Meet the EMBL Events Team: Asal

Asal wears many hats in the EMBL Events team. She is our sponsorship guru, taking care of everything from raising money for our courses and conferences to working with different journals and societies for in-kind partnerships. During the pandemic, she was our technology wiz spearheading a project to find a good platform for our virtual conferences. Need any HTML help? Asal has you covered! Last but not least, she is the queen of laughter and her genuinely infectious happiness can be felt for miles (or kilometres!).

Asal Rustamova, Sponsorship and Media Partnership Manger

At EMBL since: August 2017

Number of organised conferences/courses: I do not organise conferences but since I’ve started, I have leased sponsorships for more than 80 conferences and courses at EMBL.

What is your favourite place in Heidelberg?
The EMBL Campus. When I started my work at EMBL I moved directly to Mannheim, the most time I spent in Heidelberg was at the EMBL campus and I love it. It has a very nice vibe. The EMBL campus is much more than a place for work. You feel that you belong to the community here. There are a lot of different clubs. Before the pandemic we had a lot of social activities and events. Although my commutes from Mannheim with the public transport were not always smooth, it is a nice feeling to start a day at EMBL after a nice bus ride through the forest and walk through the campus full of flowers. I am amazed of the great job of our gardeners.

What do you like most about your job? 
I love being in a scientific community. Even if I am not a scientist I have been surrounded by scientists since my childhood. In my work, I enjoy building bridges between science training at EMBL and the life science industry. I strongly believe that there are benefits for both. Corporate social responsibility is very important aspect. By providing financial support to public research institutions like EMBL, companies contribute to the advancement of basic research and positive developments in society. And companies ultimately benefit from them too. A lot of scientists who received training at EMBL follow career paths in industry. Industry also brings a lot of innovations and solutions that can help scientists in their research.

If you weren’t a Sponsorship and Media Partnership Manger, what would you be?
I wish I were an environmentalist doing some manual work outside. But after finishing my job at EMBL, I will most likely continue raising funds for non-for-profit as I was doing before I joined EMBL.

What is on your bucket list?
I have some social project ideas that I want to realize. Hopefully, I can do it when I have a bit more time.

What is your favourite book and why? 
My favourite book is always the one I am reading at that moment and I always feel a bit sad when I finish it.

What is your favourite recipe? 
I love plov. It is a national dish from my home country Uzbekistan. It is the only dish I can eat every day for weeks.

What is your favourite movie? 
I like movies by Christopher Nolan

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Virtual event report on ‘Cellular mechanisms driven by phase separation’

Written by event reporter Ritvik Gupta 

The EMBO|EMBL Symposium ‘Cellular mechanisms driven by phase separation’ occurred from 9-12 May 2022. The meeting was held on-site and virtually, with a record of over 500 attendees from all over the world. Seven lucky candidates got fellowships from the EMBO and the EMBL Advanced Training Centre Corporate Partnership Programme. These candidates travelled across the globe from India, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Poland, and Spain to attend the conference. The four-day program featured seven sessions, 50 talks, discussion panels, and countless posters showcasing the newest scientific advances in the field.

It was my first time attending and reporting during a virtual conference organized by EMBO & EMBL. The meeting was scheduled systematically, with links to presentations, posters, chats, and other information provided online on the login page. Moreover, the newly added discussion tab allowed the users to meet editors, talk about articles, and get advice on how to publish them. If you want to collaborate with someone or have a career-related question, this is the right place for you! You could also raise questions that come to your mind and have a fruitful discussion with other attendees.

My virtual setup

Pre-symposium workshop

LUMICKS organized a pre-conference workshop to Unravel the Biophysical Principles Underlying Biomolecular Assemblies Using Optical Tweezers.

The revelation that various intracellular vesicles can be generated without lipid membranes has opened up new areas for research in cell biology and related domains. Transcriptional clusters, stress granules, heterochromatin domains, and DNA repair compartments are all instances of membrane-less compartments. These biomolecular assemblages enable the enrichment or exclusion of specific biomolecules, the spatial organization of nucleic acids, and the acceleration of biological events.

The panelists provided many exciting ideas from decades of expertise in their field, which is typically not readily available, particularly to early-career scientists.

Scientific sessions

The conference kicked off with opening remarks given by the scientific organizers Simon Alberti, Dorothee Dormann, Edward Lemke, and Tanja Mittag. The schedule was jam-packed with great and diverse talks covering significant aspects and hot topics in phase separation. There were seven sessions, each focussing on a different element of phase separation, thereby beautifully orchestrating a story that can helped one sequentially understand the topics and stay hooked to the presentations.

