Introducing the 2020 FEBS Congress

The 45th FEBS Congress will take place in Ljubljana, Slovenia,4–9 July 2020. Here, the Congress Chair, Prof. Janko Kos, introduces the Congress location and programme plans, and offers some tips for first-timers.

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Why Ljubljana as a Congress host city?

Ljubljana is a vibrant central European city with an indelible touch of the Mediterranean, a city whose name means ‘the beloved’. Ljubljana is also a strong academic centre with the oldest Slovenian university and many research institutions, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and a number of companies developing advanced technologies. As the capital of Slovenia it can be easily accessed from all parts of Europe and is an ideal destination for hosting eminent scientific events, offering appropriate meeting infrastructure and accommodation facilities.

On the other hand, Ljubljana prides itself on being a relaxed, friendly and cosmopolitan city. Due to the city’s compact size, meeting venues, hotels and places of interest are conveniently within walking distance. Ljubljana also offers many historical sites, dating back to Roman and medieval times, a beautiful old town and a picturesque landscape. Apart from green being the official colour of Ljubljana (and of the Congress), Ljubljana strives hard to implement green environmental policies and was therefore selected European green capital in 2016. Ljubljana is also an ideal starting point for excursions to other parts of Slovenia, such as coastal, alpine or pannonian regions, as well as to neighbouring countries.

The 45th FEBS Congress will in fact be the second time the FEBS Congress has been organized in Ljubljana – the first occasion was in 1987. Several things have changed since this time; however, the hospitality and friendliness of Ljubljana and Slovenia have remained the same.

What led to two FEBS Constituent Societies organizing this Congress?

The 45th FEBS Congress is organized jointly by two FEBS Constituent Societies in neighbouring countries: the Slovenian Biochemical Society (SBD) and the Croatian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (HDBMB). Our previous collaboration on the organization of three very successful FEBS3+ Meetings (meetings supported with FEBS funding and involving three or more FEBS Constituent Societies) held in Opatija, Croatia (2012), Portorož, Slovenia (2015) and Siofok, Hungary (2018), as well as other jointly organized conferences and events, show strongly the profound cooperation between our two societies. We firmly believe that, building on these experiences and with our combined efforts, hosting the FEBS Congress together in Ljubljana will be of great impact in promoting molecular life sciences not only for our two countries but throughout Europe and beyond.

Due to our well-established partnership we decided to offer the new idea of organizing the pre-Congress FEBS Young Scientists’ Forum (YSF) and the FEBS Congress in different countries: the 20th FEBS YSF will take place in the lovely Mediterranean town of Lovran in Croatia, only 135 km from Ljubljana, before participants transfer together to the 45th FEBS Congress in Slovenia.

Ljubljana at a glance: ● The capital of Slovenia, with 300,000 inhabitants ● A modern and
compact city with a rich heritage, combining facilities and efficiency of a metropolis with the
relaxed ambience of smaller towns ● A university city with a young and dynamic pulse,
fuelled by 50,000 university students ● A harmonious blend of Baroque, Art Nouveau and
newer architectural styles ● A city crowned by a medieval castle, protected by a mighty dragon
and crossed by the river of seven names ● A city that loves and respects greenery – parks and
forest areas spread right into the urban centre. Beyond Ljubljana: ● Lake Bled (45 km), a world-
renowned paradise and a symbol of Slovenia’s beauty ● Postojna cave (50 km) and Škocjanske
cave - Unesco heritage (70 km) – magical underground worlds ● Triglav National Park (70 km),
with spectacular Alpine mountain ranges and high peaks, beautiful glacial lakes and rivers, and
other attractions ● Piran (120 km), the most beautiful place on the Slovenian coast

How has the speaker programme been planned?

The development of the Congress programme and the list of invited plenary and symposia speakers started immediately after the approval of our Congress bid by the FEBS Council two years ago. The International Scientific Committee, consisting of 78 eminent scientists from 22 countries, prepared a proposal for the speakers and sessions, finally confirmed by the Congress Program Board. Under the general slogan for the Congress of ‘Molecules of Life: Towards New Horizons’ the programme has been prepared on one side to represent the state of the art in ‘classical’ topics in biochemistry and molecular biology, such as protein turnover, structural biology, molecular genetics, and biotechnology and, on the other, to provide current trends and perspectives in dynamic and emerging fields, such as molecular and precision medicine, systems biology, and regenerative medicine. Additionally, we address some of the crucial problems of modern society, such as environmental pollution, food production, aging and age-related diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration.

