MCAA Annual Conference

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”   Marie Curie

On 24th and 25th February, five TRAIN-ITN ESRs attended the Marie Curie Alumni Association Conference in Vienna. It was a very interesting and informative two days and ultimately a great success for Laura, who won the best poster presentation award in the Life Sciences Session. Here are their personal experiences of the event.

Vienna 1                                         Vienna 3
Yodit, Laura, Chiara, Swapna and Paris at the Conference                                                                  Vienna is a beautiful city

Yodit

The MCAA annual conference was not like most conferences we attend, which are usually focussed on  a specific scientific field. This was precisely why I, and perhaps the other ESRs too, were swayed to attend as this conference as it covered several topics that were just as important for our career developments but which are not normally prioritised as much. Hey, It also happens to be in the beautiful city Vienna, so of course full advantages of exploring the city after the conference were taken.

There were several sessions that interested me and I many will be very handy in the career decisions  that await me in the few years to come. I was most eagerly looking forward to attending the MCAA Individual fellowship sessionas I am interested in doing a post-doc so it seemed fitting I found out more about this programme. It is highly competitive simply because unlike most fellowships MSCA fellowships require  that the fellow is developing as a researcher, not simply providing the funding to do research; in fact it is very much the same as the MSCA TRAIN_ITN training  programme that we are lucky enough to be pursuing, which also encourages us to embark on  general trainings as researchers outside science. The session covered in-depth understanding of the fellowship, application processes and some excellent tips. This session was very useful, as we were informed in the requirements for the application and to plan ahead if we are to consider applying”.

 

Vienna 2

The orchestra played

 

Chiara

“I am a final year PhD student and like all my colleagues at this stage, I am still trying to answer a few questions. The most challenging still remains: What do I want to do after my PhD? Do I really want to stay in academia?

Attending the MCAA General Assembly was a very good opportunity to try and get some answers (as well as visiting a new city!) Participating to this meeting made me realise that there is life outside academia, there are plenty of jobs I can apply to and opportunities I cannot miss. Within two days I have learnt so many things that I don’t even know where to start.

  • Vienna 7I have learnt that we must stay confident and motivated, because we are good. We can understand complicated matters, we can cope with big amounts of data, we are experienced with electronic media, tools, computers, databases…We are great, aren’t we?!
  • I have learnt that we don’t have to be afraid of “big jumps” in career. That leaving academia ain’t a failure.
  • I have learnt that it is extremely important to communicate our job searches and ideas but also to explore others’ careers, working cultures and role models.
  • I have learnt that define a goal is always great but you also need to stay flexible because…. you never know!

However, the most important thing I have learnt is to stay healthy and do whatever makes us feel good and happy – the ‘Mental Health for Researchers’ session was probably the one that made me think the most. PhD students deal with a good amount of stress and anxiety every day. And sometimes it is just too much. I didn’t know but the number of students dealing with mental issues is huge and constantly increasing. That’s scary. But it is also something everyone should be aware of.

Our health comes first and we need to look after ourselves, always.

 

 

Swapna

After attending the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) satellite event in Toulouse, I was keen to participate in the 6th General Assembly & Annual Conference of the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA), hosted in the University of Vienna. This was an excellent opportunity for networking and attending plenty of sessions on career pathways.

The opening session was delivered by the keynote speakers Themis Christophidou from the European Commission and Anton Zeilinger from the Austrian Academy of Sciences. They were focusing on the general aims of MSCAA and empowerment of women in research.

Since all of us (TRAIN students) are starting the last year of PhD, it is quite essential for us to see what are the options available afterwards. Interestingly, the conference had numerous sessions focused on career development. They had invited some young entrepreneurs and scientists from industries to share their experiences outside academia. This perfectly coordinates with our industry internship coming up this year and giving us an idea about what to expect. Another session focusing on writing MSCA –IF project proposals gave detailed insights about the structure and requirements. This would be useful if we still want to continue in academia and give us excellent funding opportunities. During the poster session, it was exciting to disseminate the project to the general audience coming from different backgrounds.

One of the best things about these conferences is that you get to talk with not just the MSCA fellows but also the directors of MSCA and get their advice on various aspects. There were so many alumni joining from different fields under one roof, and this helped to network with people outside of academia and shared our unique experiences during the MSCA programme.

Lastly, as I registered for the conference, I got to know from my TRAIN peers that they were also interested in joining the conference. I had a wonderful time catching up and exploring Vienna with Chiara, Laura, Yodit and Paris. It felt like a mini TRAIN workshop in Vienna.

Paris

Vienna 6

Nothing could be more exciting than a workshop that can fulfill all your expectations. I was thrilled by how many Marie Curie-funded students have attended the workshop and how much effort the organizers put in the workshop to make it a memorable and fruitful experience for us. I also was excited to have a reunion with the university of Vienna, where I obtained my Masters degree. We had the chance to present our research through posters. Overviewing the other’s posters gave me the perspective that all of us were almost at a same stage in our research fields and this itself was a motivation to reject all the negative thoughts about being behind the schedule in our PhD. Speaking of negative thoughts, a short workshop was given about the mental health of researchers, which I found most interesting and helpful. It was clear  that many of us  are experiencing same issues during our PhDs, which helped me feel that I’m not alone in this. Among all other workshops, the one with the topic ‘’Branding yourself’’ was eye catching enough to make us take part in it. There, we learnt to be very active in social media and try to brand ourselves in our field. This could help develop new opportunities in scientific world and make new contacts with experts in the field. We also got to know a new position called ‘’ science communicator ‘’.

Last but not least, we, ESRs, had the opportunities to join each other, spend funny and exciting days in Vienna and not only enjoy the workshops and learn new stuff but also catch up in restaurants and bars of Vienna and do a cheer to a bright future.

 

Laura

Vienna 5

When I decided to join Chiara, Yodit, Paris and Swapna to attend to the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) General Assembly & Annual Conferencein at the beautiful city of Vienna I didn’t expect it to be as fun, interesting and helpful as it was.

 

At the conference we had the chance to learnt about career transition and jobs outside academia, tips and tricks for writing an Individual fellow project and how this funding cares about researchers and their training, the future of research and how to use social media to reach different public audiences and to increase the visibility of our science.

We also present our project at the conference and some of us decided to go for the digital poster presentation session, where we had to present our project in 2 minutes. It was challenging to compress  all our work into such short time but it gave us the opportunity to communicate  the broad view of our research and findings to  people working in different fields of life science, a skill that we all need. It was a nice surprise to win the poster prize, where the whole audience had the opportunity to vote for the best presentation/project.

After the conference, the freezing cold of Vienna didn’t stop us to visit this amazing city, recover energies eating the tasty Wiener Schnitzel with Viennese wine… a nice way to catch up with the girls outside science 😀

Vienna 4