The EMBL model – 40 years young and still supporting early career researchers and students

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

This month I’m visiting Heidelberg for the 40th anniversary celebrations for EMBL. It’s a time for celebration and excitement about things to come, but it’s also a time for reflecting on the values that have made EMBL a success, and the importance of those values for Australian science.

EMBL (the European Molecular Biology Laboratory) was created in 1974 to internationalise molecular biology. At its core was a vision to nurture and develop the talents of the best and brightest minds in Europe – students and young researchers, who remain the lifeblood of all the EMBL campuses today.

At EMBL Australia, we offer students the chance to connect back with EMBL through our travel grants program, which sends off Aussie researchers to spend time at EMBL labs, attend courses and conferences, or even undertake their PhD at EMBL. We’ve just awarded another round of travel grants, and applications are now open for Australian students to attend the EMBL PhD Symposium in Germany.

We are also bringing the EMBL spirit to our activities here in Australia. In 2013, we held our inaugural EMBL Australia PhD Course at WEHI in Melbourne, which was a great success. At the time I remember thinking that the course had the ‘EMBL vibe’ – I could feel the same passion, energy and enthusiasm from the students and the course presenters as from their counterparts back in Europe.

This month we will be doing it all again, at the ANU in Canberra, and I can’t wait.

In addition, some of the students from last years’ course have taken up the torch, and are in the process of organising the first EMBL Australia PhD Symposium, to be held at UNSW in December. It’s really exciting for me to see these students so fully embracing the EMBL model.

If you know a student who might be interested in some of the training and travel programs we offer, please feel free to forward this newsletter on to them.

Best wishes,

Professor Nadia Rosenthal
Scientific Head, EMBL Australia

Please note that all replies to this newsletter go to If you wish to email me directly, my address is

In this month’s newsletter:

  • Want to travel to Europe? EMBL Australia can help
  • 60 students head to Canberra to glimpse what’s ‘hot’ in research
  • In other news:
    • Let’s talk systems biology – events in June
    • Hear what systems biology could do for you
    • Add modelling and simulation to your life scientist tool kit – Winter School in Maths and Computational Biology
  • About EMBL Australia

Want to travel to Europe? EMBL Australia can help

Travel to Germany for the EMBL PhD symposium

Has nature already solved many of the problems that we are grappling with in science and technology today?

The 16th EMBL PhD Symposium, ‘Inspired by Biology – Exploring Nature’s toolbox’ will explore the diverse ways in which biological knowledge can be applied to solve problems of public, academic and industrial interest.

If you’d like to head to Europe to attend the symposium, EMBL Australia can help you get there.

Applications are now open for travel grants to attend the symposium in Heidelberg, Germany from 23 to 25 October 2014.

The symposium is organised every year by first-year PhD students who have just completed the EMBL pre-doctoral training course. Participants from all over the world gather for a three-day event with talks from both top-level scientists and PhD students themselves.

…And closer to home

For those who don’t end up heading to Heidelberg this year, EMBL Australia is holding its very first PhD Symposium in at the University of NSW in Sydney from 3 to 5 December.

Based on the EMBL model, the Australian course has been organised by the students who attended our first PhD course in Melbourne last year.

And they’re starting to pull together a pretty impressive line-up of keynote speakers including Ian Frazer, Krystal Evans and Marc Wilkins. Other plenary speakers will be chosen from senior postdocs who have led key research projects in leading laboratories over the past few years.

Registrations are now open, with early-bird closing 1 August. Find out more.

EMBL Australia travel grants to Europe awarded

Congratulations to the five students who have received EMBL Australia grants for travel between 1 July and 31 December 2014.

They’ll be heading to Europe to attend their selected conferences, symposia or one of the many short courses operated by EMBL, as well as visiting EMBL labs.

We’ll report back on their travels later in the year.

This round we were pleased have received the greatest number of applications ever.

The grants went to applicants from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney, WEHI, and the Burnet Institute.

Keep an eye on the EMBL Australia website, and our Facebook and Twitter pages for details about future travel grants.

60 Students head to Canberra to glimpse what’s ‘hot’ in research

Our second annual EMBL Australia PhD Course is coming up at the end of this month, and 60 students from around the country will be joining us in Canberra for the two-week residential program hosted at the Australian National University (ANU).

