Meet the EMBL Events Team: Diah

You’ve just got to meet Diah. She is one bright star whose sparkle shines when she speaks, and you’ll end up smiling every time you talk to her. She joined the Course and Conference Office in 2012, then moved to her home country of Indonesia in 2018 before re-joining EMBL in 2020 (yes, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic!). We are very happy she is back and can’t wait for you to meet her.

Diah Yulianti, Course and Conference Officer

At EMBL since: 2012 — 2018 and re-joined in 2020.
Number of organised conferences/courses: 29 conferences and 22 courses.

Favourite place in Heidelberg:
Königstuhl. The view of Heidelberg especially during sunset is so beautiful. And EMBL. It is not because I work there but the place itself and the forest and farm around it are so pretty in all seasons.

What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual conference or course?
The learning curve in mastering different platforms and software as well as a different workflow was pretty steep. It is a challenging but also very exciting process — both rewarding and humbling at the same time.

How have you adapted your role during the pandemic?
I  try to stay connected with people as much as possible. I like to keep an open mind, be mindful and creative — even more than before!

What do you miss most about life before the pandemic?
Like everyone else, I miss meeting and talking to people in person. I am a very extroverted person so it was very difficult for me when we had to start working from home. I am used to it now. I also miss playing badminton with the team!

What have you been up to during these difficult times? 
I walk a lot. Also trying new recipes — I love cooking!

If you weren’t a Course and Conference Officer, what would you be?
I was a high school teacher for quite some time. If I were not in Europe, working for a high-level international research institute, interacting with people from all over the world, I would probably be back teaching. It is a very different world but the teaching gene runs in the family. In an alternative world, I would own a small shop selling vegetables, flowers or candy😊.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened in a conference?
Oh one time at a conference, the keynote speaker had just started her talk when the fire alarm went off. We had to herd 300 participants out of the building to the meeting point near the woods!

If you were a superhero, what power would you like to have?
I’d like to have the power to fly, to lift off the ground by myself freely and ride the air currents — it must be so cool.

Which series have you been binge-watching that we should also definitely watch?
I just finished The Queen’s Gambit and Dark. Really good!

Which are your favourite books?
My all-time favourite books are The Glass Palace, Shantaram and of course Harry Potter!

Upcoming events Diah is organising or co-organising:

EMBO Practical Course: Measuring Translational Dynamics by Ribosome Profiling, 17 – 25 May 2021, virtual.

EMBO Workshop: Predicting Evolution, 14 – 16 Jun 2021, virtual.

EMBO Workshop: The Mobile Genome: Genetic and Physiological Impacts of Transposable Elements, 29 Aug – 1 Sep 2021, virtual

 

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Celebrating 10 years of Chromatin and Epigenetics

Our upcoming EMBL Conference: Chromatin and Epigenetics is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! Although this year’s conference will be very different in format (yup, you guessed right: virtual!), the topics to be discussed will be as exciting as always.

We spoke to Asifa Akhtar and Geneviève Almouzni, the scientific organisers who have been there since the beginning of this conference series. Read on to find out what inspired them to organise this event in the first place, and what highlights can be expected at the virtual conference!

The Chromatin and Epigenetics conference is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How did it all start and how has it developed over the years?

GA: I was part of the original organisation committee when it started — 20 years ago already! A long journey already… The meeting actually started with the wish to give credit to my Postdoc mentor Dr. Alan Wolffe who had tragically passed away and was very active in the field. He was coined the “champion of Epigenetics” back then… You can see his picture in the corner of the conference image.

When I started my lab, he used to tease me about having a conference in Europe on a field that was just starting to take off. The fact is that since then it has become a major gathering of people in the field, including those actively engaged in the EC funded Network of Excellence — first the Epigenome and EpiGeneSys networks which expanded towards a broader community, including the LifeTime initiative and many friends from the 4DNucleome!  Undoubtedly, research over the past two decades has been incredibly active, leading to the deciphering of chromatin-based mechanisms, multi-scale genome organisation and the uncovering of the role of epigenetics in various human disorders with an increasing interest in studying the influence of age, environment, life style and disease states. I am really excited to hear about the latest news…

AA: I was part of the original organisation team, and being located at EMBL meant that I have been part of all the nitty gritty deals of organising this conference ever since. We have had a series of outstanding co-organisers on board, which also developed the breadth of the meeting over the last 20 years. We have kept up with the pace of the field, and this meeting is a major biennial scientific event in the chromatin and epigenetics field. The location at EMBL has been fantastic, with all the support and infrastructure available to run a big meeting like this. It continues to be a pleasure to organise this conference, and I am excited about all the possibilities that the virtual format will bring.

What inspired you to organise this conference?

