Introducing the 2018 FEBS Congress

An interview with the Chair of the Organizing Committee

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Each year, the international FEBS Congress is hosted by one of the many learned societies that make up FEBS. For 2018, the Czech Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ČSBMB) has taken on the mantle, with the city of Prague chosen as a wonderful backdrop to the scientific discussion. Here, Prof. Tomáš Zima, Chair of the Organizing Committee, tells us about the plans. Explore the Congress website for all the details, including the upcoming deadlines.

Tomáš Zima is Rector of Charles University Prague, and Head of the Institute of Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine. His main research interests include oxidative stress, AGEs, experimental nephrology, tumour markers, and laboratory management. He is a member of Academia Europea, Czech Learned Society and other scientific societies.

Why Prague?

Prague and the year 2018 have a very symbolic meaning for us: 2018 will be 50 years since the first international gathering of life scientists in Prague in 1968 for the 5th FEBS Meeting, and also the 100th anniversary of the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia. We are therefore very proud to be able to host the upcoming FEBS Congress in Prague, Czech Republic and we look forward to welcoming researchers from around the globe – from the Americas to Europe to Asia – to a spectacular scientific gathering in our vibrant and cosmopolitan capital.

What experience does your committee and CSBMB bring to the organization of this event?

The Czech Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ČSBMB) is a well-established national biochemical society with a long history that has been involved in many European and international events. We organized several events for EMBO and ESF. However, the most relevant events were the previous FEBS and IUBMB (previously IUB) congresses, such as for FEBS in Prague in 1968 and 2009 and for IUB in 1988.

How was the speaker program developed and what does it offer?

The invited speaker program was put together by the local program committee working in close collaboration with the International Advisory Committee, and combines international scientific celebrities and other very distinguished scientists as well as younger colleagues with fresh ideas. We have a fantastic line up of plenary speakers, focusing on younger scientists at the prime of their scientific careers (see below). The range of symposia topics, such as structural biology with an emphasis on cryoelectron microscopy, RNA biology, nanotechnology, redox metabolism and clinically oriented topics will certainly be very attractive for a variety of students and scientists interested not only in biochemistry but in life sciences in general.

What do you expect to be some of the hot topics at the event?

In light of the fact that the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was recently awarded ‘for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution’ the 43rd FEBS Congress will likely reveal a flurry of new results in this rapidly advancing area of biomedical research. Other areas attracting attention currently include molecular virology of Zika virus, roles of non-coding RNAs, and of course CRISPR approaches. New stories and emerging technologies will also be showcased at the poster sessions, which will report significant unpublished results, and in speed and short talks selected from submitted work.

How important is it for scientists to attend a broad conference?

I am deeply convinced it is a must. At a certain stage of your career you believe that the only practical conference to attend is a highly specialized meeting of your field where you get the most updated information and meet all the relevant people in one spot. It takes some time and maturity to realize that it is not enough. We all live in our own bubbles, and not only in science – it is very important to step out of your bubble occasionally, to see the ‘bigger picture’, to put your own research into a larger context, and to understand what people in other fields are doing and whether it could have some relevance to your own work. The cross-fertilization of ideas and approaches is very beneficial and refreshing. And sometimes, in times of change as our present time clearly is, it is simply important to come together and show our unity and joint interest in sharing ideas, international cooperation and friendly competition of minds and thoughts.

What are your tips for those coming to a FEBS Congress for the first time for getting the most from the experience?

At the 43rd FEBS Congress we will be welcoming students and young scientists into a large family of colleagues. Make the most of the chance to meet famous biochemists from all over the world and listen to their lectures, including work from outside your own research area. In addition, take the opportunity to present your own work at this international event. Poster sessions are a good way to make new contacts.

What support schemes are available to help early-career scientists?

At FEBS Congresses, there is a low registration fee for young scientists. In addition, early-career scientists presenting their work at the event may be eligible to apply for FEBS bursaries. Postdocs and PhD students selected for the FEBS Young Scientists’ Forum will also receive financial support to attend the Congress. Details of these and other schemes are on the Congress website.

What are your own recommendations for three things to see in Prague?

Honestly speaking, recommending only three things to see in Prague is hopelessly little. Prague is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ‘the city of a hundred spires’. Luckily for you, the summer weather is ideal for sightseeing walks even during evenings or night cruises on the Vltava river that will allow you to enjoy the magic of lit-up Prague, and thus you won’t miss out on the attractions while still attending the Congress! A free public transport ticket will be offered to all Congress participants which will make ‘discovering Prague’ even easier. But to finally answer your question, such exploration of Prague should include the Old Town with the old Jewish Quarter, Lesser Town settlement around the Prague Castle, and for those who wish to escape from the summer heat I can recommend the Palace Gardens in the Lesser Town or the Petřín hill with a lookout tower reminiscent of a small Eiffel Tower. On the other hand, a mug of cold and invigorating Czech beer is also a good way to cool down during the summer temperatures! 

What are you most looking forward to at the Congress?

As an international scientific exchange forum, the 43rd FEBS Congress is poised to broadcast cutting-edge developments in biochemistry, molecular biology and related areas to the scientific community at large, as well as to the public. Noteworthy events will include lectures by a Nobel Laureate, FEBS Medal recipients, the 2018 FEBS│EMBO Women in Science Award winner and other awardees.  However, what I personally look forward to most is meeting old friends and colleagues and making new friendships because a FEBS Congress is all about meeting people. Come and join us!

Congress website:

Modified from an article first published in FEBS News November 2017, pages 21–23:

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