Junior-GBM – An overview

On this post we find out about the aims, structure and activities of the Junior-GBM, the Junior Section of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM). Junior-GBM is part of the FEBS Junior Section.
Junior-GBM – An overview

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Interview with Alex Röntgen, one of Junior-GBM's representatives.
Watch the video to meet Alex Röntgen, one of Junior-GBM's representatives.

When was the Junior-GBM established?

While single city groups independently were already established in 2010, the Germany-wide Junior-GBM section was founded at the Mosbacher Kolloquium, which is the annual spring conference of the GBM, on 7th April 2011. This means this year we had our 10-year anniversary of the Junior-GBM on a federal level.

How many members do you have?

Of the roughly 5000 GBM members, there are currently around 1500 young members, so up to and including PhD level, of which around 600 are organized in city groups.

Do you have a specific structure?

There are currently 30 active city groups all around Germany, divided by regions. This is where the actual Junior-GBM life in the university cities happens, and where people meet. Then, there are also seven working groups operating on a federal level, that cover different topics including international or company collaborations, academic writing, alumni, social media, science communication and most recently mentoring for high school students transitioning to university to start studying life sciences. The working groups have around five to six members on average and members come from different city groups.

The Junior-GBM receives newsletters from the working groups regularly during the year and the work is distributed to the young members. Also, they present their work at the annual assembly of the Junior-GBM, and some of the working groups also have social media accounts, especially on Instagram. The working groups also network to try to recruit members from the Junior-GBM, or if someone is interested, they will just approach them and join the group, on the basis that everybody can participate if they would like to.

The federal working groups were created over time; also, some were abandoned after some years when the work became less frequent there, or it was realized that this was not the best way to approach something. On the other hand, the Junior-GBM really lives on the initiative of people, so if someone has a topic that they find very interesting, and they find enough other members to work on that, we can create new working groups at the annual assembly, where the assembly officially votes for this new working group, and then they can start their work. Every working group has a spokesperson, and this is how they are connected to the federal spokespeople. The spokespeople of the working groups are on the same levels as the spokespeople of the city groups - this is how the connection works.

What activities do you do?

There are many activities that usually happen regularly, e.g., in a city group. This includes talks with invited speakers, ‘meet the profs’ sessions, company visits, and social get-togethers. I hope that this will become usual again soon, after the pandemic stopped us from doing that.

How do you fit into the GBM?

The Junior-GBM is a non-autonomous subdivision of the GBM. That means, we cannot pursue any activities that are not in line with the GBM statutes. The Junior-GBM is represented by the two federal spokespeople that frequently communicate with our main office and are invited to the semi-annual GBM Board meeting, where they present the work performed during the year within the Junior-GBM. Apart from that, many active Junior-GBM members are in contact with our very welcoming and collaborative main office that helps us every day as much as they can with our work. This is how the representation and the collaboration with the main society works.

At the Mosbacher Kolloquium, there is also a Junior-GBM session, which is hosted by the Junior-GBM and where they invite the speakers and lead the talks. Also, the Junior-GBM general assembly is held in Mosbach, so this is how they come together: the Mosbacher Kolloquium is really the climax for both the main GBM and the Junior-GBM.

I think it is very useful that the GBM maintains contact persons in a large number of university cities and has the Junior-GBM city groups in place. This way, you can contact the cities where there are universities and really reach into the different years of study, to spread information. I think having this network of city groups is really useful to keep the Junior-GBM running and to reactivate its activities. While only young members are part of city groups (GBM members are not, as you do not have to live in a university city to be a member of GBM), reaching out into the different parts of Germany is really facilitated by having people in place. On top of this, the federal level of the working groups is like the ‘kit’: our annual federal events bring everybody together. However, what really happens locally - with the people you may know much better than others - that is up to the city group and really lives on their independence to organize events for themselves, to a certain extent.

Do you have a budget?

The Junior-GBM city groups do have a certain annual budget, which they can spend on the activities I mentioned earlier. They can also get additional funds for travel costs for speakers. Moreover, the GBM allows us a certain sum for the organization of our Junior-GBM summer symposium, which is held every year by a different city group.

How do you recruit more members?

I would say a lot of that work is done by the city groups because they can connect to students at their university, go to first year or higher year lectures and advertise the Junior-GBM, distribute flyers, and invite the students for a social get-together.

Of course, a large share of new members is also recruited at the Mosbacher Kolloquium, the annual GBM spring conference. Many students attend the conference and by coming into contact with the large number of Junior-GBM members, they join as well. The GBM subsidizes travel costs to the Mosbacher Kolloquium for students, which is very convenient for a lot of young members who want to participate and come from other parts of Germany.

During the pandemic we really felt that fewer young members were recruited due to the lack of these in-person events. But we are hopeful that in-person events will be possible again and we will be able to socialize again in the city groups.

In the experience of the GBM, the best way to reach out to students is through professors at the university, because they will distribute the information into the study courses and be a person to talk to both for the students and for the Society - they act as a relay in a certain sense. This might be a useful model for other Societies trying to set up a Junior Section, because I expect that in most countries there are professors who are already members of their Society. They could be advocates for the Society in their cities and a good way to start reaching out to the students.

What do you think motivates students and young researchers to volunteer for the Junior-GBM?

I think it’s really nice for students to have a group that is not necessarily only the students in their own year. They get to spend time with other Junior-GBM members discussing both scientific and other topics they find interesting, plus having a good time at social events in general. You instantly get access to a large network and can attend events, and obtain insights into companies or research groups you normally wouldn’t have access to. And, of course, you can become active yourself and contribute to a certain extent according to your preferences or your imagination on how you would like to propel things in the life sciences. You can be creative, especially in the Junior-GBM because it is very much reliant on the initiative of people, so people’s opinions are heard, and they can start things on their own initiative if they’d like to and they can gather enough people. That is really motivating for joining the Junior-GBM and becoming active.

What are the Junior-GBM aims for the FEBS Junior Section?

Our main aim, of course, is to connect young scientists across Europe. That can work both by holding joint events but also by encouraging our own and other Societies’ members to go abroad during their studies, by providing them with ‘experience reports’ and contact people to talk to. Especially nowadays that mobility is easier within Europe, we believe that this a great opportunity for young European students in the life sciences.

Creating a new Junior Section?

If you are interested in creating a new Junior Section in your Society, or consolidate an existing one, we encourage you to read the posts and watch the videos from the other Junior Sections (ÖGMBT’s Young Life Scientists Austria (YLSA), SIB Sezione Giovani, Young NVBMB, HDBMB Young Scientists’ Forum, SEBBM Junior Consuls, and the Biochemical Society’s Early Career Advisory Panel). And if your Society already has a Junior Section, please get in touch!

Help us spread the word about the FEBS Junior Section initiative by sharing our post on Junior Sections and overview video in your country and research community. Thank you!

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