The lonely yeast cell


Once upon a time there lived a yeast cell called Buddy
Who was loved and cared for by everybody
He lived in a palace of glass and steel
Right on top of a big green hill.

He loved to dress up, and play and travel
And was always ready for a nice warm cuddle.
But one thing bothered Buddy at night
When the palace staff all left the site.

He felt alone and scared in the dark
And couldn’t wait for the day’s first spark.
He was a cutie, slightly chubby
Yellow, green and purple, soft and fluffy.

He visited places all the time,
Even once pursued a crater climb.
He longed for someone just like him,
But thought the chances were quite slim.

As time passed by, the thought remained,
But no solution came to his lonely brain.
The pressure soon became too much
He grew so round he could hardly budge!

Soon he couldn’t walk or move,
So he just lay down, stuck in the groove.
Early next morning, he yawned and groaned
And suddenly his other side moaned.

There were four limbs, a belly and head,
That smiled at him and mischievously said:
“Good morning, how are you today?
What a wonderful place you have to play”

And suddenly Buddy understood,
His weight, his size, his changing mood.
He had his longed-for friend at last!
“But what shall I call him?” Buddy asks…

We need your help to name Buddy’s bud! Head to our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages and write your name suggestions in the comments. EMBL Events will choose the best name on 8th April 🙂 #namebuddysbud #WorldPoetryDay

Meet the Trainer – José Eduardo González-Pastor

meet the trainer - eduardo gonzalezJosé Eduardo González-Pastor – one of the main organisers at the upcoming EMBO Practical Course: Microbial Metagenomics: A 3600 Approach (12 – 19 June 2019) – conducts his research on the mechanisms of adaptation of microorganisms to extreme conditions using metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches at the Center of Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA) in Madrid, Spain.

What is the greatest benefit of the course for the scientific community?

One of the greatest difficulties in the study of microbial communities is that a large percentage of the environmental microorganisms can not be cultivated. Numerous tools, called “omics” have been developed, such as metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and metaproteomics, which allow access and study of all microorganisms in these communities. In this course, we explain most of these methodologies from theory and practice, and how to use them to properly design experiments to answer certain scientific questions related to microbial communities.

What could the techniques in this course be used for in the bigger picture?

The “omics” techniques allow us to better understand the functioning of microbial communities in their natural environment and not exclusively in laboratory conditions. In addition, one of the techniques, namely functional metagenomics, is very useful for recovering enzymes of interest in biotechnology from the microorganisms of the environment.

Are the methods used in this course unusual or new?

In the course we will explain some recent methods in functional metagenomics, such as the screening of metagenomic libraries using microfluidics techniques.

In comparison to other training environments, what do you enjoy most about teaching at EMBL?

The support from the EMBL Course and Conference team in the organisation of the course is impressive. All the logistics and other matters such as the preparation of the laboratory are handled very professionally by them. We, as trainers and organisers, only need to dedicate ourselves to coordinating the scientific part, and that leaves us time to interact with the students.

What challenges is your research field facing?

The methods of massive sequencing of DNA are generating a lot of information, but we still do not understand the function of a very high percentage of genes, which encode hypothetical or unknown proteins. Even for Escherichia coli, the best studied of all organisms, half of all the proteins encoded in its genome, around 2,000, have never been experimentally characterised. Thus, we need the combination of new and classic methods to be able to understand the molecular functioning of the organisms.

What, in your opinion, is the most crucial scientific discovery of the past 100 years?

The discovery of the structure of DNA.

What is the most interesting paper you’ve read in the past year?

GABA-modulating bacteria of the human gut microbiota. Nat Microbiol. 2019 Mar;4(3):396-403. doi: 10.1038/s41564-018-0307-3. Strandwitz P, Kim KH, Terekhova D, Liu JK, Sharma A, Levering J, McDonald D, Dietrich D, Ramadhar TR, Lekbua A, Mroue N, Liston C, Stewart EJ, Dubin MJ, Zengler K, Knight R, Gilbert JA, Clardy J, Lewis K.

Human microbiota and depression!! Microorganisms are much more relevant than we thought.

Where is science heading in your opinion?

Applied research is being favoured more than basic research, and it is a serious mistake, since much of the advances in applied science have their origin in basic research. The scientific community faces very complicated challenges in applied science without having solved many basic questions about the functioning of organisms. How can we undertake the search for new tools to fight pathogenic microorganisms if we still do not know the function of a large majority of their proteins?

What was your first ever job?

Postdoctoral position at Harvard University, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Cambridge, MA, USA.

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

Architect, musician or chef, in this order.

What is the strangest or funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?

It was not so funny but strange. In the first course that I collaborated as a trainer and speaker (not as an organiser), “Metagenomics: From Bench to Data Analysis”, the two EMBO organisers had to leave in the middle of the course for personal and urgent reasons, and suddenly one of the course assistants gave me the keys of the rooms and I had to take responsibility for organising the course until the end. Possibly I did not do it badly, since the EMBO organisers decided to invite me to be also an organiser of the following editions of this course, which is now “Metagenomics: a 360º Approach”.

If you were a superhero what power would you have?

To be able to access the minds of others.

What is your bucket list for the next 12 months?

Decrease administrative tasks and complete the writing of several pending articles.

What holiday tip can you give people – e.g. a place / restaurant / attraction you have visited in the world that people should definitely make the effort to see?

To visit the Antarctic.

What is the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?

Crossing the Drake Passage (Sea of Hoces) by ship to go from Punta Arenas (Chile) to the Antarctic.

What is your favourite book?

The Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, by Esther Meynell

What is your favourite recipe? Please provide details!

Black rice with seafood (paella negra de marisco, in Spanish). Rice is cooked in a sauce with tomato, red and green peppers and onions, then it is added a broth made with fish, seafood remains and squid ink. During cooking, shrimps, clams, squids and green beans are added.

