EMBL Grenoble 40th Anniversary Symposium

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Countless crystals, stunning structures, tremendous technologies and neat narratives provided the focal points as more than 150 staff and alumni came together at EMBL Grenoble on 4–5 June to celebrate the Outstation’s 40th birthday.

In the last in a series of events marking 40 years of EMBL, participants reflected on the scientific, political and personal stories underlying the growth of EMBL Grenoble – which is situated in the foothills of three mountain ranges – from an ambitious idea into one of the most important sites in Europe for structural biology.

Speakers included staff, alumni, collaborators and partners spanning the entire history of the Outstation, such as Andrew Miller, who was Head for its first five years (1975–80). “It is a wonderful feeling to look back on what has been achieved at EMBL Grenoble during this time,” he said.

Former PhD students, postdocs and group leaders were asked to consider the impact of EMBL on careers ranging from technology development to virus-, RNA- and transcription-orientated research. “It was a great opportunity to combine interests in science, collaboration and public outreach,” said Elena Seiradake, a PhD student at the Lab between 2003 and 2007, now a group leader in the University of Oxford’s Department of Biochemistry.

Among a host of speakers spanning the early years right up to the present day, current group leader Florent Cipriani reflected on the industrious history of instrumentation development at EMBL Grenoble – from the invention of the image plate diffractometer to recent innovations such as Crystal Direct, an automatic crystal harvesting machine.

Networking sessions presented opportunities to connect with colleagues and collaborators. Lab reunions brought together friends past and present. There was a special dinner at a châteaux, with participants enjoying good company, food, music, dance and a surprise firework show.

Stephen Cusack, head of EMBL Grenoble, was given a ‘special’ award and thanked all those who have been part of the Outstation’s story. “All of this would not have been possible without the passionate and dedicated input of around 500 staff and alumni during the past four decades,” he said.

by Adam Gristwood