Hi all!

Now that (almost) everyone has been introduced, it’s time to understand what this ITN is really about.  Other posts in this blog already explained what kind of research we are doing (if you haven’t done it yet, read the amazing post by Yash ) and about our frustrating everyday life, but I wanted to cover something a bit different.

As you may know, ITN is an acronym. It stands for “Innovative Training Network”. Today I want to explore a bit deeper the part about the “Network”.  In our case, the most important (and funny) part of this networking activity is based on different meetings, hosted by the different institutions involved in the ITN. Usually they are around three days long and are occasions for us ESRs to see each other and spend some time together; clearly (and unfortunately) it’s not a vacation; the time is divided between lectures, seminars and meetings with the PIs. These meetings always remind me of school trips: we share rooms together, we have lectures and we eat together. It’s always very funny.
Until now, we have had three meetings.

The first one was the “kick-off” meeting, in October 2018 in Rome. It was the first time we ESR met and it was very funny to get to know each other and the PIs. We had different lectures and we presented ourselves, our different backgrounds and our stories. We were all very excited and curious to know the others and, for some of us, like myself, understand exactly what this ITN was about. The schedule was very tight and everything was new; it was very exciting, a bit confusing and very, very tiring.

191003_Picture 1
Our first group picture. Yes, I had a cast on my arm.

The second one was this March in Oxford. The topic was “molecular robotics” and the schedule was packed with lectures and seminars, from 9 to 19. Luckily, we still had time to enjoy the small city of Oxford: the different colleges, from the oldest one to the newest, the amazing libraries, the historical monuments, the pubs where Tolkien and Lewis used to go for a drink. We also joined an amazing lecture by professor Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, one of the discoverers of the radio pulsar.

191003_Picture 2
The college we were staying while in Oxford. Very modern and nice.

The third and most recent meeting was here in Stockholm, in the beginning of September. This was the first meeting with the entire group of ESRs, finally. The first day we had some very interesting presentations by the PIs about their story in science and it was very stimulating to see how different people can have different personal stories and views about their work and research fields. After that, we ( the ESRs) had time to rest, have some pizzas, enjoy a drink and just have a nice night in Stockholm.

The following day it was our time to present and discuss our projects and it was very interesting to see how everyone is putting a personal note in their research. I have to say that, luckily, the schedule was a bit more relaxed than the previous meetings: this gave us more time to spend getting to know each other and discussing our projects and about the problems we are facing. We also had a session about research grants and how they work, with a very informal and honest roundtable with the PIs about their personal experiences. That evening we had a very nice Swedish dinner in Djurgarden (one of the many islands of Stockholm) and on the way back to the hotel we took this amazing selfie. Nestor also scared a poor woman, somehow, just asking if she could take a picture. You can see our Stockholm selfie in the top of this post. Not a great picture, still the best we could do.

The next day was the last and the meeting was only during the morning, and we spent it discussing the upcoming perspective paper (spoiler alert). After lunch, everyone had to leave so it was a lot of sadness, hugs and goodbyes. These meetings are always too short!

Anyway, this a very short and partial view of a very important part of the ITN. Next meeting will be in Rome, next year, during the summer, in conjunction with the 4th Functional DNA Workshop. Who knows, maybe someone else will describe that one as well! Stay tuned on this blog for the next posts!

Marco Lolaico,
PhD student at the Högberg Lab at Karolinska Institutet

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