Travel grants, prizes and conferences: a year of idea-sharing ahead

EMBL Australia

In this month’s newsletter:

Posted on behalf of Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head, EMBL Australia

Science is not just about discovering the new: it’s also about learning from our colleagues and building on the ideas of others. In this, our first newsletter of the year, we explore this theme of idea-sharing and learning.

In 2014, we will be offering students the opportunity to learn from their European counterparts and develop their PhD research skills with travel grants to Europe. We’ll also be taking our two-week intensive PhD training course to Canberra, following the success of last year’s program in Melbourne.

We will host some of the world’s best scientists here in Australia, to share their experiences and findings with us. And we are particularly looking forward to welcoming Dr Lee Hood, one of the fathers of modern genomics.

Lee is just one of the international drawcards to the International Conference in Systems Biology, to be held in Melbourne this September. The conference will show how a systems biology approach is integrating knowledge across disciplines to advance biomedical research, health care, and drug development.

Also in this newsletter:

  • how bioinformatics helps break down the barriers to sharing information between science disciplines; and
  • networking and learning opportunities at the suite of 2014 Lorne Conferences.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on upcoming events and opportunities in Australian life sciences.

I hope this newsletter sets the scene for a year of learning from one another, and I look forward to exchanging experiences and ideas with you throughout 2014.

Best wishes


Professor Nadia Rosenthal
Scientific Head, EMBL Australia


Travel to Europe or Canberra – launching our 2014 student programs

Take your research to Europe with an EMBL student travel grant

PhD students have limited opportunities to travel overseas for training and networking, but EMBL Australia is out to change that.

If you’re a PhD student studying life sciences at an Australian university or research institute, you can apply for an EMBL Australia travel grant, which you can use for travel to Europe to attend training courses, conferences or symposia at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). Or you could spend some time visiting or working in EMBL laboratories in Germany, France, Italy or the UK.

See some of the upcoming conferences and courses that you could attend in Europe.

The following travel grants are available in 2014:

  • The EMBL Australia PhD Travel Grants provide up to $3,500 for short trips of less than six weeks, or up to $7,500 for a longer visit of up to 6 months. Applications for travel between 1 July 2014 and 31 December 2014 are now open until 4 April 2014. Apply now
  • The EMBL PhD Symposium Grants offer travel to Europe to attend the annual EMBL PhD Symposium – a conference designed for PhD students, organised by PhD students. Applications will open in April/May 2014 for travel to the symposium in October 2014.
  • The EMBL Australia’s International PhD Program enables students to undertake their PhD at an EMBL facility in Europe. The PhD is jointly awarded and co-supervised by EMBL and the student’s Australian university, and students are provided with a stipend and travel support.

Have a look for yourself, or tell your students. Find out more about travel grants.

Get a head start on your research with the EMBL Australia PhD Course

For students just starting their PhD in Australia, EMBL Australia is offering sixty students a valuable introduction to research with the EMBL Australia PhD Course.  This year’s course will be hosted by the Australian National University in Canberra.

Modelled on EMBL’s compulsory pre-doctoral course for first year PhD students, this two-week program shows students how their research fits into the bigger picture of science, and introduces a range of fields including: bioinformatics, developmental biology, genomics, systems biology, and regenerative medicine.

Chloe Warren, a PhD student at the University of Newcastle attended the first course, which was held in Melbourne last year. “It was great to meet so many other PhD students, and to be able to talk about our research and troubleshoot our problems together.” Read more about the 2013 course.

We’ll be announcing more details about the 2014 course in the next newsletter, on our training page and via Facebook and Twitter.


Measuring wellness – a tipping point for systems biology

It’s been used to develop a simple blood test for detecting lung cancer, and now it’s underpinning the development a test that could one day give you a measure of ‘wellness’ by measuring proteins in your blood — a systems biology approach is changing and challenging the field of medicine.

The man leading these projects, Dr Leroy (Lee) Hood, is visiting Australia this September for the 15th International Conference on Systems Biology in Melbourne.

As a keynote speaker at the conference Lee will be talking about how a systems biology approach is changing healthcare.

“The message that I’ll bring is that systems medicine has reached a tipping point, and is transforming the practice of healthcare as we speak. It is leading to the development of P4 medicine—predictive, preventative, personalised and participatory—which has two separate thrusts, quantifying wellness and demystifying disease.”

Lee Hood is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington, and one of the fathers of modern genomics and systems biology. Among other things, Lee Hood and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) developed the DNA gene sequencer and synthesizer, and the protein synthesizer and sequencer.

He also managed a centre responsible for sequencing one of the chromosomes for the Human Genome Project, and he is one of only 15 people to be accepted into the US National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

To join Lee Hood in presenting a talk or poster at the conference, submit your abstract by Friday 14 February 2014.

Abstracts can cover: energy and the environment; health and wellbeing; high dimensional and multi-scale systems; industry systems biology; model systems and systems design; software modelling and data; systems foundations, directions and outreach; and Technology. Read more about the call for abstracts.

