3. International RTG Symposium - 20/21 May, 2021

24 Jun, 2021

Organization started in October 2020 when all enthusiastic doctoral researchers of the RTG1743 decided together whom to invite as a guest speaker for the Science Day of the Symposium. With the decision in January 2021 to let the Symposium be a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic we got a lot of positive replies and had the agenda for the Science Day fixed. Splitting all the duties into teams of responsible doctoral researchers, now intensive planning started. Offers from different event platforms were invited and finally we decided a young start-up company to host the virtual Symposium. Due to the current situation it was not easy to find company representatives for talks on the Career Day. In the end we could offer four relevant talks to support our future career decisions.

Overall we learned a lot while organizing such a big event especially in terms of proper communication within and between small teams, the big team and coordinators and setting up deadlines that fit also the administration department of a big institution like the UKSH and have space for trouble shooting. In the end we got over 100 registrations for the Symposium and were excited to finally get the event started.

The Science Day started with a welcoming by Andre Franke, spokesperson of the RTG, highlighting that the symposium is a great opportunity for discussion and networking in times of a pandemic in which the communication processes have changed.

The Science Day was chaired by the doctoral researchers of the RTG 1743. Seven guest speakers gave an insight into their current research:

Dr. Dario Riccardo Valenzano (Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne, Germany) presented the Turquoise killifish as a vertebrate model organism for ageing with a lifespan of just half a year. His group works on the impact of mitochondrial ageing on the age process of the whole organism and the impact of the microbiome to the life span of the fish.

Dr. Nordin Hanssen (Amsterdam University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands) presented his ongoing studies of the impact of microbiota in diabetes I and II. Showing that fecal transplantations can alter the disease severity by restoring the microbiota. This cannot be replicated with metabolites supplements only. A treatment with missing intestinal bacterial strains in certain subgroups of DM1 and DM2 patients might have beneficial effects.

Prof. Thomas Meyer (Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology, Kiel, Germany) showed how bacterial toxins by example of colibactin, secreted by certain E. coli strains, Klebsiella pneumoniae and others, causing mutations in the host genome. This results in increased tumor formation in colon. It also triggers Helicobacter pylori inflammations leading to gastric cancer.

Prof. Thomas Langer (Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne, Germany) introduced the mitochondrial keyplayer YME1L, a mitochondrial based protease, that does not only perform quality control activity, but has an important role in the rewiring of the metabolism in hypoxic conditions and regulates the mitochondrial shape. Loss of YME1L leads to inflammatory responses.

After the lunchbreak Prof.  Aleksandra Trifunovic (Institute for Mitochondrial Diseases and Ageing, University of Cologne, Germany) continued the talks with the mitochondrial matrix protease CLPP, that proteolyses subunits of the respiratory chain complex I. Showing that the lack of this protease can have positive effects on ageing.

Prof. Jens Mittag (Center of Brain, Behavior and Metabolism, University of Lübeck, Germany) presented the effect of thyroid hormones on body temperature regulation. Showing that  heat loss is the result of lacking vasocontraction in thyroid hormone receptor alpha1 deficient mice. These mice have a high metabolism especially in the brown adipose tissue to compensate and can show opposing effects in hyperthyroidism.

Prof. Savvas Savvides (VIB-Ugent Center for Inflammation Research, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium) concluded the guest talks with his presentation of Charcot-Leyden crystals (CLC). They consist of Gal10 protein-dimers and were secreted by eosinophils. They were also auto crystallize after secretion and only interact with the immune system in a crystallized state.

Within a virtual poster session, the doctoral researchers of the RTG 1743 had the possibility to present their work within the RTG Symposium. Poster prices went to Juliane Brandes (1st place), Jana Seidel (2nd place) and Simon Imm (3rd place).

The Career Day started with a welcome session and an introduction of the agenda by Anna Lara Ernst. This part of the Symposium should provide information for the next career step after the doctorate.

Session I started at 9 am with Company Talks:  Sue Ward (Talent Acquisition Business Partner at Illumina EMEA, Abington, UK) and Myriam Hofmeister (Inside Sales Manager, Illumina; Berlin, Germany) introduced the requirements and chances for young scientist at Illumina, a worldwide supplier of next-generation sequencing technology. They gave a very interesting insight of Illumina as a company regarding its structure in the different countries and how new employees are trained internally to become full members of the Illumina.

The next company presentation was given by Dr. Helge Marquardt from Altona Diagnostics GmbH, Hamburg, Germany for / about the Research & Development division. He gave an impressive overview of the company, its products, industrial daily work and insights into product development and sales (using diagnostic kit development as an example). Both presentations gave striking insights into working opportunities outside of academia.

At 10:50 we started with Session II, the Alumni Talks. Dr. Nathalie Loeper (Chiesi GmbH Hamburg, Germany), who is a former PhD candidate of Prof. Rupp’s research group, pointed out the differences between work in industry and academia. She also described her personal advantages after joining Chiesi, coming straight from academia.

The next speaker was Dr. Pankaj Yadav who is an Assistant Professor in the Bioscience & Bioengineering Department in the Indian Institute of Technology. He did his doctorate within the RTG 1743 in the group of Prof. Krawczak. Dr Yadav gave insights into the academic work in India, the advantages for him and also the differences compared to Germany.

At 11:40 am the “Panel discussion with the company guests and alumni – Pros and Cons of Academia” started. The PhD candidates were particularly interested in the differences between science and industry and the advantages and disadvantages of both. It was a very helpful discussion in which everyone could learn a lot.

In the afternoon we started the Workshop Session as last point of the day. The PhD candidates could choose between "Challenges in Grant Writing” and “Applications and Job Interviews”.

The workshop “Challenges in Grant Writing” by Dr. Christina Schütte (ProSciencia) was extremely thrilling! Dr Schütte introduced the SMART system for phrasing the “aim” of a project and gave valuable tips on how to find funding opportunities for new projects.

The “Applications and Job Interviews” workshop by Thomas Kunz und Cord Oliver Molthan (METANOIA) helped the PhD candidates to phrase their strengths and motivation for an application and how to prepare for a job interview. It was of high practical relevance and gave a lot of new insights.

Finally our organizational efforts showed to be successful. Not only the members of the RTG 1743 were satisfied with the scientific input and discussions as well as with the insights the Career Day provided. Doctoral researchers from eight other research associations joined the 3. International RTG Symposium.

Jana Seidel  Jana Seidel             Adina-Malin Tietje   Adina-Malin Tietje