10 ways to get your scientific course application accepted

 

Rejection.

We have all experienced it in one way or another. Scientists perhaps more than others – rejected papers, job applications, fellowships, grants or training applications. But what can we do when it happens again and again and again?

In the EMBL Course and Conference Office we see it all – our scientific courses are way oversubscribed, and competition is tough! We’ve taken a look at the most common mistakes that will lead to your application being rejected. These 10 tips will help you to be among the minority of successful course applicants, and while we can’t promise that every application you submit will be accepted, following these tips will ensure that you stay towards the top of the pile!

  1. Apply on time!

It sounds simple, but we have so many requests from late applicants to submit after the deadline. Newsflash – you won’t be considered! The application deadlines are part of a well-planned process, and we stick to it. So plan in advance and don’t leave things until the last minute!

  1. Complete ALL questions directly and clearly

Again – sounds simple, right? It’s amazing how many applicants think some questions are optional. Organisers have to select participants from a highly qualified pool of applicants, and if they have no comparison, you will be put straight on the “no” pile.

  1. Submit all requested documentation

Take the time to collate all requested documentation before submitting your application. If you make it past the first round, these will be vital in securing your spot in the final selection.

  1. Read the guidelines…and follow them!

Generally course guidelines will be provided. Take the time to read through them and make sure you follow them – they are there for a reason!

  1. Be sure that it is the right course for you

Make sure the course WILL actually be of benefit to you. Check that you have the required pre-requisites, and that the learning outcomes are the same as your learning desires.

  1. The motivation LETTER – not the motivation THESIS

Most likely you will be provided with a word limit. Stick to it. If you don’t have a word limit, don’t take this to mean you can write a thesis. The scientific organisers have a lot of applications to go through and limited time to do it. Yours needs to catch their eye from the onset, so make sure the important stuff stands out! 

  1. The motivation letter – the important stuff!

This is perhaps the most important part of your course application, so take it seriously! There is a lot of competition, so show that you have put some effort into it. Things that you should definitely include:

  • Why would you like to attend?
  • What do you expect to learn?
  • How will you benefit from what you learn?
  • How and when will you use the skills learned on the course?
  • A brief description of your current research and future plans
  • Any relevant skills, experience and qualifications
  • Your scientific career and training
  • Relevance in the lab – is the knowledge lacking and can you pass it on?
  1. Show academic curiosity

Make it clear that you have done your research and are actually interested in the topic. If it is clear that you are only applying for the course because your PI told you to, chances that you’ll be considered are slim.

  1. Make sure you can spare the time and, if necessary, get a visa on time

If you have other commitments or think it won’t be possible to get a visa on time to enter the country where the course is taking place, please reconsider and apply for a course taking place at a later date. Otherwise you will take the spot of someone else who would be able to attend.

  1. Show your application to your supervisor

Ask your supervisor to check over your application before submitting. They will have much more experience in submitting successful applications and can give you advice on what to change and adapt to increase your chances of getting accepted.

 

So it’s over to you now! And if you’re not sure where to start looking for your next scientific training course, take a look at our upcoming events under www.embl.org/events.

Check out our video for some more tips on successfully applying for practical courses!

Meet the Trainer – Katharina Danielski

PHOTO: Katharina Danielski

Meet Katharina Danielski, Field Application Scientist at 10x Genomics, who is an organiser and trainer at the EMBL Course: Immune Profiling of Single Cells (10 – 13 February 2020).

 

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

It provides researchers with an overview of what is currently possible when studying the immune system at the single-cell level. There are so many new technologies and methods available these days that scientists are overwhelmed with keeping track of everything new. The 10x Genomics Single-Cell Immune Profiling solution allows you to study a broad range of aspects all derived from the same single cell: sequence information of paired full-length T cell or B cell receptor transcripts; gene expression profile; cell surface protein markers; antigen specificity. Linking all these pieces of information back to the same cell is opening a lot of new ways to study the adaptive immune response that were just not possible before.

Are the methods used in this course unusual or new?

The ability to study single cells to the extent as it is currently possible with various assays on the market is still very recent. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the biological information that will be uncovered in the coming years thanks to the methods discussed in this course, among others.

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

I enjoy teaching at EMBL because of the high level of organisation that the EMBL team displays. The EMBL Heidelberg Campus is also a particularly beautiful location situated on top of a hill surrounded by forests. But most importantly: the food in the canteen is legen- wait for it -dary.

What is your number one tip related to the course?

Don’t be shy. The trainers are more than happy to answer your questions and discuss your projects and  experiments…but skip breakfast so you can fill up on lunch at the EMBL Canteen. You will thank me later.

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

I don’t think any single discovery on its own could be labeled as “the most crucial”. Science in the past 100 years has made so many giant leaps for mankind.

Where is science heading in your opinion?

Studying gene expression of (single) cells spatially resolved within their morphological context of an intact tissue section.

Creating an oasis for our participants

In the 21st century, it seems like there is always something to do or some place to be, and the constant enhanced stress levels can sometimes reach boiling point. Often it’s the little things that can help make us feel more balanced, and the EMBL Course and Conference Team have been taking steps to make sure our participants leave our events feeling as relaxed as possible.