Hear Lee give a captivating TED Talk on how he sees systems biology and ‘P4’ medicine changing the future of medicine.


In other news

Learning is as important as discovery

If scientists open themselves up to learning more about other disciplines, could we get better results from trans-disciplinary collaborations? David Lovell, head of the Australian Bioinformatics Network, thinks so.

As a teenager in the 80s, David avoided biology. To him, the vast assemblage of biological terms, systems and concepts seemed arbitrary and “almost entirely devoid of rhyme or reason”. On the other hand, mathematics had logic to it – in maths, things could be inferred.

But later in his career, David was drawn back to biology through bioinformatics, which he saw as a way of using maths to improve human health.

Having skipped biology all those years ago, he suddenly needed to delve into an unfamiliar discipline to learn as much about biology as he needed to be able to crunch the biostatistics. That’s when he began to consider some of the cultural issues around how scientists share information between disciplines.

Seldom do I hear scientists and researchers talking about teaching or learning things from one another… yet in this era of big science and big scientific collaborations, I think it’s an inevitability,” says David in his lecture ‘Making a Difference with Engineering Mathematics’, which he gave at the 11th Engineering Mathematics and Applications Conference in December 2013.

Maths, David says, “can only make a difference if there are people who, after all their years of training…are still prepared to learn things outside their discipline…people who accept that as the area of their knowledge grows, so too does the perimeter of their ignorance.”

Listen to David’s seminar on the Australian Bioinformatics Network’s SlideShare. Or read the transcript.


Could you be eligible for a science prize in 2014?

Find out which prizes you, your colleagues or your staff could be eligible for with the Inspiring Australia science prize calendar.

You can search by field of science or stage of career, and see which prizes are coming up or open for nominations.

One of the competitions you’ll find on the calendar is FameLab Australia – a new competition presented by the British Council and Fresh Science that is looking for passionate early-career researchers with a peer-reviewed discovery to present their science at the inaugural FameLab Australia competition.

The winner of the national final will head to the UK to represent Australia at the FameLab International Grand Final, at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival in June.

Applicants can be honours students, graduate students or up to 5 years post-PhD, and researching in any field of science, maths or engineering.

To apply online, and for program details and selection criteria, head to


Science with scenery – Lorne becomes Australia’s science hub in February

It’s not just the famous beaches, rugged cliffs, and rain forests that draw tourists to the Great Ocean Road. Each year in February, they also come for the science.

The small town of Lorne, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, is once again preparing to host a string of annual science conferences that turn the town into a beehive of activity and ideas. And EMBL Australia will be there too.

We are proud to be sponsoring the Young Investigator award, which will be presented at the 19th Lorne Proteomics Symposium to the best oral presentation of the SoAPS (Students of Australasian Proteomics Society) session. Read more on the Australian Proteomics Society website.

Each conference will bring together hundreds of international national and science researchers and top thinkers to discuss the latest issues and discoveries in cancer research, genomics, proteomics, and infectious disease and immunity.

The Lorne conferences include: Lorne Proteomics Symposium 2014; Lorne Protein Structure and Function Conference 2014; Lorne Cancer Conference 2014; Lorne Genome Conference 2014; and Lorne Infection and Immunity 2014.

Events and deadlines

AusBiotech NSW BioBeers & Bubbles
5/02/2014, Garvan Institute

Lorne Proteomics Symposium 2014
6/02/2014, Mantra Lorne, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Introduction to metagenomics workshop, Sydney
6/02/2014, UNSW, Sydney

AusBiotech VIC BioBeers & Bubbles
6/02/2014Insieme Restaurant Bar, South Yarra

Lorne Protein Structure and Function Conference 2014
9/02/2014, Mantra Lorne, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Introduction to metagenomics workshop, Melbourne
10/02/2014, Monash University, Melbourne

AusBiotech SA BioBeers & Bubbles
11/02/2014, Regatta’s, Riverbank Promenade, Adelaide

Lorne Cancer Conference 2014
13/02/2014, Mantra Lorne, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

AusBiotech WA BioBeers & Bubbles
13/02/2014, Central venue TBC

Closing date (extended): Call for abstracts for ICSB 2014

Lorne Genome Conference 2014
16/02/2014, Mantra Lorne, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Australia China Life Science Summit
18/02/2014, Amora Hotel Jamison, Sydney

Lorne Infection and Immunity 2014
19/02/2014, Mantra Lorne, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Science meets Parliament 2014
17/03/2014, Parliament House, Canberra

AusMedtech 2014
1/04/2014, Hilton on the Park, Melbourne

Big Data 2014
3/04/2014, Pullman Albert Park, Melbourne

Closing date: 2014 PhD Travel Grants Round 2

About EMBL Australia

EMBL – the European Molecular Biology Laboratory – is Europe’s flagship for the life sciences. The Australian government joined EMBL as an Associate Member in 2008.

EMBL Australia is an unincorporated joint venture between members of the Group of Eight universities and the CSIRO, supported by the Australian government.

Read more about EMBL Australia