnae), Céline Revenu (EMBL postdoc)

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Francois Nédélec (EMBL group leader), Jean-Baptiste Coutelis (EMBL alumnus in Nice)

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Matyas Gorjanacz, (EMBL staff scientist), Andy Smith (EMBL-EBI External Relations officer), Barry White (EMBO Head PR and Communications)

Photo Gallery

Participants

As per every year at The EMBO Meeting (TEM), EMBL staff, alumni and friends had the opportunity to catch up with old colleagues, make new contacts, exchange scientific ideas and enjoy The EMBO Meeting experience at a session organised for them on Monday 24th September.

Amongst the 50 participants who dropped in throughout the evening were four of EMBL's French local alumni who shared with participants their experience of life and science in Nice (see below). The atmosphere was lively and informal, with plenty of opportunity to catch up with otherwise busy scientists. The evening ended at a local Nicoise restaurant thanks to the help of Caroline Medioni (former EMBL visitor, now Staff Scientist at the iBV) and Sandrine Pizette (former EMBL postdoc, now Group Leader and Assistant Professor at the iBV).

Participants share their views on the EMBL get-together and TEM

Sandrine Pizette, Group Leader and Assistant Professor, Institute of Biology Valrose (iBV)
"It was a very nice opportunity to see the human side of scientists, which is an occasion we seldom have. This will come in handy when a student comes knocking at my door asking where he should go for a postdoc."

Matyas Gorjanacz, Staff Scientist, Mattaj Group, EMBL Heidelberg:
"It was great to have a 'session' dedicated to the EMBL community who attend this particular meeting en masse, and who you would otherwise rush past between the wealth of science sessions. I especially enjoyed speaking with Pernille Rorth."

Matthias Mann, Managing Director, Max Planck Institut for Biochemistry, Martinsried
"The EMBO Meeting is like the who’s who of European science, with the added advantage of a manageable size with good quality science and a fresh approach.”

Matthias Hentze, Associate Director, EMBL
"The EMBO Meeting offers established and young scientists alike the opportunity to hear cutting edge work outside of their fields and to meet and exchange ideas. With our informal alumni get-together we try to extend the latter opportunity for the EMBL community.”

Science in Nice

Five of EMBL's six alumni in Nice come from the EMBL Developmental Biology Unit. Four of these - Florence Besse, Caroline Medioni, Sandrine Pizette and Jean-Baptiste Coutelis - are now working at the same international research centre: Institute of Biology Valrose (iBV), which was formerly the Institute of Developmental Biology and Cancer (IBDC).

"Developmental Biology has expanded dramatically at this institute, which is now also the largest biology laboratory in Nice, thanks to its Director Stephan Noselli", Caroline told us. Jean-Baptiste, former Ephrussi Group predoc who now works in the Director's lab at the iBV, added that "research at the iBV goes beyond developmental biology to stem cell research and neurobiology. In fact, there are plans for further expansion starting in 2013 when the laboratory looks to recruit more young group leaders with research projects in cell, cancer research and bio-informatics as well as developmental biology." Interested EMBL staff and alumni should watch out for this on the iBV website.

"Although France is a very centralised country with lots of resources located in Paris (including first-class research institutes), excellent internationally renowned research institutes and campus have developed in different places including Nice," Florence, former Ephrussi Group Staff Scientist, now iBV Group Leader, told us. "Many of these institutions have recently received LabEx (Laboratory of Excellence) labels, and have been awarded substantial fundings from the state to develop ambitious projects. 5 Institutes of the Nice area have jointly been awarded such a LabEx grant for their innovative research program on signaling pathways in development and disease, including ours."

Asked about science in France, EMBL French staff and local alumni all agreed that permanent contracts are a two-edged sword. However, following their time at EMBL, our local alumni had positive reports on their own permanent contracts:

Florence Besse: "Having a permanent position releases you from the insane pressure researchers may have at specific times in their career, and gives a unique opportunity to develop long-term projects. This does not result in scientific inertia, as researchers with permanent positions are regularly evaluated, and are not sentenced to stay in a given institution but can go on sabbaticals, or work in different institutes throughout their career."

Caroline Medioni: "Thanks to my accomplishments in Florence's lab, and also to the collaboration with Anne Ephrussi and Almf at EMBL, I now have a permanent position in the public research centre CNRS at the iBV".

Sandrine Pizette: "My position is 'maitre de conference avec une chaire d'excellence'. It is basically an assistant professor position from the university (maitre de conf) with extra renumeration from the CNRS and less teaching (chaire d'excellence), so that I can have more time to develop my own line of research."

Jean-Baptiste Coutelis: "I don't have a permanent position, but appreciate that permanent positions in France are the best system for scientists, entrusting them with the freedom to develop innovative and pioneering methods of research."

Life in Nice

There are of course more reasons to go to Nice than just science! Jean-Baptiste (former Ephrussi Group predoc, now iBV postdoc) pointed out that "when you live in Nice you have a better chance of seeing your friends from northern countries!"

According to Sandrine "living and working in Nice is true bliss, even though there are far too many people speaking French. Fortunately there's always the pub where you're guaranteed to meet at least one nice native English speaker!"