The highlights from the conference were instantly reported on Twitter using  #EESPhaseSeparation. If the data presented during a talk has already been published, there is usually a link to the tweet’s associated paper(s).


Talks and key-note lecture

Stephen Michnick (Université de Montréal, Canada)
Spoke about Saccharomyces cerevisiae and how, around 1 billion years ago, the genome of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae underwent a significant decompaction due to the loss of histone H3 lysine 9 methylation. He explained how this decompaction could have caused a more remarkable ability to evolve due to processes such as highly high meiotic levels, mutation, and recombination rates. As a result of the improved evolvability, unique characteristics have made it an ideal eukaryote model and a biotechnological model.

Dr. Michnick gave instances of how variations in the mechanical characteristics of chromatin reflect locally and globally genome adaptations, indicating phase separation induced by histone post-translational modifications and resulting changes in histone exchange rates.

Rosana Collepardo Guevara (University of Cambridge, UK)
The separation of chromatin and its associated proteins in the liquid-liquid phase separation is gaining traction as a method for explaining the organization of the Eukaryotic nucleus. In this talk, Dr. Collepardo Guevara elaborated on how we can resolve individual nucleosomes within sub-Mb chromatin domains and phase-separated systems using multiscale chromatin approaches that integrate atomistic representations of DNA and proteins. The models presented by her enable us to link molecular and biophysical characteristics of individual nucleosomes to chromatin phase separation regulation. She explained how the variables that keep nucleosomes organized in a disorderly, liquid-like fashion within single chromatin arrays also favour phase separation of a solution of chromatin arrays.

Sara Cuylen-Häring (EMBL Heidelberg, Germany)
The inherently disordered protein Ki-67 covers the surface of the mitotic chromosome, the most enormous membrane-less cellular structure. Previous research has shown that Ki-67 has two functions. Ki-67 acts as a surfactant in early mitosis, preventing chromosomes from collapsing into a single chromatin mass, yet it actively promotes chromosomal clustering towards the mitotic exit. It’s still a mystery how Ki-67 flips between these two opposing activities — chromosomal dispersal and chromosome clustering.

Dr. Cuylen-Häring showed that when all chromosomes combine into a single cluster during anaphase beginning, Ki-67’s biophysical properties alter dramatically. The amphiphilic nature of Ki-67 is lost as the molecular brush structure collapses and the protein’s soluble pool condenses. Her research reveals a cell-cycle-dependent mechanism that regulates the individualization and coalescence of cells.

David Zwicker (Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Germany)
He elaborated on how biological cells are made up of thousands of different macromolecules that organize themselves into condensates and other structures. How can numerous distinct condensates reliably develop despite massive composition changes? He presented a novel numerical approach for determining coexisting phases in multicomponent systems. This method helps to maximize component interactions, similar to how evolution may have optimized biomolecule interactions. Random or contrived interactions perform worse than evolved interactions in producing a defined number of phases. The improved interactions also resist perturbations and allow for quick adaptation to new phase counts. He detailed how genetically programmed biomolecule interactions can govern the production of condensates in various ways.

Mrityunjoy Kar (MPI-Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany)
The creation and breakdown of membrane-less biomolecular condensates such as RNA-protein granules are linked to phase separation of RNA binding proteins with disordered prion-like domains and RNA binding domains. DLS, nanoparticle tracking analysis, fluorescence anisotropy, microfluidic confocal spectroscopy, and TEM investigations of cluster size distributions in sub-saturated solutions of phase-separating RNA binding proteins from the FUS-EWSR1-TAF15 (FET) family were presented by him. He elaborated how in saturated solutions, these systems exhibit heterogeneous cluster distributions. While the most prevalent species are small clusters, cluster size distributions appear to be heavily tailed. Furthermore, when bulk concentrations rise, cluster size distributions continue to trend toward bigger values. DLS tests also reveal that these clusters are reversible when diluted and concentrated, and FRET measurements show that protein molecules interchange between clusters and the bulk solution. At and beyond the saturation concentration (csat) of phase separation, these clusters coarsen and produce condensates. These observations are readily explained in terms of associative polymer theories.

