28 June 2019

4th NaToxAq PhD school Leipzig 3-8 June 2019

Final PhD school

In June we attended our last PhD school before NaToxAq final conference in Brno next year.

Written by all 16 ESRs

The week started with a visit to the Rappbode Dam and Water Reservoir in the Harz Mountains. The dam is the highest in Germany and it forms the flood protection system for the eastern Harz. We had the chance to visit the inside of the dam and learn how all systems work. After a nice lunch outdoor on a sunny day, we headed the Bode River to walk in its surroundings and find some toxic plants on the way. 

On Tuesday we had the 2nd annual seminar and consortium meeting, in which us ESRs presented an update of our work since our previous PhD school in Barcelona, focusing on experimental work, collaboration, publications, conferences and outreach including popular science. Most of the ESRs had done interesting outreach activities and/or have several activities planned for the upcoming months. Right after the consortium meeting, we had a packed course about career workshop, given by Bjarne W. Strobel, with useful information to develop a career in e.g. academia, government, NGOs, industry and/or consultancy.

As part of the PhD school we attended the scientific course on "Environmental toxicology of natural toxins", that was held jointly by lecturers from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental research (UFZ) and the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX). As we are working on natural toxins and bioactive compounds, this course broadened our knowledge and helped us put the results into a context of toxicology. Amongst others, we discussed the definition of a toxin or toxic effects - which is of uttermost importance for the characterization of novel compounds identified and for the critical evaluation of environmental levels we measure for "our" natural compounds in waters.

"Novel analytical and computer tools for structure elucidation" was another major course during our Leipzig PhD school. The lecturers were from the host UFZ, and the invited speaker Reza Aalizadeh. We were able not only to enrich our knowledge but also practice newly got experience on several exercises such as compound structure identification and software application. Additionally, we visited analytical laboratories, where we could see first hand various sampling and on-site extraction equipment, chromatographs and mass spectrometers.

The PhD school was wrapped-up with a full-day course on grant writing, given by Dr. Anne Hamker. We received a very thoughtful overview of basic application techniques, the funding area and explored writing techniques.