Yoga / meditation / prayer room

A couple of years ago we set up a spacious room to provide an oasis of peace and quiet during the sometimes loud and hectic conference environment. The room is equipped with comfortable floor mats as well as yoga and prayer mats. The lights are dimmed to ensure a calm, relaxing atmosphere.

Brain food

Spending hours on end listening to fascinating scientific lectures is great, but it requires a lot of concentration! Our coffee and lunch breaks have therefore been adapted to include more healthy snacks and brain food such as fresh blueberries, dark chocolate, nuts, pumpkin and chia seeds, as well as a range of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads.

Environmentally friendly catering

Although we have always been very conscious of being environmentally friendly when it comes to catering for our guests, we are striving to further reduce the amount of single use food and beverage packaging at our events. Our catering team has also significantly increased the number of local produce suppliers who provide us with the delicious food loved by our participants.

Cosy Corner

In order to create a more relaxed atmosphere, a cosy corner was set up in the Advanced Training Centre where participants can sit back, relax and recharge their batteries.

Increased networking opportunities

Because scientific meetings are not just about sitting through lectures, we have a range of networking opportunities to allow our participants to meet fellow scientists, such as speed networking sessions, meet the editor sessions, science slams, gala dinners, conference parties, organised woodland walks and photo booths.

Childcare options

We know that balancing work with family life can be difficult, and as a result EMBL and EMBO are both working to make attending scientific events easier, with EMBL providing onsite childcare at our conferences and symposia in EMBL Heidelberg, and EMBO offering childcare grants to cover the costs of having a child looked after while one or both parents attend an EMBO funded course or conference. More info can be found here.

Help us to continue improving our services to participants – is there something that you’d like to see at our events?! Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Meet the Trainer – Anders Ståhlberg

Meet Dr. Anders Ståhlberg, Associate Professor at the University of Gothenburg and  Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden, and organiser of the EMBO Practical Course: Single-Cell Omics (15 – 21 November 2020) and EMBL Course: “Liquid Biopsies” (14 – 19 September 2020).

Anders’ research focuses on basic tumour biology and cancer diagnostics.

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

Liquid biopsy analysis is an emerging tool in biological/medical research as well as in clinical diagnostics. However, most analyses require ultrasensitive methods. In this course we cover both theoretical aspects and practical consideration that need to be addressed to utilise the potential of liquid biopsy analysis, and use both state-of-art techniques and novel approaches.

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

The applied techniques include ultrasensitive analysis of DNA, proteins and single-cells. These techniques can be applied to a wide range of applications in any type of liquid biopsy. In addition, these techniques can be used on any type of challenging sample types. Application areas include cancer, immunology, prenatal testing, forensics, evolution studies, drug screening, pathogen detection and beyond.

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

The superb facilities, including everything from course arrangement to the research lab. However, the best part of EMBL courses is the dynamic interactions between teachers, tutors, staff and all students. It is a perfect environment to network and discuss science.

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

The course dinners are very enjoyable and may end in unexpected but fun ways.

What challenges is your research field facing?

Translating basic research into clinical use.

Where is science heading in your opinion?

The amount of generated data will increase dramatically with all available high-throughput methods. One major challenge is to translate this data into useful information.

What was your first ever job?

I got my first job when I was 15 years old in basic industry, making valves.

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

A teacher or farmer.

What is the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?

In science, saying no to academically rewarding positions and instead following my research interest with an unsure future.

What is your favourite book?

I cannot resist a good fantasy book.

Meet the Trainer – Estefanía Lozano-Andrés

Meet Estefanía Lozano-Andrés, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie PhD Candidate at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. We first met Estefanía in 2016 when she was a participant at the EMBL Course “Extracellular Vesicles: from Biology to Biomedical Applications” and she is back as a trainer at this year’s course.

What is your research focus, and what challenges is the field facing?

My main research interest is the study of Extracellular Vesicles (EVs), which are nano-sized membrane-enclosed particles released by cells. EVs contain selected proteins, lipids and nucleic acids that reflect the status and origin of cells, making them very attractive for biomarker profiling. However, their small size hampers robust detection of single EVs, so more sensitive technology needs to be developed to truly exploit the potential of EVs. Particularly, I am interested in the use of flow cytometry to analyse EVs in a high-throughput and multiparametric manner, but there are quite some challenges to overcome like the optimisation of EV-labelling strategies, the development of reference materials and the standardisation of measurements.

You attended the EMBL Course on Extracellular Vesicles 3 years ago and now you are one of the trainers in this year’s course. How has the course influenced your career?

The course had a great impact on my scientific career. When I was selected to attend the course, I was at an early stage of my PhD and it helped me to develop as a scientist and to have a more critical eye. Thanks to the course I met many leading researchers in the field and it’s probably one of the reasons why I am currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researcher within the TRAIN-EV Consortium, which brings together leading European scientists working on EVs (grant agreement No 722148). I was thrilled to know that this year I could attend the course as a trainer to help all the participants during the practical sessions and to shed some light on the use of flow cytometry for EV analysis.

What is your number one tip for people looking for scientific training?

Don’t be afraid to engage with people, it can really help you to find out about great training opportunities that could further improve your career. And always try to make the most out of any given moment.

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

A multifaceted artist, I love creating things. Painting, writing and photography make me very happy. Fun fact: when I was a child I wanted to be a professional gift wrapper.

If you were a superhero what power would you have?

Teleportation, I would really enjoy to travel across space (and time).