20 February 2019

3rd NaToxAq PhD-school and Midterm Review by the European commission

Written by all 16 ESRs

Halfway into our NaToxAq-journey, we met again – this time in nice and sunny Barcelona.

We enjoyed the sunny days, but also learned about screening methods for natural toxins in waters, environmental fate modelling as well as pollution control and mitigation in three independent scientific courses. Additionally, we had a joint course on Project Leadership, where we visualized and reflected on our leadership habit so far and actions to take to achieve our future goals.

However, the most exciting event during this meeting was the “Midterm Review” on February 7th and 8th. An external expert and our project officer from the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission were evaluating the implementation of the NaToxAq project, as well as our scientific and societal progress and outreach. We are very curious about their feedback!

We also arranged a Stakeholder meeting for NaToxAq stakeholders and partners, that was a great success: except our partners from the US Geological Survey that were restricted from travelling due to the Governmental shutdown, all our non-academic partners attended the stakeholder meeting! There were several input presentations from both the stakeholders and ESRs which gave us the opportunity to share our science and critically reflect on the future challenges and needs to provide safe drinking water.

In short: we, the ESRs, again very much enjoyed getting together as you can read in some personal highlights:

“I enjoyed meeting with the other ESRs and senior scientists to discuss progress and challenges in both science and personal life. Additionally, the complementary skill courses (this time project leadership) are strategically well placed and help me thinking about critical things timely in advance.”

“My personal highlight of the Barcelona Midterm Review was meeting the lovely and very welcoming NaToxAq team, as well as learning all about the initiative, as a whole and through both the stakeholders and ESR's perspectives.”

“It was awesome that we got to meet Bilal (ESR15) and Ellie (ESR16) who will start their employment at FERA in March and will finally complete the NaToxAq family!”

"I very much enjoyed that we were able to join the traditional Calçotada festival that is celebrated in late winter in Catalonia.”

“The scientific course was a great opportunity to discuss and assess the approaches to validate an analytical method, especially high-resolution mass spectrometry. In addition, the course was a good exercise to prepare an analytical method for a random given case of natural toxin analysis, such as Saponin and Ptaquiloside.”

"Besides strolling around the beautiful city of Barcelona, I enjoyed meeting and talking to all the members of the NaToxAq family. I also liked, that some of us ESRs were involved in the courses as lecturers, which shows that we become more and more aware of our role as the new generation of experts within NaToxAq and the scientific community in general."

“The S6 course “screening natural toxins” is quite relevant to my ongoing research work, provided just in time. Also, the Collserola Natural Park excursion was short but quite interesting, and I was impressed by many species in the region, those of which more adaptable to Mediterranean climate and rarely found in Scandinavia.”

"Barcelona School was unique in itself as it offered a diverse range of research activities that comprised of scientific courses, discussions, stakeholders meeting and group assignments. And of course i am in Love with Gothic Quarter and Creme Catalan."

“It’s always a pleasure to exchange our ideas and to show what we are developing and our progresses. That week has been very fruitful, including some very helpful input of the Project Officer. It also signed the halfway of your trip into the NaToxAq Project! I’m happy to say, as I saw, we are more or less at a good point of our research. So the question is: are we ready to finish this adventure and start with new explorations in the environmental chemistry world?”

“The NaToxAq family is coming together and showing it’s strength - by now we know each other so well that we truly can help each other reaching our research goals as well as assist with cultural issues.”

“The courses were very relevant for my project, so this time I enjoyed our PhD school a lot. Barcelona was a great destination for our meeting, a wonderful city with plenty to see!”

Photo credits: Kristine Kirkensgaard, Carina Schönsee (ESR9) and Xiaomeng Liang (ESR2)