Martin Wühr (Princeton University, USA)
He briefed about membrane-bound organelles like mitochondria and membrane-less biomolecular condensates (BMCs) like the nucleolus achieve compartmentalization, which is a fundamental aspect of eukaryotic life. BMCs that have been identified have liquid-like characteristics and are often viewed on a 1 µm scale. He further explained that they’ve largely been investigated using microscopy to look at certain proteins. Several dozen BMCs have been identified so far, each with a different function, such as transcription regulation, RNA management, or signaling, and their dysfunction can result in illnesses. However, it is unknown how BMCs are used in the cellular organization or at what length scale they form. At the scale of 100 nm, he showed his data that at least 18% of the proteome is structured into mesoscale BMCs. They have used differential pressure filtration, size exclusion, and dilution procedures to explore the structure of native cytoplasm on a global scale utilizing quantitative proteomics. By examining protein penetration through porous substrates with known pore diameters, they were able to confirm mesoscale sizes using imaging below the diffraction limit. The results he presented revealed that at unexpectedly short length scales, eukaryotic cytoplasm organizes itself extensively via liquid-like assemblies.

Danfeng Cai (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA)
In 22.5 percent of papillary renal cell carcinomas (PRCCs), the Hippo pathway is dysregulated, resulting in hyperactivated YAP1/TEAD1 activity. However, it is unclear how YAP/TEAD1 contributes to PRCC development. His research group found that transcription factor TEAD1 generates liquid-like nuclear condensates inside PRCC patient-derived cell lines using super-resolution imaging and PRCC patient-derived cell lines. TEAD1 condensates appear in a variety of sizes and functions, which is intriguing.

Smaller, sub-micron-scale TEAD1 condensates facilitate active transcription, whereas larger, micron-scale TEAD1 condensates repress transcription: they lack YAP1, are devoid of active transcription markers BRD4 and H3K27Ac, and are found in different heterochromatic nucleus compartments.

Keynote lecture: A fluid paradigm for biological organization, Clifford Brangwynne (Princeton University, United States of America)
Living cells are frequently misunderstood as machines on a factory floor, operating through a clockwork-like series of interactions among their biomolecular building pieces. However, internal cell activities are far more wet and active than many textbooks would have us assume. Research integrating concepts from materials physics and cell biology has ushered in a new paradigm for understanding how this chaotic intracellular environment is brought to order through the collective condensation of disordered proteins into droplets of living information throughout the last decade. Intracellular condensates are viscoelastic states of biomolecular matter that aid dozens of intracellular processes and appear to be at the root of malignancies and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and ALS.

On-site and virtual meetings

After an almost four-year-long break, the on-site event resumed at the EMBL campus in Heidelberg. People enjoyed networking and interacting with others which boosted their morale. The pandemic has taught us to come up with new approaches to our actions, and virtual meetings are one of them. Many people across the globe benefitted from the conference being set up in a hybrid format and enjoyed the amount of knowledge that this event showered upon them.

This blog post is written by Ritvik Gupta, Master’s thesis student at Didier Stainier’s Group, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Germany, pursuing BS-MS at IISER Mohali.

Learn more on how to become an event reporter for EMBL Events


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What’s new in EMBL-EBI on-demand training

What’s new for EMBL-EBI training: June 2022

At EMBL-EBI training we have a dedicated on-demand library of free to access training courses, materials, and recordings. Read on to see what each section of our 200+ strong catalogue entails.

Training materials

We’ve all had our fair share of training courses, zooms, conferences, and workshops in our careers – and can all relate to the sheer mass of materials generated in just one of these events.


EMBL-EBI Training is committed to creating FAIR and shareable data through our own courses and on-demand training. We welcome you to share these already created materials so that you don’t have to spend time recreating them for yourselves.

From EMBL-EBI resource tutorials to live course slide decks – our cohesive library of training materials is ready for you to use anytime, anywhere. All we ask is you credit us when presenting them!

Themed on-demand training sets

At EMBL-EBI training, we discovered a pattern of behaviour from our on-demand audience taking multiple courses within the same topic area.

So we’ve bought together four curated sets of learning to ease the journey for you. We have more ideas in the pipeline, but if you think of a curated set of learning you’d like to see, drop us a comment below!

Webinars – join in the next series

The bioinformatics topic du jour has to be AlphaFold. We’re planning a mini webinar series on the topic, beginning on 14 June 2022 with the ‘Scope and vision of AlphaFold’.

AlphaFold protein structure prediction showing detail of chemical elements.
AlphaFold protein structure prediction showing detail of chemical elements.

Registration for the webinar series is free, but essential to secure your place. If you can’t make it live, the recordings will be made available via these same links shortly afterwards.

