Young Scientists Retreat 2019

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When I first heard of scientific retreats at Institut Curie (Twitter here), I was surprised. But then I kept thinking of how would a scientific retreat work out. I mean, it would inevitably fall into a retreat or a scientific event. It would either be (1) a very pleasant experience to relax and get to know people, something like vacations from work with work peers (which could turn into us talking about work and then no vacations from work) or then (2) a scientific event just like any other. The two things at the same time? Quite unlikely, I thought.

These scientific retreats occur quite often at Institut Curie (and apparently in other research institutions in Europe too). The scientific retreats organized by ADIC (Association of “curieous” Ph.D. students and PostDocs of Institut Curie) happen once a year, and the scientific retreat of my unit, for example, happens every two years. There are also other retreats related to funding programs such as LabEx, an so on.

In the last scientific retreat organized by ADIC, they went to the Czech Republic. The one before was in Spain and this year it took place in Portugal. It’s always jointly organized by Institut Curie and a different institution so that we can also network with other researchers. This year it was along with researchers from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Twitter here), a Portuguese research institution.

Flyer of the Young Scientists Retreat 2019.

I wasn’t sure if I should go. I had plenty of things to do but in the end, the reasons that convinced me to go were: (1) Regardless of anything, it’s another opportunity to present my results and get feedback. (2) There are social events every week at Curie. Happy Friday, seminars, defenses, pot de départ, RATATOUILLE, so many things! But I’m almost always in the “Ph.D. mode” which means that I’m too focused on doing things strictly related to my Ph.D. This retreat could be an opportunity to know more people from the institute, including people that I know, mostly from running into each other in the corridors, but that we never really had a long conversation. (3) The fact that it was jointly organized with another research institution would allow me to have a glimpse of what they’re doing, how things work for them and network with researchers from other countries. (3) Some friends would go, so it couldn’t be that terrible. In the worst situation, at least I’d be with some friends. (3) It was a free trip to another country, everything included. Even though I’ve been in Europe for more than 1 year, the only country I have visited apart from France is the Netherlands. I’ve already been to over 70 cities in Europe during trips in the past (yes, I backpacked a lot when I was younger) but how come that now that I’m living in Europe I don’t travel!? Come on! Haha. I had to go!

Even in the most heavily scientific days of our agenda, there were several moments to eat something, have a coffee and discuss. The picture above represents one of these moments where I was having a conversation with Marci (from Hungary, on the left side of the picture) and Markus (from Germany, on the right side of the picture).

The scientific retreat managed to offer what I thought was impossible: A very pleasant retreat with a lot of science. The talks, oral presentations, and poster sessions were very interesting. And the funny part is that the best talk to me (mostly because it was related to network inference) was presented by another Brazilian! It was funny that the only Brazilians in the event were also the only ones working with network inference. By the way, we were about 50 people if I recall correctly. In one of the time slots, there was an indoor activity and an outdoor activity. You can see in the picture below the ones who decided to go hiking.

They had this smart idea to take us to a very remote city where our only option was to socialize haha. Even friends from Portugal had never heard of this city: Pedrógão Grande. The hike was pretty nice, with a lot of sightseeing. Since people walk at different speeds and it was such a long hike, I talked to many different people throughout the experience. The guide was also very nice and informative!

The poster sessions were pretty good and I received very good feedback during the presentation of my poster. It was my last opportunity to refer to myself as a 1st year Ph.D. student. No more excuses now, I’m officially in the 2nd year. It passed so fast! 😐

On the last night, we had a party with a DJ and lots of songs from Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. I did my best to stay there as much as I could but it’s just too hard for me these days. I like to talk, and there is not much space to have a conversation with loud songs 😛

On the last day, I shared with a friend something that is always in my mind: Whenever I see a small scientific event I think it’s not worthwhile attending, but for some reason, I go. Then, I get awesome feedback and I’m like: Wow, I should do this more often. Then another opportunity comes, I think it’s not worthwhile, for some reason I go and get the same awesome feedback and tell me the same thing! Haha.

I’d like to congratulate the organizers for this scientific retreat. They proved me wrong! It’s indeed possible to have a scientific retreat that is both scientific and relaxing. Other research institutes around the world should try to offer this to their researchers too! I’m talking to you too, Brazil!