EMBL in Spain


For more than 40 years, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Europe's flagship research center for basic research into the life sciences, has been seeding Europe's countries with highly trained scientists. Researchers who join EMBL take advantage of a truly distinct combination of a critical mass of scientists working in frontier areas of the molecular life science, access to some of the worlds most advanced technologies and research infrastructures, and exceptional training opportunities, all within a remarkably supportive, stimulating and collegial environment. After a maximum of nine years, they move on to take up positions in labs and scientific organisations in European countries, and throughout the world.

Spain, an EMBL member state since 1986, is no exception to this, and currently hosts more than 200 researchers and support staff who have passed through one of EMBL five sites. Barcelona is a hotspot for former EMBLers: more than 70 alumni are now working in research organizations such as the CRG, CSIC and IRB Barcelona. Five of IRB Barcelona's 24 group leaders - as well 3 administration department heads - are EMBL alumni.

It is within this context that the EMBL Alumni Association organised “EMBL in Spain,” an event held on 5 October 2016, co-hosted by the CRG. Eighty participants including 50 non-EMBLers, gathered to hear about up and coming science being done by EMBL alumni in Spain, to learn of the latest developments and opportunities at EMBL, and to discuss progress on the launch of a new EMBL site in Barcelona.

The science was as varied as it was inspiring. IRB Barcelona's Cayetano González discussed his findings on the identification of mutations that drive malignancy, using flies as tools to study cancer. From the Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa in Madrid, José Maria Almendral presented his work on ssDNA viruses that preferentially infect cancer cells, and Lola Ledesma discussed her research on genetic alterations of lipid metabolism using mouse models for brain disease and ageing. Juan Martínez Morales, from the Centro Andaluz de Biología del Desarrollo in Seville, focussed on eye morphogenesis and his group's efforts to quantitatively demonstrate basal constriction in the retina.

The programme was rounded out by an outline of opportunities for young researchers at EMBL given by current postdoc Marco Galardini, an update on the LIBRA project on gender equality by Isabelle Vernós, and a round discussion on funding within the ERC, H2020, and beyond, by ERC vice-president Núria Sebastian and the CRG's Michela Bertero and Gabriele Picarella.

Most importantly, however, the event provided a welcome opportunity for valuable networking. EMBL alumni events are held regularly in the Laboratory's 24 members states, are growing larger as alumni bring their networks to introduce to other alumni and to EMBL.

Fatima Gebauer (CRG) and Sarah Sherwood (IRB Barcelona) served as co-organisers of EMBL in Spain, and are elected members of the EMBL Alumni Association board.  They are always on the lookout for ways to strengthen connections between EMBL and the research environment in Spain. If you'd like to find out more about opportunities, or have suggestions or feedback, please get in touch with them.