As a relatively new FEBS Long-Term Fellow, it was the first time I attended a meeting. Accordingly, I was not exactly sure what to expect nor how to prepare a presentation for a group I know little about. Skimming the meeting’s booklet revealed varied research interests: plant growth, neuroscience, autophagy, synthesizing minimal life, pharmacological applications of NMR and more. With that in mind, I tried to prepare good introductory slides and hoped for the best.
I arrived in Krakow a few hours before the opening event, which allowed me to leave my bag in the lovely hotel room and enjoy a sunny afternoon by the Vistula river. The fellows’ meeting was embedded in the YSF conference, which meant a probability of only ~1/8 to bump into another fellow by chance but thanks to some friendly chaperons, most of us found ourselves next to the same table at the buffet.
The YSF talks held in the big auditorium, the poster sessions, lunchtimes and joint activities all made for a vibrant setting to meet new scientists (mostly PhDs and postdocs). Additionally, the fellows’ meeting had its own independent schedule woven into the YSF program. Together with Profs. Krol and Hartig, we convened in a smaller room to hold our seminars. The unfamiliar group soon turned out to be individual friendly faces with a genuine interest in sharing scientific knowledge. It was a good opportunity to hear of research topics I am not exposed to as part of my work as well as to get feedback on my own project from different perspectives. In between talks, we tried to think of the best way to maintain an active fellows’ community. It was evident people felt grateful for the support they receive and want to give back by mentoring or counselling new fellows.
Two days of the conference were concluded by social events: a visit to SOLARIS, a synchrotron radiation center and a tour in Krakow’s salt mine. Both were light and well-organized activities. In these events I had one-on-one conversations with former fellows, who shared their own personal experience concerning life choices during the postdoc period, maintaining a good work-life balance, and the challenges in setting up an independent research group. I believe these topics are highly relevant for any postdoc in STEM and being able to discuss them with several people who are in a similar career stage is somewhat of a rare occasion (at least for me).
Krakow’s salt mine is an impressive, centuries-old maze of tunnels and halls. At the end of the tour we were treated to a fancy dinner (great vegan food!) and dance party. We were very pleased to wine and dine and to later re-affirm some stereotypes concerning scientists’ ability to dance. Well, at least we swore to each other that what happens in the mine stays in the mine.
On the Saturday after the meeting we all toured Krakow together, losing roughly one fellow per hour to Krakow’s airport. Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves very much and I hope our paths will soon cross again. All in all, the fellows’ meeting was a wonderful treat both scientifically and socially.