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June 18, 2021

Virtual PhD Retreat 2021

The PhD Retreat is organized every year by graduate students of the Biozentrum and Pharmaceutical Sciences. For many students, the event is an opportunity to share their own work, talk about science and meet other people from different backgrounds and institutes. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s PhD Retreat took place as a virtual event.

Since the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the retreat in 2020 and jeopardized the organization of the 2021 edition, this year’s PhD retreat was completely held online from June 17th to 18th 2021.The organization team – a branch of the PhD Representatives composed of volunteering graduate students of the Biozentrum and the Pharmaceutical Sciences – put together an exciting two-day program rich in scientific and social content.

As is tradition, three external keynote speakers were invited. Dr. Marco Kuster, Head of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at AstraZeneca (Switzerland) shared his career story and discussed with the students about the clinical development process as well as how the vaccine against coronavirus is made. Dr. Nathalie Brandenberg, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of SUN Bioscience, shared her story as a young entrepreneur and how she decided to found a startup that aims to be the world leader in organoid-driven precision medicine. Prof. Pavan Ramdya, Director of the Neurobiology Department at EPFL, intrigued the students by explaining how his group reverse-engineers fly behavior and develops state-of-the-art algorithms for selecting and executing limbed behaviors in robots.

Of course, since the PhD Retreats are all about the interaction between graduate students, the attendees were given much time to share and discuss their own research carried out at the Biozentrum and Pharmazentrum. Out of 109 participants, 10 students were selected to present their work on the main virtual stage. Among these, Enea Maffei (Alexander Harms Group) won the best presentation prize, followed on the podium by Jonas Kost (Jörg Huwyler Group) and Zeynep Okur (Peter Scheiffele Group). The other 99 students prepared virtual posters. Florian Delbart (Timm Maier Group) won the best poster prize, followed by Sedat Dilbaz and Volkan Adak (Christoph Handschin Group). To spice things up, the organizing committee took advantage of the online format of the PhD Retreat and introduced a “flash-talk” contest for the first time. The best flash-talk was prepared by Maxim Kolesnikov (Marek Basler Group).

After the intense scientific program, the participants could cool down with social activities and games. The record number of participants is very likely an indication that the students are looking forward to reconnecting and to sharing their work with their peers, as confirmed by the feedback left by the participants: “I really enjoyed the overall feeling of connecting with other PhD students. I very much liked the format of the poster sessions and I also loved the escape room!”; “I appreciated the openness of people, positive vibe even though virtual, very well organized.”; “Despite the circumstances, it was a fantastic event and the keynote speakers were outstanding!”

If you are a PhD student enrolled at the Biozentrum or Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Basel, and would like to help with the organization of the next PhD retreat, feel free to contact the PhD Representatives: