12/12/2022 - News

Recalling memories of our first in-person project meeting and SciComm training school in the beautiful city of colours ‘Barcelona’

by Ayesha Feroz and Alireza Nameni

Consortium meeting:

After we ESRs had participated in the 13th International MaxQuant Summer School on Computational Mass Spectrometry-based Proteomics, the opening dinner of the consortium meeting was the first time that all PROTrEIN members, incl. supervisors, actually met in person. The venue was amazingly beautiful and close to the sea. Where we all enjoyed a delicious dinner, with the added bonus of a beautiful night time sea view.

A stunning sea view with a full moon that ESRs enjoyed was next to our dinner location.

ESRs and supervisors attended the consortium meeting on September 12 and 13. The meeting featured presentations of the various work packages, keynote addresses, reports, and a meeting of the supervisory board. The «Management and Coordination» presentation by the PROTrEIN coordination team opened the work package presentations. An overview of previous sessions, including «scientific project planning,» midterm check, and summer school, was given at the beginning of this presentation. It went on to talk about internal reporting before citing the impending deadlines. Lastly, a little overview of Ghent Winter school. The nicest part of the meeting was the speed dating session when all ESRs had been given a chance to briefly introduce themselves to other project supervisors.
The ESRs were well-prepared the following day to provide an update on the status of their research work. Many of us ESRs were rather anxious, not only because of the supervisors, but also because of the «time machine» that was set up to inform us of the allocated time. Nevertheless, everything went smoothly, and we received many useful ideas from the other supervisors to enhance our direction.

«Novel machine learning predictors» was the first work package presented by five of the ESRs. The next six ESRs presented their works about «New algorithms for mass spectrometry raw data processing». This series of presentations was completed in the afternoon with «Integration and visualization of omics data» presented by the final four ESRs.

Sharing one of the memories of our consortium meeting when Shamil was giving updates on his project and while most of us seemed at ease as they finished, several of us were feeling anxious as we were waiting for our turn.

After a long day, Jonas had planned a surprise cooking workshop for us. It was a great team-building experience where we made tasty and colorful tapas. We were instructed by two very nice chefs, they divided us into two groups of warm and cold tapas, and of course, they didn’t forget the vegetarian options. The chefs first provided us with instructions and recipes, which we then heartily enjoyed. Our favorite tapas were the salmon and avocado tartar with pistachios mayo, and cod fritters with honey allioli. Even thinking about those fantastic tapas right now makes us want to go back and try everything over and over again.

The image serves as proof that the PROTrEIN team is capable of doing anything as a team, including cooking, in addition to being excellent researchers.
Sharing the memorable picture of the dinner in which it is clear  that Arthur was thoroughly enjoying his food and didn’t give a damn about the camera.

The second day of the consortium meeting started with keynote lecturer Juan Antonio’s presentation on open-research and data reusability. The day was followed by presenting the remaining three work packages and discussing the upcoming winter school. The consortium meeting ended with supervisory board and coordination meetings, and all ESRs went to ELISAVA to start their science communication course.

A group photo of the PROTrEIN team following a productive consortium meeting.

Science Communication workshop

Design thinking for scientists was the first module of the workshop on science communication, and when we were asked at the beginning of the course “What we are expecting from this course?”, most of us thought it would be some spoken practice for our project presentations and visuals. However, it turned out to be much more than that.

Blanca Guasch steps in to explain how to apply design techniques to make our research more fruitful and efficient.  Design thinking involves several steps, including Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, and Implement. We created individual collages to illustrate the design thinking module Empathize, describing ourselves imaginatively with the aid of printed images, and describing how we are contributing to the PROTrEIN project.

Metaphors used by the ESRs

Another interesting exercise that we ESRs had done is to put our names on the PROTrEIN WPn map according to the importance and relation of our contributions to each module of the design thinking process. Then, for the Ideate section, we discover the links between various ESRs and how they relate to one another in terms of project goals, secondments, and research methodology.

The ESRs created a WPn map to show the connections between their projects

With the help of different metaphors, ESRs described the work bundles and processes like explaining machine learning, cross-linking concepts, etc.  After expressing our analogies to the group, we took into consideration their responses. After this engaging session 1, we all had some constructive ideas to use in our daily lives.

In the picture Zoltan was trying to find metaphors for crosslinking

On the second day of the course on science communication, Blanca began the session with «Presentation designs for scientists,» another fascinating and crucial module for ESRs. This lesson focused on speaking well, taking the initiative, and being creative in our presentations. To keep things simple, avoid presenting too much information at once, emphasize the importance of consistency and typography, employ various styles according to the situation, and utilize a variety of formats and resources. 

Ane Guerra started a fascinating discussion on science communication storytelling and explaining stories. We completed some exercises as part of the story-telling process by describing the major difficulty we encountered when describing our project and the qualities that stand us apart from the others. Also, most of us ESRs defined our project as if we were a superhero, along with its foes, strengths, and nemesis. Being able to connect your project with some superpower heroes was, in my opinion, not an easy task, but most ESRs were able to accomplish it creatively. Then, we got some tips for developing story-telling skills in our research, including the use of a clear message, consideration of the audience, and the communication context. 

In the explaining stories session, we discovered that we should be aware of the audience when discussing our research and should stick to the core idea the entire time. 

“The best storytellers deliberately listen, watch, and read.” 

The session concludes with some helpful advice on how to improve our public speaking abilities, including knowing your audience, taking breaks, dressing appropriately, using our hands/voices effectively, and soliciting feedback.

ESRs along with their mentors were busy doing their group project

Another relevant and interesting session for us ESRs is data visualization which is to embrace scientific complexity and transform it into a sympathetic visual story that improves all of its best features. 

We then discussed the process of mapping facts to visual structures, known as visual encoding. After that we went through how people in ancient times shared information about data I-e, the 1945 Molecular model of penicillin by Dorothy, and also discussed some good books which are based on data and visualizations.

Visual design lecture by Francesc Ribot ,the coordinator of the Graphic Design Area

In the last section of the course, we ESRs demonstrated our creativity by writing a video script while taking the public and expert audiences into consideration. A script for each audience had to be written according to a set of rules and to last for 60 seconds. Furthermore, we ESRs had been given the opportunity to present our posters and received feedback and discussion from our fellows and mentors. 

Last but not least, Jonas Krebs, all the mentors and the funding body deserves praise for organising such a relevant and informative science communication course for us ESRs. From this course, we have learned that better communication abilities enable researchers to share their discoveries with a wider audience and strengthen links within their scientific groups.

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