Home Sweet Home

(January 14th, 2014) Not all European nations are blessed with great research infrastructure. No problem! With an EMBO Installation Grant, Polish, Czech, Portuguese or Turkish researchers, working abroad, can go back home and blithely set up their own lab. We talked to this year’s winners.

Six researchers will  receive this year’s Installation Grants awarded by the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO). This grant aims to assist talented young group leaders to relocate and establish a research group in their own country (see an article about last year’s winners in LT 4-2013). This year, researchers will return to Portugal, Turkey, Poland and the Czech Republic.

“I was really excited and felt very honoured to receive such a prestigious grant,” says Raquel Oliveira, who studies chromosome dynamics and will move from the UK to the Gulbenkian Institute of Science in Portugal. “The grant is a great financial help,” adds Karel Riha, “but even more important, is the prestige and recognition associated with it.” He is currently working at the Gregory Mendel Institute in Vienna, Austria, and will be moving to the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, to work on telomeres in plants.

All awardees recognise the importance of this grant for their research. “It means a lot, since it is a recognition from a very important organisation of the work I have done. Furthermore, the financial support of this grant will be crucial for the success of the projects I plan to develop in the near future,” says Edgar Gomes who will be moving from France to Portugal. He’s running a project on nuclear positioning.

“Equally important are the recognition and the networking opportunities that this grant offers,” notes Oliveira. Those selected to receive this year’s Installation Grants will be integrated in the prestigious network of European Young Investigators (YIP). “Being part of this programme will be pivotal in the dissemination and recognition of my lab and these interactions will allow me to learn, discuss and potentially collaborate with excellent young scientists,” she says. ”This grant will allow me to invite YIP members to visit the Gulbenkian Institute of Science, promoting the institute and Portuguese science in general.”

Above all, amongst all researchers, there is a keen sense of returning home. “I would like to show that Poland is a perfect place for interdisciplinary projects connecting mathematics, physics and biology,” says Joanna Sulkowska, who’s interested in knotted proteins and returns to Warsaw after a few years in the USA. As proof of the impact that this grant can have, Sulkowska is already preparing to organise the next Biophysical Society Meeting. “It will be the first time that Poland will host such a conference,” she adds.

Systems biologist Ozgur Sahin, also relocating from the USA but to the Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, says that going back to his home country is a long time wish. “This grant is not just a simple funding support to establish my lab, but a full package of money support, networking opportunities with other recipients, benefit from EMBL core facilities, support for attendance to scientific meetings and several courses for my students and myself.”

Sahin is planning to stay in Turkey to contribute to the country’s scientific developments and to make its research more visible to the European and world research community. “However,” he adds, “a sustainable research funding is the most important issue to establish a long-term research career.”

These concerns are shared by other researchers and some ponder about their future after the grant. “Ideally I would like to stay in Portugal, but this will depend on the positions and conditions offered at the end of my current contract,” says Oliveira. Riha sums it all up when he says that “it’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen in the future.”

Alex Reis

Photo: Fotolia/raywoo

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