Grime, filth and dirt

Today is Clean Off Your Desk Day! Yes, it’s true – this day apparently does exist, so we in the EMBL Course and Conference Office decided to take it to heart and do something about it.

After working hard all day, the last thing anyone wants to do is clean off their desk. Finding out about this day however made us think – how dirty are our desks really? Since we are at the source of science, we decided to turn it into an experiment, and took a look at the level of grime of the desk we sit at for eight hours per day.

Needless to say, we have now cleaned off our desks. Perhaps now we should start looking for jobs outdoors…

Event Advent Challenge 2018

Every year we embark on a quest to encrypt our events in senseless images for our event advent competition and it was overwhelming to see that so many of our Facebook followers sent us emails with the correct answers last year. The five winners were notified yesterday and we look forward to welcoming them at one of our events this year. We thank everyone else for their time and engagement and wish them more luck in the next competition.

And for everyone who missed what it was all about, here is the artwork that got so many people having to refresh their Facebook feed repeatedly in December. For a complete list of our 2019 events, please visit our website.

Happy Holidays!

The EMBL Course and Conference Team wishes you happy and joyful holidays! We will use the time to spend it with our families, wearing our Christmas sweaters, enjoying a hot beverage and relaxing to the sounds of evergreen holiday hits.

We wish you all a smooth transition to the new year and are excited about all the great things it will bring us all.

Have fun and see you again in 2019!

CCO Team

 

Organoids: Modelling Organ Development and Disease in 3D Culture

EMBO | EMBL Symposium – Heidelberg, 10-13 September 2018
Meeting report by Veronica Foletto

Following the huge success of the 2016 symposium ‘Organoids: Modelling Organ Development and Disease in 3D Culture’, Hans Clevers, Jürgen Knoblich, Melissa Little, and Esther Schnapp joined forces to organise a second such symposium this year. On the afternoon of 10 September, 460 scientists from all over the world gathered in the auditorium of the EMBL Advanced Training Centre (ATC) in Heidelberg.

Hans Clevers, a leading expert on organoids, welcomed everyone and led the opening session. The first keynote lecture was given by Jürgen Knoblich, who reported on progress in his lab using cerebral organoids to model the complexity of the human brain and, in particular, to study microcephaly. The subsequent talks showed how organoids derived from different tissues provide useful models for the recapitulation of certain diseases such as Helicobacter pylori infection and secretion of the VacA toxin in the stomach, as discussed by Xuebiao Yao or models of early development, with Nicolas Rivron introducing the blastoid: a type of organoid similar to an early embryo, which can be used to study developmental processes in 3D.

The second day began early with an interesting ‘Meet the Editors’ session, in which scientists had the chance to talk directly to editors working for many scientific publishers (Springer, Nature, The Company of Biologists, Wiley, Cell Press and EMBO press) and to understand their vision.

Afterwards, Meritxell Huch chaired the session ‘Stem Cells and Development’, in which scientists presented advancements in the use of cerebral (Wieland Huttner) and pancreatic (Anne Grapin-Botton) organoids for deciphering cellular mechanisms during human development, and of gastruloids for studying the patterning of the antero-posterior axis (Denis Duboule). Near the end of the session, Bon-Kyoung Koo described how to efficiently use CRISPR technology to perform genetic studies in intestinal organoids. The session ended with a series of 2-minute flash talks, after which networking and interactions were encouraged during lunch, where there was an opportunity to meet the day’s speakers.

The beautiful helices of the ATC then provided the venue for the first poster session, where around 90 presenters had the chance to discuss their research with fellow scientists, editors, and a scientific evaluating committee. It was absolutely inspiring to see how many people work on organoid research!

The afternoon session, ‘Organoids from tissue stem cells’, included talks on organoids derived from taste stem cells (Peihua Jiang), cochlear cells (Albert Edge), and intestinal cells (Hans Clevers). Madeline Lancaster explored the possibility of studying differentiated human cerebral organoids which self-assemble in the stereotypic organisation of the early human embryonic brain and have functional motor-neuronal circuits.

Among this ‘zoo of organoids’ as humorously defined by Jürgen Knoblich there was room for organoids derived from snake venom glands (Yorick Post): the organoid toolbox seems to be extendable to non-mammalian cultures as well!

On Wednesday morning, James Wells introduced the session ‘Recreating organs from pluripotent stem cells’. This addressed cell fate decisions in the developing mouse thyroid gland or lung (Sabine Costagliola), the human lung (Jason Spence and Hans-Willem Snoeck), the human salivary gland (Cecilia Rocchi), and the human forebrain (Flora Vaccarino), studied primarily through single-cell transcriptome and enhancer analyses. Finally, it was the turn of Mathew Garnett, who started by showing that the worldwide number of new cases of cancer each year is around twice the population of Switzerland.

