FEBS Short-Term Fellowships insights: to Paris and London in 2023

FEBS Short-Term Fellowships support research visits by early-career researchers in the FEBS area to a host lab in a different FEBS country for collaboration, advanced training or access to certain techniques. Two recent awardees share the experience of their Fellowships here.
FEBS Short-Term Fellowships insights: to Paris and London in 2023

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Maria Bošković at the HDBMB22 conference of the Croatian
 Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (HDBMB).

Maria Bošković
is a postdoctoral fellow working at the University Hospital of Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute of Biochemistry 2, Frankfurt (Main), Germany, studying the maintenance of genomic stability in a model for accelerated ageing. Her 2023 FEBS Short-Term Fellowship was carried out in the group of Deborah Bourc
’his at the Institut Curie, Paris, France.

Why did you apply for a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship?
I applied for a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship (STF) at an advanced stage of my PhD project. I saw this application not only as an opportunity to advance the project but also as an excellent chance to initiate a new collaboration, receive valuable input from colleagues at the host laboratory – Epigenetic Decisions and Reproduction in Mammals, Institut Curie – and acquire additional competencies in a transition to a postdoctoral position.

What was it like settling into your new lab/city?
The adaptation involved a combination of professional and personal adjustments. Professionally, I quickly immersed myself in the research culture of the lab, familiarizing myself with ongoing projects, methodologies, and team dynamics. I actively collaborated with colleagues to integrate into the workflow. On a personal level, adapting to the new city was equally rewarding. During my free time, I explored the rich cultural heritage of Paris. Overall, the process of settling in not only enhanced my professional skills but also enriched my personal life by exposing me to new perspectives and experiences.

Did you achieve your research aims? 
We initially encountered some challenges in the experimentation procedures that required optimization. However, most of my research objectives were successfully reached, enhancing our previous observations. A significant advantage of my fellowship was the feedback I received from experts in the field of DNA methylation and heterochromatin regulation, as well as the implementation of novel methodologies in my research. This allowed me to acquire new skills and knowledge, adding substantial value to my research experience.

What else did you learn or enjoy?
Just before I arrived in Paris, I immersed myself in Marie Skłodowska-Curie's biography, which left me deeply captivated by her life and the challenges she overcame as one of the pioneering female scientists, paving the way for future generations of women in the field of science. The privilege of working in proximity to the Radium Institute was an added source of inspiration. She remains the sole scientist to have ever received Nobel Prizes in two scientific categories (physics and chemistry) for discovering polonium and radium and using radiation in medicine. Subsequently, her daughter Irene continued the research there with Frédéric Joliot and discovered artificial radioactivity, an achievement that earned them a Nobel Prize in chemistry.

What would be your advice to someone interested in applying for a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship?
During the application process, new collaborations are established, and as you write a proposal you simultaneously engage in the development and a concise presentation of the project. Additionally, the experience you gain in terms of knowledge, cultural adjustment, and creating new connections is invaluable. Finally, the FEBS STF enhances your CV, indicating your willingness to collaborate and your ability to secure grants through your research proposals and past engagements. Hence, I recommend this experience to those considering similar applications.

What are your current/next aims?
As a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Biochemistry in Frankfurt, I am conducting a comprehensive biochemical characterization of a recently discovered protein complex that could be relevant for premature ageing and liver cancer susceptibility. My objective is to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms behind these biological entities in the progeroid (premature ageing) syndrome. In a dynamic research environment, I aim to expand my knowledge and translate it to younger scientists, fostering a collaborative atmosphere where we can learn, grow, and contribute to our collective pursuit of scientific excellence.

Pol Sisó Camarasa at Tower Bridge, London, during the Fellowship

Pol Sisó Camarasa
is a PhD student working in Lleida, Spain at the IRB Lleida, in cancer research. He was awarded a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship to carry out an internship in the group of Victoria Sanz-Moreno at the Barts Cancer Institute of London, UK, in 2023.

Why did you apply for a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship?
I was looking for funding sources for my PhD internship in London, and discovered FEBS offered this grant for their members. Thanks to this Fellowship I could arrange an international stay to further my research.

What was it like settling into your new lab/city?
There were a lot of Spanish people in my lab, so there was not too much “cultural” difference and all of them were super helpful. The settling into the city was different, but not difficult.

Did you achieve your research aims?
My aim was to learn how to work with biological samples from cancer patients and to acquire a new technique such as multiplex immunohistochemistry (IHC). At my host lab I was fortunate to be able to work with a great team who knew a lot about the subject. Thanks to that, I finished all my first proposed experiments although I needed more time to do that. Now I have been fortunate to be able to apply all this new knowledge in my laboratory in Spain.

Did you experience any particular challenges?
The bureaucracy. Before arriving, I had to do a lot of paperwork with the University. Also, once I was there, the University required me take an internal language exam without which I could not work. Once I started working in the lab, I did not have any problems; on the contrary, thanks to all the people at Barts Cancer Institute and Victoria Sanz-Moreno's lab, I had incredible and genuine support, so I never encountered any difficulties. It was a fantastic experience having both wonderful colleagues and training at the same time since they also cared about my wellbeing. I was very lucky to be there to enhance my abilities for my career progression.

What else did you learn or enjoy?
I learned many things related to bioinformatics and digital pathology, but the most valuable thing I learned was how to do proper science. Being able to do this internship in a great and well-funded centre allowed me to see that with money, resources and good planning, very good results can be obtained. It is a lesson that I will never forget. 

What would be your advice to someone embarking on a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship?
My advice would be not to be afraid, but be motivated and enjoy the experience. Don't be afraid to go to another country and get to know other cultures. Be motivated in what you do and always be interested in learning. It takes some time to get used to laboratories and new ways of working. At the end it may not matter whether you obtained all the results for your research: the most important thing is to meet new people and experience new ways of working. 

What are your current/next aims?
Right now, I am working on analysing the data I obtained in London, with the aim of being able to compare it with the clinical data of the patients and see if we can find any signatures to improve the current cancer treatments. Next aims are difficult to define, but in the near future I will defend my doctoral thesis and plan my postdoc. I know it is difficult, but in the future I would like to be able to participate in some research that has an impact on clinical application and can really help cancer patients.

FEBS Short-Term Fellowships are for scientists who have obtained their PhD degree within the past six years, and PhD students who have at least one published paper as a main author in an international scientific journal. They are usually for research visits of up to 2 months.
For more information, including full eligibility criteria and how to apply, see the Fellowships section of the FEBS website here. Applications can be made throughout the year.  

Top image of post: by USGS on Unsplash

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