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

“The course gives students a glimpse of what’s ‘hot’ and a basic understanding of a broad range of life science fields,” says Prof Thomas Preiss, an EMBL alumnus now at ANU.

The course will be held from 30 June to 11 July 2014, covering topics including:

  • gene expression and genomes
  • structural biology
  • RNA regulation
  • cell biology
  • systems biology
  • bioinformatics
  • neuroscience
  • next generation sequencing
  • beyond hope – managing expectations in stem cell science
  • communicating your science: the how and why
  • animal models of disease
  • translational and clinical sciences
  • crop genetic engineering

If you’re keen to be involved next year’s course, keep an eye on EMBL Australia’s Facebook and Twitter pages for the announcement of applications.

In other news

Let’s talk systems biology – events in June

Cell signalling modelling

This event will present biologists with a number of perspectives on cell signalling modelling from both mathematical and biological viewpoints. Find out what the possibilities are, how it works and what to bear in mind when working with people from different disciplines.

Hear from:

Professor Roger DalyHead, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University – on characterising changes in signalling networks in cancer cells, with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers.

Dr Melissa DavisSenior Research Fellow in Cancer Systems Biology at the University of Melbourne – on genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic networks and network disruption in cancer.

Dr Tianhai TianAssociate Professor / ARC Future Fellow, School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University – on mathematical modelling and simulation of biological systems.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 8:30am for a 9:00am start at the CSIRO, Clayton Victoria.

All are welcome. RSVP to More details on the SBI Australia website.

Predicting disease with epidemiology modelling

How does a disease spread in your body or through your community?

What impact might this have on economics, government policy, and national security?

From inside the human body to entire populations, epidemiology modelling can help predict the spread of disease and help reduce its impacts.

Join SBI Australia to discuss the latest insights and research into predicting disease through modelling.

Hear from:

Associate Professor Jodie McVernonMelbourne School of Population and Global Health – why has whooping cough returned to developing countries despite the use of vaccines? And how can models help get the vaccination program right this time?

Dr Joel Miller School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University – understanding complex contact networks to discover how diseases and ideas are passed through populations. How can mathematical models help?

James McCawMelbourne School of Population and Global Health – antiviral-resistant flu could throw a deadly spanner in the existing response plans for a flu pandemic. So how fit are drug-resistant viruses, and how much of a problem will they cause? These questions are all part of future response plans.

Friday, 27 June 11:30am at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria

All are welcome. RSVP by Monday, 23 June 2014.

More details

Is there a topic you want to explore at an SBI Australia Collaborative?

Systems biology is not a field of science, it’s a tool. It can be applied in fields as diverse as molecular biology, viticulture, marine science and synthetic biology.

  • Are you using systems biology in your field? We’d encourage you to host a collaborative to share your approach with others.
  • Do you have someone in mind who could speak about how they’re applying systems biology?
  • Are you interested in hearing about how systems biology is being used in your field? Why not propose a topic for a collaborative to us, or come along to the conference in September.

Send your suggestions in an email to

From viticulture to marine science, hear what systems biology could do for you

Researchers in biology, computer science, health, engineering and chemistry, who use a systems biology approach to solve problems in their field, will be heading to Melbourne in September for the International Conference of Systems Biology (ICSB).

The conference program has just been released, so you can now plan your conference week, from networking sessions over morning tea, through to tough choices between workshops and talks in varying applications of systems biology. View the program.

For students studying in these fields, the conference offers the opportunity to explore how systems biology could help you in your own research, and meet with those who are already doing it.

Early bird registrations for the conference have just closed, but standard registration is now open. Head to the conference website for details.

ICSB 2014

Add modelling and simulation to your life scientist tool kit

Life scientists are increasingly utilising maths, statistics and computational techniques to help analyse and simulate biological systems.

Processes such as gene regulation, tissue and organ development, organismal behaviour and ecosystem dynamics can be all described by maths, modelling and simulation.

The 2014 Winter School in Mathematical and Computational Biology will introduce mathematical and computational biology and bioinformatics to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and others working in the fields of mathematics, statistics, computer science, information technology, complex systems analysis, and biological, chemical and medical sciences and engineering.

The Winter School is supported by the Australian Bioinformatics Network, and will be held at the University of Queensland from 7 to11 July 2014.

Early bird registration is still open until 22 June at:

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