Category Archives: Events

Reflecting on the student & postdoc events at the BSCB/BSDB Spring Meeting

Firstly, thank-you so much to everyone that participated in the student and postdoc events. It was lovely to meet many of you and we hope you had a great time.

Career workshop

From the BSDB student/postdoc survey results last year, it was evident that most people wanted to find out more about ‘alternative’ careers other than those on the traditional route of academia. With more PhDs being awarded and few top level jobs there is a need to provide more information as to what else can you do with your PhD. For this reason, we chose to focus this year’s careers session on alternative careers to academia. The highly attended session took the format of roundtable discussions and covered a plethora of topics including but not limited to, consulting, publishing, academic fellowships and engaging with the media. We would like to thank all the table leaders who provided stimulating discussions. This event wouldn’t have been possible without you!

Obtaining a lectureship/fellowship

  • Claudia Barros (Peninsula School of Medicine, Plymouth University)
  • Paul Conduit (Henry Dale Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge)
  • James Wakefield (University of Exeter)

Careers outside of academia

  • Katherine Brown (Editor, Development)
  • Anne Wiblin (Research Collaborations Manager, Abcam)
  • Caroline Grant (Senior Manager, Accenture)
  • Valentina Sasselli (Associate Publisher, Cell Biology)

Science Communication

  • Andreas Prokop (University of Manchester)
  • Cat Vicente (Community Manager, The Node)

From the feedback, we realise how valuable it is for young scientists to talk to other scientists who have trained as cell or developmental biologists and go on to have successful ‘alternative’ careers.  For future workshops, we intend to build on this theme and invite an even more diverse selection of speakers.

Some selected comments from the participants:

  • ‘Open and honest speakers, Enough time to discuss and explore career prerequisites, responsibilities and prospects’
  • ‘Great organisation and table choices, Thank you! I feel quite optimistic now!’
  • ‘Table leaders were friendly, easy to talk to and answered all questions’
  • ‘Learning about career paths, Variety of careers amongst speakers’

Click here for a more in depth summary of the workshop.


Science Breakfasts

This was the first year that we ran science breakfasts, whose goal was to facilitate informal discussions between junior researchers and scientists at the top of their field. A small number of students and postdocs got to participate in this event, discussing everything from research, careers and life in general with Abigail Tucker, Ottoline Leyser, Jordan Raff, Lidia Vasilieva and Thomas Surrey – who we are really grateful for giving up their time.

Student social

student-postdocs-2 This year the reps decided it would be fun to do something more interactive for the student/postdoc social. We randomly attached a name to the back of every guest, where each name was one-half of a famous pair, such as Romeo and Juliet. Each guest could not see their own name but could see the names of other guests. Using yes-no questions, each guest had to work out who they were and then find the other half of their pair. Each pair were given the task to build the tallest possible tower using marshmallows and spaghetti. The pairs were then grouped into teams of ten which competed against each other in a round of science pictionary.

Thank-you to all the sponsors who donated gifts. For the pair that found their pair first won a bound notebook each from Horizon and sweets. Class Learning provided a voucher for two books up to £100, which was awarded to the winners of spaghetti towers (Erik Clark, Gautham Dey and their winning tower pictured here).

Chocolates and sweets from the BSDB committee were awarded to the winning teams after the Pictionary round. Molecular biology of the Cell (Garland Science) was given to the winner of the best image (Rachna Narayanan with a drawing of WALL-E).

Student Symposium

This year the graduate student symposium was moved to the middle of the meeting, resulting in excellent attendance. This was a truly excellent event – the speakers covered a diverse range of topics in an engaging manner. Some talks even got mentioned in the twitterverse!

The format was also altered so that there were six fifteen minute presentations and six five minute presentations. All the speakers did an excellent job – particular mention must be made for everyone who managed to describe their complex research in just five minutes!

We hope to see many of you next year. If you have any comments or ideas please get in touch with Alex ( or Michelle (; especially if you have ideas for games to play in the student social, know someone who would be a great table leader for the careers workshop or if there is someone with whom you would really like to have breakfast.

Supporting the Science is Vital campaign

As you are probably aware, concerns are growing about the current government’s funding policy (details below). Funding for science and engineering in the UK is under serious threat. We, the research community, can help campaign against this trend, for example by supporting Science is Vital (SiV).

SiV has grown into a well-respected grassroots organisation composed of scientists and supporters of science and research in the UK, chaired by Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL), Stephen Curry (Imperial) and Andrew Steele (Francis Crick Inst.). SiV was formed in 2010 as a response to the previous government’s proposed cuts to science, and the group remains a key advocate for increasing investment in science. Their particular strength is in enabling the thousands of voices of the research community to be heard. They also work closely with the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) and with the major learned societies in coordinating campaign activities.

Back in 2010, SiV helped to fight off the threat of cuts and secure a flat-cash ring-fenced budget for science. It has been a tough five years. Inflation has eroded that settlement and the UK’s public investment in science has declined to 0.44% of GDP, the lowest of any G8 country in the last 20 years. Now that the UK is pulling out of recession, George Osborne and BIS have told the research councils to model cuts of 25 to 40% instead of planning to reverse the decline in the R&D budget. If we are to influence key decisions being finalised for the November Comprehensive Spending Review, we urgently need to raise awareness of the damage that further cuts would inflict on UK science.

To make a difference, you can support the SiV campaign as well as help spread the word about it. The more people get involved, the greater the chance that we can stave off damaging cuts to the research budget in the next spending review. Some possibilities:

  • Get tickets for a rally at Conway Hall in central London from 7-9 PM on 26 October, which will be live-streamed to similar gatherings across the UK. Confirmed guests so far include Jim Al-Khalili, Uta Frith FRS, Simon Singh, Lucie Green; Mark Miodownik, Helen Arney, James Wilsdon and Adam Rutherford.
  • For local rallies and activities please see here.

Certainly, the importance of fundamental science can and must not be underrated, and the current White House campaign in favour of basic research seems to take a very different few from that of George Osborne.

News and News Reminders

  • The BSDB newly announced the Cheryll Tickle award for women in their mid-scientific career (~ 15 years post PhD). The Nomination deadline will be 1 July 2015.
  • The Waddington Medal nomination deadline will be 1 August 2015, and nominations for outstanding candidates are being invited.
  • The BSDB is approaching its 70th anniversary in 2018. We are concerned that documents of the pioneer days might get lost with increasing numbers of older BSDB members approaching retirement. Please, let us know if you have old documents including old newsletter (we currently can’t trace back further than 2nd half of 1999). We will make sure that such documents are being stored and/or digitalised and kept for future research. Furthermore, we would like to reconstruct the list of BSDB chairs starting from the inaugural meeting. Any help with this would be most welcome. Just contact Andreas Prokop under
  • The 2015 Gurdon Summer Studentship awardees have been announced and can be viewed here.