Just because they’ve left EMBL doesn’t mean they’ve left the spirit of EMBL behind... Nearly 30 members of the EMBL Alumni Association’s Iberian Chapter met at the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona on October 7, 2005. The meeting, organised by Juan Valcárcel, kicked off with appearances by former EMBL Group Leaders Angus Lamond and Peter Becker, who spoke about their latest research activities.

After a break for lunch, participants rolled up their sleeves and got down to business. Juan, Angus Lamond and Sarah Sherwood summarised the goals of the Association (which are to establish ties between EMBL and laboratories throughout Europe and beyond, and ultimately to help promote scientific exchange in the life sciences), and extensive discussions followed on how Iberian alumni can translate this into reality.

“There was general agreement that maintaining and strengthening links with EMBL and between alumni are very positive initiatives that can have a significant impact on alumni, their research environment and also help EMBL to fulfil its mission,” says Juan. Possible benefits include sharing expertise, personnel and advice on specific problems, and creating a “virtual” laboratory to share projects, protocols and research resources.

Next steps forward? Angel Nebreda and Ramón Serrano will organize a retreat for alumni living in Spain and Portugal in 2006. The event will include scientific talks and posters, updates on new technologies, and a working session on future activities of the Iberian chapter. Interest was also expressed in organising workshops on topics such as laboratory management, scientific communication and alternative career options. Eusebio Perdiguero and Carlos Luque volunteered to spearhead the Iberian chapter web pages to help facilitate information sharing among local chapter alumni.

The reunion ended with a lecture by Andreu Mas-Colell, economist and former minister for science and universities of the Catalonian government, on the need for and benefits of basic research for knowledge-based economies, followed by an especially scrumptious paella dinner at a nearby restaurant.

“Overall, the participants felt very positive about the reunion,” says Juan. “Perhaps the most important consequence of the meeting was to make us aware that a significant number of people are willing to stay in touch, to provide help if they can and to work together to enrich our research environment – all in the spirit of EMBL.”