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Published: 2022-11-17

Exchange of knowledge and mingling when KBC celebrated 15 years

NEWS Last week, the year 2022-version of an annual interdisciplinary conference, KBC DAYS, was a successful event with a record number of participants! It was attended by over 350 participants from different departments of Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Text: Anna Shevtsova och Ingrid Söderbergh

Stefan Björklund, professor at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics and scientific coordinator of KBC, believes that the KBC DAYS were an excellent opportunity, especially for younger and newly employed researchers, to get to know colleagues from outside of their own departments and to learn about the infrastructure available in the KBC environment.

- More established researchers from the KBC environment hopefully also appreciated this year's theme, "Big Data", and the opportunity to meet their colleagues "live" again after two years of corona restrictions when we were forced to arrange the KBC DAYS in digital format, says Stefan Björklund.

Big data as a common science language

Spanning over two days on 8-9 November, KBC DAYS 2022 offered an intensive program with a diversity of scientific talks, many of which touched on different aspects of the central theme of this year's conference, "Big Data".

Analysing, interpreting and handling extremely large and complex scientific data open powerful opportunities but also create challenges in different research fields. “Big Data” was an important aspect of many research projects that were presented at the conference, from the one aimed at developing tools for the early detection of hazardous chemicals in the environment, to studies of biobank samples and health data for risk predictions and early detection of diseases, or analyses of data collected during the Arctic Oceanic expedition.

- Processing large amounts of data is an issue many researchers in our interdisciplinary centre face today. Therefore, the presentations focused on “Big Data” were relevant for many of us in the KBC research community, says Stefan Björklund.

Staying dynamic in the future

In the frame of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of KBC, Stefan Björklund, Scientific coordinator of KBC and Selma Dahmane, representative of the Umeå Postdoc Society, interviewed people who contributed to the establishment and development of the centre.

The panellists gave a historical overview of how KBC started and their vision for strengthening research collaboration at KBC in the future. The panel members agreed on the importance for the KBC as a research centre to stay up-to-date and dynamic in the future, thus avoiding stagnation.

PhD students received their awards

The celebration continued with the Gala Dinner on the evening of the first day of the conference. During the dinner, an award ceremony took place. Four young scientists were announced as the winners in different categories of the Best PhD Students Presentation Award and cheered by the participants. Two students, Palwasha Baryalai, Department of Molecular Biology, and Eduardo Rodriguez Soldado, Department of Plant Physiology, UPSC, shared the Agrisera Award - a travel voucher supported by Agisera.

Their presentations received the highest and equal scores from the expert committee, which evaluated the structure of the presentation, clearness and adaptation of the message to a target audience and other criteria of effective science communication.

The participants of the KBC DAYS actively voted for the "Best PhD presentation by the public choice". One of the winners in this category was Karsten Meier, PhD student from the Department of Molecular Biology, for his outstanding elevator pitch "Secreting proteins, snatching nutrients, blocking the immune defense - Everyday life for Chlamydia". The second awardee, Elena van Zalen from the Department of Plant Physiology, UPSC, won public hearts with her impressive and professional visual abstract "How do spruce and pine trees experience stress?"

Effective ways to present a research project

In total, eleven PhD students presented their research projects as sharp two-minute-long elevator pitches and discussed projects with the conference participants during the interaction session in front of their visual abstracts.

Before the KBC DAYS, several of the presenting PhD students took the course in science communication that was offered by KBC and given by Gabrielle Beans Picon, a research communicator at Curiosum and IceLab at Umeå University.

- The novel focus of this year's course was on how to convey a summary of key research findings in a graphical format. The purpose of a visual presentation is to effectively disseminate the main message in a more popular science way to a broad audience, says Gabrielle Beans Picon.

Daria Chrobok, scientific illustrator and founder of DC SciArt, was invited as an expert and a guest instructor for the course. DC SciArt also sponsored awards, science communication books, for the best elevator pitch and visual abstract.

As an additional element of the KBC anniversary celebration, the photo contest with the theme "KBC is…" was organised during the conference. Conference participants chose their favourite image among more than twenty impressive artistic contributions. Souvik Sarkar from the Department of Chemistry became the finalist of the photo contest with his photo "Inverted nature through KBC lab window".

Suggest the theme for the next year's KBC DAYS

What new challenges the year 2023 will bring to us, and which scientific themes would be interesting and relevant to discuss within the interdisciplinary KBC research community?

- Everyone affiliated with KBC is welcome to propose a theme for the KBC DAYS 2023! We in the organising committee will consider all suggestions! says Stefan Björklund.