The two full-day event started the evening before, on the 6th of June, when all the RTG members, symposium speakers and other invited guests joined together for dinner. However, this was not an ordinary dinner, as it took place on a sailing boat - the Zuiderzee. The weather could not have been better. This gave the researchers not only continuous opportunities to get in conversation with renown scientists invited as speakers, but also to admire the city of Kiel from a totally different point of view – the water.
The first full day of the Symposium was nicknamed as the “Science Day”, as it composed of three sessions: (i) Genes, (ii) Environment and (iii) Inflammation during which scientists and RTG members discussed the latest insights into the interactions among the three. It started with a short welcome speech by Prof. Dr. Franke on behalf of the RTG and Ms. Resch, on behalf of the doctoral students – the organizers of the Symposium. Each session was chaired by the doctoral students, who introduced the speakers and moderated the discussions after each talk.
The first session with the main focus on Genes consisted of talks by Prof. Dr. Kucinskas (Vilnius University), Prof. Dr. Semple (University of Edinburgh) and Prof. Dr. Simpson (King’s College London). Unfortunately, the fourth speaker, Prof. Dr. Natoli from Humanitas University in Italy had to cancel last minute, however, this proved to be a good organizational challenge which was a learning experience for the students organizing the Symposium. Prof. Dr. Horn (University of Vienna) and RTG member Prof. Dr. Chamaillard (Institute Pasteur) represented the second session focusing on the Environment. Meanwhile Prof. Dr. Sun (University of Illinois), Prof. Dr. Hartmann (University of Bonn) and Prof. Dr. Buus (University of Copenhagen) gave talks in the third session called Inflammation.
Throughout the day, during the coffee breaks the RTG doctoral, associated researchers as well as a couple of external doctoral researchers presented their research in a poster session. This gave time for each student to discuss their specific project with a variety of scientists not only from their field, but from neighboring fields as well. The doctoral researchers were very thankful for Prof. Dr. Loser (University Hospital Münster) from the supervisory board, who allocated a lot of her time to talk to each student and gave very valuable insights. In order to motivate the poster presenters, there were prizes for the overall best posters. Ms. Beltsiou, Ms. Resch and Ms. Baumecker received the first, second and third place respectively. The Science Day finished off with dinner at the Schöne Aussichten Restaurant with, as the name of the restaurant gives away – a beautiful view of the Kiel Fjord.
The second full day, the so-called Career Day consisted of talks and discussions directed to help doctoral candidates decide on their professional future. Ms. Baumecker welcomed the guests and introduced all the speakers. The first part of the day hosted five successful researchers who ventured into the private sector. Dr. Pan, who is now an alumnus of the RTG program from the first generation, truthfully talked about his application process and career as a biostatistician. Ms. Sydow, a young start-up founder gave a lively presentation about her road into developing her own company. Dr. Cavalar, who made a very steep career to the head of Molecular Infectious Diagnostics at Euroimmun AG, spoke about juggling family and career lives. Ms. Feldmann, who works at Astra Zeneca and freelances as a coach, showed the audience how many twists and turns a successful career may have. Meanwhile, Dr. El-Samalouti, who also had a fast-track career and is now the Head of Laboratory at the Laboratory for Clinical Research discussed the various paths a doctoral researcher can choose and what, in his opinion, the most crucial points in decision making are.
The individual talks wrapped up in a podium discussion moderated by Ms. Resch with Prof. Dr. Dempfle and Prof. Dr. Kucinskas representing the academia and Dr. Cavalar and Dr. El-Samalouti on behalf of the industry. The discussion turned into a heated and interesting debate about the pros and cons of both fields with many questions from the audience.
The second part of the Career Day consisted of hands on workshops for the RTG members and a few external participants. Workshops included tips and tricks for writing a CV and cover letter, participating in job interviews and holding salary negotiations, taking part in assessment centers and interpreting job ads.
Overall, it was a successful Symposium, which included speakers from over seven different countries, encompassed renowned professors from universities and successful businessmen and women from the industry. It brought together almost 100 participants, who discussed, debated and gained insights into different fields, whether they were scientific or career-orientated.