Research, Training

ISGlobal’s 6th PhD Symposium Emphasises Environmental Awareness and Emotional Well-being

Nearly sixty researchers participated in the event, which was organised by and for PhD students

Antoni Plasència at ISGlobal's PhD Symposium 2019
Photo: ISGlobal

Lung function in childhood, the neurodevelopmental effects of electromagnetic radiation, and the role of epigenetics in the malaria cycle were among the topics discussed at ISGlobal’s 6th PhD Symposium, an initiative designed to foster synergistic interactions within the research community. The event took place on Wednesday at the University of Barcelona’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and drew nearly sixty attendees.

“Over the past four years, more than a hundred predoctoral researchers have worked on their doctoral theses at ISGlobal,” commented Antoni Plasència, Director General of ISGlobal, during his welcome remarks. “PhD students are a key part of our research and knowledge-transfer centre. That’s why we have launched various initiatives to facilitate your work on multiple levels.” These initiatives include Career Talks—meetings organised in collaboration with the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG)—and new mobility scholarships that will be offered in the coming months. “The ISGlobal community is committed to supporting you and helping you move forward in a process that is not always easy,” added Plasència.

Guest speaker Ryan Armstrong then delivered the opening lecture, in which he focused on the well-being of predoctoral researchers. “When you decide to pursue a PhD, you embark on a programme in which the risk of developing anxiety or depression is five to six times greater than in other professions. In fact, one in three PhD students in Europe has of one these conditions.” Armstrong discussed various tools for promoting mental health and emotional well-being throughout the doctoral process.

After the opening lecture, symposium participants presented their work either in classic micro-talks or in “chalk talks”—a format in which speakers explain their work while providing complementary illustrations on a whiteboard. Researchers unable to attend the symposium in person were able to participate virtually, through videos prepared beforehand. Attendees used a digital tool to evaluate each talk. At the end of the day, winners were selected in each of the formats:

  • 1st Oral Exhibition Award (€800): Alicia Abellán
  • 2nd Oral Exhibition Award (€650): Elena Marbán
  • 3rd Oral Exhibition Award (€300): Berta Grau
  • Chalk talks (four prizes, €300 each): Anastasia Pickford, Cristina Vert, Alba Cabré and Laura Delgado
  • Videos (two prizes, €450 each): Carlos Ratia and Laura Pérez

With the aim of improving attendees’ communication skills, the symposium featured a workshop on scientific communication by Big Van, a group that promotes scientific culture and careers in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—using disruptive formats such as stand-up comedy and theatre.

The symposium ended with a session led by Jordi Sunyer, head of ISGlobal’s Childhood and Environment research programme, which focuses on developing “glocal” actions (thinking globally, acting locally).

Sustainability: a hallmark of this year’s symposium

Sustainability and environmental awareness were distinctive features of the 2019 PhD Symposium. In light of the usual environmental impact of conferences and scientific meetings, the organisers took steps to mitigate the effects of the symposium. Paper use was minimised, for example by replacing the traditional poster sessions with chalk talks. In addition, the food served at breakfast was vegetarian and locally sourced. Finally, instead of conventional conference badges, attendees wore seed-paper name tags that could be planted after the event.