Margarida Amaral

More than 230 scientists took part in a special event exploring connections between EMBL and Portugal on 18 July. A packed programme of talks by senior EMBL staff, alumni, and researchers from Portuguese institutions addressed topics including functional genomics, system genetics and the frontiers of microscopy, showcasing research, facilities and training opportunities, as well as science by EMBL alumni in Portugal.

Alumna Margarida Amaral, coordinator of the Center for Biodiversity, Functional & Integrative Genomics at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Science (FCUL), co-organised the event and delivered a talk.

What was your aim for this event?

The organization of this event resulted from a joint initiative of FCUL Director, Prof Pinto Paixão, and EMBL Director General, Prof Iain Mattaj, during a visit of Pinto Paixão to EMBL Heidelberg in November 2012, to foster the relationships between EMBL and Portugal. This meeting takes place at a time when Portugal, due to the economic crisis, needs to strengthen its connections with European institutions. The aim was to promote among Portuguese researchers how they can benefit from European support, by providing examples of collaborations, past and present, between Portuguese researchers and EMBL. FCUL director Pinto Paixão sees the connection as very important. The event also presented a platform to discuss future partnerships.

What has been the outcome?

The meeting was very successful: a large proportion of the 230 participants – presenting 77 posters – were young researchers. Altogether, the event provided opportunities to strengthen scientific networks, and learn more about career and collaboration opportunities at EMBL. There were also special sessions for informal discussions on EMBL Core Facilities, the department of International Relations, as well as a special session with Director General Iain Mattaj and company representatives.

What are your own plans for the future?

My work has evolved from studying cystic fibrosis from a molecular biology perspective into a systems biology approach. To this end, my two-year sabbatical at EMBL has been crucial. Our vision is that BioFIG becomes a systems biology research institute, incorporating researchers from areas like maths, physics, and bioinformatics, currently dispersed across FCUL. Hopefully this new institute will become a partner of EMBL in the future!