Taking a break from scientific routine can be inspiring, fun and can influence your career in ways unimaginable.

2017 marks 40 years that EMBL has been dedicated to life-long training of scientists. During this time technology has come a long way, and EMBL has been there for all the advancements and breakthroughs, ready to bring the most up-to-date, cutting-edge science to researchers.

Operon opening ceremony

With the opening of the EMBL guest house in 1978 course participants were able to stay within walking distance of the campus for the first time, paving the way for new training offerings – the majority in collaboration with EMBO at the beginning. Almost a decade later, in 1987, the first conference - on Oncogenes and Growth Control - took place at EMBL Heidelberg, and the EMBL Operon Conference Centre was opened the following year.

Record-breaking conferences and Nobel Prize Winners

In 1994 the first meeting on Transcription took place, a meeting which has now become the longest running conference at EMBL - turning 24 years old in 2018!

Henk Stunnenberg (EMBL Alumnus 1985-1996) and Founder of the EMBL Conference: Transcription and Chromatin, spoke to us about how the series has changed over time:

Henk Stunnenberg

“The meeting and the content of the science has changed dramatically over the meeting series from very biochemical and basic to new much more integrated systems. For me the most interesting is the change of topics over the years, new technologies that have kicked have changed the way we are doing science quite a lot.”

Over the years, more than 18 Nobel Prize Laureates have spoken at EMBL events, contributing to the consistent high quality of the scientific content. Participants welcome the networking opportunties available, with all speakers easily accessible throughout the conferences. Meet-the-speakers sessions and speed networking are also regular fixtures on EMBL conference programmes, bringing up-and-coming scientists in direct contact with the top names in their field.

From trainee to trainer

In 1977 EMBL hosted the first EMBO course on Electron Microscopy (EM) took place – a course that paved the way for a series of EM courses, many of which are still being run to this very day with great success. EMBL Head of Electron Microscopy Core Facility Yannick Schwab attended such a course in 2005, and spoke to us about how it helped shape his career.

Yannick Schwab

To take a break and participate in training courses is well invested time. Not only do you get profound knowledge as a beginner, but even as an expert it is very enlightening to see how others tackle the same problem. You get exposed to questions that make you rethink how you’re tackling your research. Plus, the network that you create is invaluable."

“Attending the 2 week hands-on course was a turning point in my career. It was exactly what I needed at that point, getting up to speed with EM being taught by the best in the field. The experts, some of which were involved in the development of the technique, were available at all times and even beyond the course. Not only did I learn all the tricks which would otherwise take me a few years of learning by mistakes, but I also became part of the community. This was important for my career as I got invited to participate as a teacher in following years and ultimately to host the course - this reaffirmed my reputation in the field.”  

The EMBL Advanced Training Centre (ATC)

EMBL Landmark – A centre for training

In 2010 the construction of the EMBL Advanced Training Centre (ATC) in Heidelberg was finalised. An important investment for the training of scientists worldwide, it has also established EMBL as a major European hub for life-long training in molecular biology and has allowed EMBL’s external training programme to expand, currently running 5 times as many events as before the opening of the centre. With the latest high-tech equipment on-site, the centre facilitates the delivery of advanced scientific training, and provides participants with state-of-the-art meeting rooms, computer facilities and on-site laboratories for cutting-edge practical courses. The additional involvement of EMBL and external scientists and groups brings together top-level expertise across the board, and allows this knowledge to be shared to the scientific community.

Training scientists, students and visitors at all levels

However, it doesn’t end there. Top-class courses are also run at the other EMBL sites in Hamburg, Monterotondo, Grenoble and at EMBL-EBI in Hinxton, UK, and the programme has increased substantially over the years, with 65 courses and 31 conferences and symposia taking place in 2016 alone. In addition, the EMBL-EBI also offers Train Online courses for those unable to attend events in person.


Over 35 dedicated staff are responsible for the smooth running of the ever-expanding EMBL-wide course and conference programme, ensuring EMBL’s mission to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels is achieved year in, year out. In 2016, over 7,000 scientists visited EMBL to attend our conferences and courses.


For a full listing of events, visit www.embl.org/events