GA: This meeting is dear to my heart, and it has surely brought together a wonderful community in Europe that is well linked with people worldwide. Also, from the inception we wanted to engage younger people in the organisation and serve the community. It has a unique spirit — it is collegial and friendly, and a place where new collaborations arise — and a growing network! The fact is that people always presented their most advanced work and unpublished data, thereby offering opportunities to discuss science in the making. We hope that the virtual conference version this year will retain this special touch.

AA: Alan Wolffe was a great chromatin biologist and his sudden passing took many of us by surprise, and left great sadness. He was a wonderful mentor and was interested in young scientists, a quality which I had always admired. Co-incidentally my husband was a postdoc in Alan’s lab, just like Genevieve. In fact, Alan’s plan was to visit him during his trip that eventually led to the tragedy. Co-organising the memorial workshop in his memory was an honour and in the long run a tremendously important decision, as this meeting became a focal point for chromatin biologists and epigeneticists to meet in Europe and share the wonders of the latest science we are all doing. The chromatin and epigenetics conference originated from initial event and has grown stronger over the years.

 Could you share what the focus and highlights of this year´s conference will be?

AA: The 10th conference in a series of meetings is a really memorable event and celebrating this during a global pandemic is a major challenge. We strive for excellence and this meeting will deliver many highlights and thrilling science. I very much hope that it will bring us together to appreciate the importance and perseverance of basic science, and that we celebrate coming together even in a virtual setting and show that we are dynamic and flexible, come what may…

GA: This year the session topics cover: Heterochromatin and HP1, developmental epigenetics, chromatin regulation, nucleosomes structure and function, transcription and chromatin defects and diseases, nuclear architecture as well as chromatin and RNA modifications. This is a very exciting program with both live-streamed invited speakers and selected short talks with Q&As, as well as digital poster sessions. We will also hold meet the speakers session along with some other surprises…

Among our speakers, Caroline Dean will tell us about cold-induced epigenetic switching in plants, Karen Adelman will discuss regulation of transcription elongation in development and diseases, Luciano di Croce the advances in the distinct role of Polycomb in stem biology and cancer, Bob Kingston on chromatin compaction and phase separation in epigenetic control of development, Danny Reinberg about Polycomb, inheritance and disease, Anja Groth will speak about chromatin replication and epigenome maintenance, Peter Becker will talk about how cooperation, competition and combination contribute to the targeting of the X chromosome and its regulation, Giacomo Cavalli and Allistair Boettiger about the 3D genome folding, Rick Young on Nuclear condensates, Tom Muir on chemical approaches and a Keynote by Wolf Reik on ways to exploit multiple single cell omics to unravel early embryo development.

Interested in this conference? Register by 19 April.

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Why do we charge registration fees for virtual events?

“Why do you charge registration fees for virtual events? You are not flying speakers in, there are no accommodation or catering costs. You are not printing any conference material!” Yes, you are absolutely right! All of these are valid points in the world of virtual training. And yet we are still charging registration fees. Why?

As a non-profit organisation and with training being one of its five missions, EMBL sets its fees at the lowest possible level to just cover the costs of the events program. These are:

Staff

It sounds incredible, but virtual events turned out to be more time-intensive and demanding in terms of staff support than we thought. We are now busy scheduling test runs with speakers, populating virtual platforms, coordinating the timely and high-quality delivery of pre-recorded talks, providing technical support and trouble shooting – all things we didn’t have to do for onsite events, or previously had support with from our onsite service staff. In the past year, our team has even grown in order to be able to deliver the 31 virtual courses and conferences that took place in 2020.

Behind the Scenes at the EMBL Conference: Transcription and Chromatin (27 – 29 August 2020). Previously only one conference officer was the main coordinator of an onsite meeting. Now there are always two people onsite, splitting the tasks of monitoring and communication with the participants, speakers and audio-visual technicians.
Software

Unfortunately, virtual events cannot be run solely on Zoom. That would have made everything much easier, but attending a conference or course is so much more than listening to the talk. Participants look for interaction, networking options and avid peer exchange. So our courses’ and conferences’ programmes incorporate a range of networking and knowledge-exchange sessions such as meet-the speakers, bar mixers, pub quizzes, speed networking and poster sessions. In order to meet these requirements we make use of paid solutions which offer all these benefits and are easy to navigate for the users.

Training

New software means new set up in terms of design and maintenance, and to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible during the events our staff require appropriate and sufficient training to be able to operate it.

Sponsorship

With all our events turning virtual, income from sponsorship has decreased accordingly. Normally at a conference you would see several companies exhibiting in the Advanced Training Centre foyer, but with the meetings taking place entirely online, there has not been as much interest in virtual sponsorship. While we are being creative with what we can offer our sponsors, they also miss the face-to-face interaction with our participants.

Marketing

While the onsite costs have decreased, getting the word out still requires the same amount of budget (if not more!). How do we make sure you hear about us and the virtual meetings we are organising? How do we stand out from the other virtual events that are currently out there? Would you hear about our meeting if we used the traditional channels as before? In most cases, we have had to add on to our marketing channels and campaigns to increase awareness about our virtual programme.