EMBL bag around the world competition – win €350!!!

Have you attended an event at the EMBL Advanced Training Centre since it opened in March 2010 and kept your welcome bag as a souvenir? If the answer is yes, you have the chance to join a fun project and win a cash prize! Just post a picture of the EMBL or EMBO bag in any location around the world using the hashtag #EMBLbag and @emblevents, or send your photo to to enter the competition. Be sure to include the location in your post, and you’re in the running for a chance to win €350 for 1st place, €150 for 2nd place, and €50 for 3rd place! See terms and conditions below for more details.

Some of the entries from our 2013 competition – do you think you can do better?

Bag around the world competition – Terms and Conditions

  1. Your Picture

The picture must be submitted either by using the hashtag #EMBLbag and handle @EMBLevents on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, or by submitting via the e-mail address We encourage creativity and ideally, it should be possible to recognise the location in which the picture was taken without any captions. The EMBL bag should be clearly visible on the picture.

  1. Conditions of Participation

This competition is run by the EMBL Course and Conference Office, and is open to everyone except EMBL Staff or family members. Participants are permitted to enter this competition more than once. Entries submitted after 31 December 2019 will not be accepted.

All participants must be at least 18 years old.

Any application that does not meet these criteria will not be eligible.

By entering the competition, participants agree to the terms and conditions of participation and the following:

  • Your entry to this competition constitutes your agreement to allow your photo (your name and country of residence) to be published and shared for an unlimited number of times on EMBL social media channels, and may be used for other purposes at the discretion of EMBL’s Course and Conference Office.
  • Participants retain ownership and all other rights to future use of their photos.
  • By entering, participants warrant that his or her entry materials are original, and do not infringe on any third party’s rights.
  • By entering, participants release EMBL and the members of the jury from any liability for any incorrect information, loss, claim or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with the photo competition or any prize won. EMBL shall have the right to verify, in its sole judgement, winner eligibility.
  • Decisions of EMBL shall be final and binding.
  1. Copyright and photo publishing

By submitting the picture you agree that EMBL receives the right to use the picture, your name and country of residence for the purposes of this competition. This includes, but is not limited to, making the picture available electronically on internet sites and adapting it where required for technical reasons.

All pictures will be published on one or more EMBL Events social media platforms (Facebook, Blog, Twitter, Instagram) and will be freely accessible to the general public. You agree that we publish your name (but not your e-mail address) alongside your picture.

  1. Prize

1st prize is a cash prize of €350.

2nd prize is a cash prize of €100

3rd prize is a cash prize of €50.

  1. Winner Selection

The EMBL Course and Conference Office will shortlist the best photos and the winner will be selected from these pictures by an online voting process which will take place between 1 January and 31 January 2020. The winners will be selected based on the number of votes received. Any entries suspected by the organisers of obtaining votes in an immoral manner (for example buying votes) will be disqualified from the competition. Voters may only vote once per entry. The winner who has collected the most votes for his/her picture, will be announced on the competition website and on Facebook and Twitter.

The winner will be contacted by the EMBL Course and Conference Office to request bank details for a bank transfer, and shall receive their prize within two weeks after that.


Easter with Buddy

We decided that in 2019 – for no other purpose than to make Buddy feel included at Easter time – we would create a Buddy pancake for Shrove Tuesday, aka “Pancake Day”.

Having enlisted the help of some very competent pancake makers (aged 3 and 6), we got to work creating our masterpiece.

After studying the subject in great details (i.e. we looked at some photos of Buddy on Instagram), we mixed the batter that would shape Buddy. After making the first few pancakes, we started sculpting. Although we may not have made the shape to perfection, the two pancake makers were more than satisfied!

Decorating Buddy got a bit messy, but we made it in the end. Some ricotta cheese served as “glue” for our green spinach, yellow mango and purple Serrano ham.

And here you have it – our very own Buddy Pancake! Not only does he look like our favourite little yeast cell, but he was also surprisingly delicious! Well, for the grownups at least – the pancake makers drew the line at the thought of eating spinach!

Buddy the pancake vs. Buddy the doll – can you even tell the difference?!

The Recipe:
We took the basic pancake recipe from here:

Apparently we are big pancake fans, as we multiplied this recipe by three and it was just right for a family of four!

Unfortunately he didn’t last long!

What’s in a book?

Imagine a world with no books. No curling up in front of the fire with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, no following Huckleberry Finn on his adventures, and no War and Peace to use as a doorstop. And how would we ever have learned that there are so many shades of grey?!

Although our abstract books are perhaps not quite as page turning as Harry Potter, they are the culmination of a lot of hard work from scientists, designers, printers and our wonderful Conference Officers/Book Editors!

Depending on the conference, our abstract books can range from “booklets” to 500 page tomes. They comprise all information relevant for a conference participant, including the programme, sponsors, poster numbers, participant contact details and of course – most importantly – the abstracts. Despite the introduction of an event app some years ago in the hope to reduce our carbon footprint, the printed abstract books are still loved and requested by the majority of our conference participants.

Abstract books through the years

Our amazing Conference Officers are not only responsible for the planning and smooth running of our conferences, they are also required to take on the role of book editor, which involves:

  • Extracting and sorting the abstracts from our registration system
  • Assigning the short talks and speakers
  • Coordinating the artwork for the cover design
  • Ensuring all sponsors and corporate partners are correctly represented
  • Assigning poster numbers
  • Sending to print
  • Packing the books into the conference bags
The printing process – so many steps involved!

So next time you grab your abstract book at a conference, take a moment to think about the wonderful people responsible for putting the little bundle of paper in your hands!

Just a few of the abstract books produced over the past years