Altogether, 135 invited plenary and symposia lecturers will present their outstanding research findings in 12 plenary and 40 scientific sessions. Several plenary lecturers will be awarded annual medals and prizes. The opening and closing plenary lectures will be delivered by Nobel Prize Laureate Sir Richard Roberts (New England Biolabs, Ipswich, USA) and Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Institute, Berlin, Germany), respectively.

The speaker programme will be further enriched by FEBS Special Sessions (organized by FEBS committees), Early-Bird Sessions, and many concise talks as a result of selection of work by the International Scientific Committee from submitted abstracts – as mentioned further below. 

How is the Congress supporting early-career scientists?

Participation in FEBS Congresses offers several benefits to young scientists. It provides an opportunity to be inspired by talks from top scientists from a range of research areas, to meet them in person and ask questions. To stimulate discussions, a ‘Speakers’ corner’ will be organized to get speakers and delegates together during coffee breaks and lunch. Additionally, the Congress gives the chance to meet representatives of important scientific organizations like the European Research Council, publishers and scientific companies, and to attend FEBS Special Sessions on topics such as research and career skills and on education.

The FEBS 2020 Congress offers the opportunity for all participants to present their recent results as poster presentations in different poster sessions, this year with slightly changed guidelines. All posters will be displayed for at least two days giving a lot of time either for presenting your own poster or for visiting others. Furthermore, this time we are offering greater talk opportunities for abstract submitters: as well as selecting abstracts for Short Talk slots in the Symposia, we plan six Speed Talk Sessions that will enable 5-min presentations of work (also presented as posters) to a broader audience. Furthermore, we will also be featuring work from invited early-career scientists from the host countries in Early-Bird Sessions at 08:00. In the evening, two events named ‘Science on the street’ will be organized in the old city with the aim to popularize science and to present something of the FEBS Congress to local society.

To help young scientists attend the Congress, a low registration fee is set for under 35s. Also, many FEBS bursaries will be available to support participation of early-career scientists coming from outside the host countries to the event, and the host societies SBD and HDBMB will also offer bursaries to their young members. Details of support schemes are on the Congress website.

Any tips for FEBS 2020 for those coming to a FEBS Congress for the first time?

First, the speaker programme... Take the opportunity to not only listen to but also meet and talk to famous scientists from all over the world. Also, the Congress will provide a number of sessions from outside your own research area – use those to get new ideas, to broaden your view on life science and enhance your perspectives for your further work and career.

Second, the presentation opportunities… Do not be intimidated by the size of the Congress – take the opportunity to present your work to a broad international audience. Poster sessions are a good place for debate on your results and may give you a range of ideas from different people.

Third, it’s not only about the latest research findings… The Congress will include sessions on improving your career skills – put them in your agenda. In addition, visit the exhibition booths and tell the exhibitors your demands on equipment, reagents and protocols, or enquire about possibilities to obtain scholarships or to publish your results in high-impact journals.

Fourth, expand your network of contacts… Do not miss the social events, organized to facilitate interactions between delegates. Besides coffee and lunch breaks, the Welcome Reception and Congress Excursion & Dinner at Lake Bled will be a good time for new acquaintances and contacts.

And finally... Take some time to explore the city and enjoy a drink at the banks of the Ljubljanica river in the city centre!

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Janko Kos is a professor of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ljubljana, and served as a Head of the Dept of Biotechnology at the Jozef Stefan Institute from 2005 to 2019. He is President of the Slovenian Biochemical Society and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. His research group is studying the role of the proteolytic system in development, progression and treatment of cancer and neurodegeneration.
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Modified from an article first published in FEBS News November 2019, pages 30–32: https://www.febs.org/news/newsletter/

45th FEBS Congress website: https://2020.febscongress.org/

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