Interested in using precision organoid models to study cancer and patients’ responses to treatment, Garnett is now contributing to the development of the Human Cancer Models Initiative. Its goal is to create a new generation of molecularly annotated cancer models, which will be widely beneficial to the scientific community.

After the second poster session, there were talks on ‘Organoids and disease modelling’, introduced by Anne Grapin-Botton. Among the topics covered were the use of 3D organoids to model liver regeneration and disease (Meritxell Huch), and to study cancers of the bladder (Michael Shen), pancreas (David Tuveson), breast (Martin Jechlinger), and colon (Henner Farin).

The day ended beautifully with the conference dinner in the EMBL canteen and the delightful live music that brought together the diverse group of researchers once again.

The final day of the conference was dedicated to ‘Cells and materials in regenerative medicine’. Matthias Lutolf discussed some of the ongoing efforts in his research group to develop next-generation organoids through tissue engineering. Meritxell Cutrona reported advances in nanoparticle tracking in 3D structures, which is particularly useful for drug delivery. Lakmali Atapattu described 3D bioprinting of tumoroids. Henrik Renner presented a high throughput-compatible workflow for the generation, culture, and optical analysis of neural human organoids. Rob Coppes and Melissa Little reported on promising progress in improving cancer treatment, using glandular and kidney organoids, respectively. James Wells gave a talk on the applications of gastrointestinal organoids, concluding with some food for thought for the audience: “It is better to collaborate, than to compete.”

The Symposium ended with the poster prizes, sponsored by EMBO Reports, EMBO Molecular Medicine, and Sartorius. Personally, I found these four days extremely stimulating, full of opportunities for interaction and discussion. I believe most of my fellow researchers got the same feeling: 3D organoid systems are revolutionising molecular biology and driving the development of better clinical therapies, and we are all contributing to this revolution.

What will we be able to achieve with organoids in two years’ time?

Stay tuned, the meeting will be back in 2020!

@LunardiLabCIBIO

15 tips for giving a good scientific talk

Are you giving a presentation at an upcoming conference, but not sure where to begin? Read on to learn our top 15 tips to help get you on your way, and ensure your next scientific talk is smooth, interesting and a huge success!

Preparing your talk

  1. Remember that you know way more about your subject than anyone else. Be confident!
  1. Never assume knowledge of the audience – always pitch your talk at a level where you are sure that everyone will understand, whether they’re an expert or not.
  1. Practice! Prepare your talk well in advance, run through it multiple times and if possible present it to people who know nothing at all about what you work on because they’re the audience you’re trying to capture.
  1. Design is everything. Keep your slides as simple and as clean as possible. Only use animations if they are really needed to accentuate the point that you’re making.
  1. Stick to the allotted time – generally calculate 1 minute per slide. If you’re giving a 10 minute talk, more than 10 slides is almost certainly too long.
  1. Minimise stress before you give your talk – get your slides to the AV technicians well in advance of your session, make sure that they are projecting.
  1. Familiarise yourself with the equipment beforehand. Take time to go to the podium, check what button you need to press to change the slides, and what you need to do to use the laser pointer.

During your talk

  1. Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact! No one wants to look at the back of your head or watch you reading the slide.
  1. Use your laser pointer sparingly – just point out critical pieces of data to illustrate the point that you’re making.
  1. Stay calm. If something’s not working, first just try to calmly do it again and then if you need help, subtly indicate this to the AV technicians.
  1. Be aware of your audience – look around during your talk, and you’ll be able to tell whether people are with you or not. Don’t be afraid to adapt!
  1. Project excitement! Don’t be afraid to get wound up in the data. The more passion and the more information that you give, the more likely people are to remember your talk at the end of the day.
  1. Be memorable! Don’t worry if people remember you as the crazy person who waved their arms around! That’s fine as long as you’re communicating your science in a way that everyone can understand put every bit of passion and interest in it that you can.
  1. When answering questions after your talk, make sure you let the questioner finish their question before you answer. Think about what question they’re actually asking, and answer the question directly.
  1. Be aware of timing – when the sign comes that you need to start wrapping up, don’t go through all of the remaining slides at breakneck speed, but start wrapping up before you’re forced off the stage. Be prepared to skip a few slides to get to the end.

Original video with Julian Rayner from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, in collaboration with EMBL.