Envelope Icon, Transparent Envelope.PNG Images & Vector - FreeIconsPNG  To stay up to date with news from the EMBL-EBI training on-demand catalogue, create an account and opt-in to news from us.

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Return to onsite: our first in-person meeting in 2 years

A little over 100 participants from over 20 countries attended the first on-site meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe in March 2020. And since then, we have been preparing for this moment. We just didn’t have a clue when it would come. And the rules of the ‘game’ kept changing.

Railli Pall

Raili Pall was the conference officer for the EMBO | EMBL Symposium ‘Biological oscillators’. She was in charge of the logistical side of the meeting.

“There were many last-minute changes and cancellations due to the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, and we had to adjust rapidly to the changes in the programme. In addition, there was an extra layer of complexity as we had to accommodate a mix of safety protocols and added regulations.”

But then the moment was there. Nervously, we were waiting for the first bus to arrive. Checking the screens, the rooms, the badges. We have done this countless times. But this time was different, after two years of only virtual events, we were back onsite.

Having started her position in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was also Raili’s first on-site meeting

“I was very excited, but definitely a bit nervous before the event began. As it was the first on-site conference for many participants after more than 2 years, I wanted everything to run smoothly.”

And it did! The atmosphere was great and everyone was in high spirits. The overall feedback from all the participants and speakers was extremely positive as well. Everybody was happy to be finally back to in-person meetings. The symposium helped delegates to discuss and develop new ideas together. There was plenty of interaction and space for interesting and inspiring discussions. In addition, the programme consisted of outstanding talks by leading experts, covering a broad range of topics. The on-site poster session was highly appreciated, with a lot of lively informal chats about science.

With this event, we adapted for the first time to a new hybrid format. Apart from the 100 participants attending in person, we also had around 70 virtual participants logging on to our virtual platform. Hybrid events open up participation to a broader group of people that otherwise would not have been able to attend due to lack of resources, busy schedules or difficulties travelling across the world. But like everything new, it also brings challenges. For us, that means trying to integrate things like poster sessions and networking sessions into the virtual event. So, we accept the challenge and look forward to welcoming more scientists to our events, both onsite and virtually.

Raili: “I am looking forward to my next hybrid event to bring together scientists from across the world. Build up my knowledge organising hybrid events with new ways of interaction and exploring more opportunities to create virtual options for in-person events.”

Group photo Biological oscillators, photo by Stuart Ingham/EMBL

The EMBO|EMBL Symposium ‘Biological oscillators: design mechanism and function’ took place 6 – 9 March 2022 at EMBL Heidelberg.

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EMBL-EBI Training website: one year on

A profile picture of Anna Swan is shown

: Anna Swan, Scientific Training Officer, e-learning at EMBL-EBI.


In February 2021, we launched the new EMBL-EBI Training website. Read more about that in our previous blog post.

Since then we’ve had over 600,000 visitors from around the world using the site to discover our live courses and learn from our on-demand training.

What does EMBL-EBI Training’s site offer?

  • Listings and registration pages for all of our live training, including face-to-face courses and webinars
  • Access to on-demand training, such as self-paced online tutorials and recorded webinars that are available anytime, anywhere
  • A simple search box on the homepage to help you search for training on a topic of interest
  • Support for trainers in using our materials and expanding their training skills
A screen shot of the EMBL-EBI training homepage
The homepage allows users to search and browse for training of interest.

What’s new since we launched in 2021?

After releasing the new site, we continued with further development. In line with EMBL’s mission to provide the world with #OpenData, we now provide sets of course materials from live courses, open to everyone, not just those that attended. You can find these in the on-demand section of the website.

Course materials can be in a variety of formats: lecture recordings, slides and practical instructions.

A screen shot of EMBL-EBI training, on-demand listings
Sets of course materials are now listed in our on-demand section – available for you to access anytime.

The materials are presented with overviews and learning objectives for each session of the course and are searchable to help you find the specific materials that are of use to you.

Not only that, all sets of course materials are labelled CC-BY, so you can use them for your own learning, or to train others. We encourage you to use our training far and wide.

As we continue to run live courses, the materials will be updated with the latest science and analysis methods to help you stay up to date.

A screenshot of the EMBL-EBI course website for bioinformatics for immunologists and its course materials
There are a range of topics covered by our course materials, including bioinformatics for immunologists.

What’s new for 2022?

With the site now a place many people come to find and complete learning, our next focus is on the community around bioinformatics training and learning.

If you are someone who teaches about EMBL-EBI resources, we’re keen to hear from you! Complete our short survey to join our community focus group.

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