Fellowships

EMBL offers various types of fellowships to support scientists to attend our events. An advantage of the virtual format is that with lower registration fees and no travel to cover, the funds stretch much further.  We are finding that we are able assist more applicants than ever before to attend entirely free of charge.

 

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Win a free registration to a 2021 conference of your choice

This year didn’t quite go as planned, but we are ready to kick-start 2021 the right way. That is why we are giving away four free registrations to a 2021 conference of your choice.

How can you win? 

Quite simply: 

  1. Caption this! Leave your answer on the picture of our yeast cell mascots Buddy and Holly on Instagram or Facebook. Be creative!Buddy & Holly, mascots of EMBL Events
  2. Or perhaps if Twitter is more your thing, reply to our tweet using #EMBLEventsCompetition and finish the sentence.

Terms and Conditions of Participation

  1. General Conditions 

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

  • This competition is run by the EMBL Course and Conference Office, and is open to everyone except EMBL Staff and their family members.
  • The competition will run from 10 – 24 December 2020.
  • Participants are permitted to enter this competition more than once.
  • Entries submitted after 24 December 2020 will not be accepted.
  • Only replies to the original EMBL Events posts and tweets using the hashtag will run in the competition. 
  • All participants must be at least 18 years old.
  • Any application that does not meet these criteria will not be eligible.
  • This competition is not endorsed, sponsored, or administered by Facebook or Instagram. Facebook and Instagram are not in any way responsible for entrants or participants.
  • Your entry to this competition constitutes your agreement to allow your name and country of residence to be published and shared for an unlimited number of times on the EMBL social media channels, and may be used for other purposes at the discretion of EMBL’s Course and Conference Office.
  • By entering, participants agree to grant EMBL’s Course and Conference Office the rights to use their submission/comments/caption on the EMBL Events’ social media channels, blog, email campaigns and promotional materials for an unlimited number of times. 
  • By entering, participants warrant that their 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 competition or any prize won. EMBL shall have the right to verify, in its sole judgment, winner eligibility.
  • Decisions of EMBL shall be final and binding


    2. Prizes

  • Facebook and Instagram contest: 2 registrations for a 2021 conference of choice.
  • Twitter contest: 2 registrations for a 2021 conference.
  • Event listing of confirmed events can be found on our website.
  • The free registrations are not transferable to conferences past 2021 or to another person. 

3. Winner Selection

  • The EMBL Course and Conference Office will select the winners from all comments posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The winners are selected by the EMBL Events marketing team.
  • The winners will be contacted by the EMBL Course and Conference Office via the social media channel they used for their entry. They will have 2 weeks to respond, otherwise another winner will be selected.
  • The winners will be made public on or before January 25th.
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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Marina

PHOTO: Marina Pujol
PHOTO: Marina Pujol

Today’s interview is with EMBL-EBI’s Marina Pujol. Marina is one of the event organisers in the team, with a focus on the on-site and virtual training courses as well as assisting with the delivery of events for the CABANA project.

At EMBL since: June 2018
Number of organised courses: 21

Favourite place in Hinxton area?
Audley End House. This is a gorgeous Victorian country house surrounded by beautiful gardens. They host many activities throughout the year, which my family and I love to go to, for example during Christmas they have their gardens decorated with lights and it looks magical.

Audley End miniature railway at Christmas
PHOTO: Audley End miniature railway at Christmas

What is the first thing you do before a course starts and first thing you do after a course finishes?
First thing, getting a large coffee and checking calls and emails. Last thing: take a deep breath, smile and relax.

What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual course?
In my opinion, before the course starts everything is similar to an onsite course. The moment of truth arrives when everybody logs in the call. If any of the organisers or the speakers have technical issues at that moment… time stops! I am always crossing fingers wishing that everybody’s connections work fine! 

You’ve been working from home for nine months now; how have you adapted your role during this time?
To me, the positive part of working from home is that you don’t have interruptions usually, and can concentrate more. However, I have to make sure that I still have that “human” contact with my colleagues. Breaking for a chat it’s always nice and much needed!

If you weren’t a course officer what would you be?
Anything to do with animals, but especially with dogs. I always had dogs around me and I love to spend time with them. Going for long walks together or cuddling them is priceless.

What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?
In the middle of a keynote lecture, a delegate’s phone went off and Siri said ‘Sorry, I don’t understand’. Everybody laughed!

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
Flying. Just last night I dreamt that I was flying above a kind of a Disney lookalike castle.

Favourite book?
El psicoanalista by John Katzenbach

Upcoming events Marina is organising:
Managing a bioinformatics core facility 2021 – Virtual
Applications open shortly – sign up for alerts now.

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