Vienna Calling

(July 3rd, 2014) Last month, the International Vienna Biocenter Summer School commenced for the fifth year. 20 lucky undergraduate students from around the world were selected out of nearly 2000 applicants to spend ten weeks at the school and gain valuable research experience and skills.

In 2010, former director of the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Barry Dickson, initiated the International Vienna Biocenter (IVB) Summer School for undergraduate students. The main idea was to give young students the “unique opportunity to work side by side with leading researchers in a dynamic scientific environment”. Since 2010, the school has been held annually and this year attracted nearly 2000 applications from students all over the world, with the majority of students coming from India, followed by the UK and the USA. 20 students were selected, representing 19 universities and 15 nationalities. All travel expenses were paid by the school, free accommodation was provided and each student received a stipend of 800 Euros per month.

After arriving in Vienna on 27th June, the students started 20 different research projects lasting ten weeks. Each student is hosted in one of the Vienna Biocenter’s research institutes by one of 20 group leaders. Among them Jan-Michael Peters at the IMP, who works on cell division and chromosome biology; Julius Brennecke, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, interested in the piRNA pathway in Drosophila and René Schroeder, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, studying RNA aptamers and RNA chaperones. Every student works on a small project of his or her own, usually alongside a PhD student.

During the projects, the students attend lab meetings, bi-weekly lectures by one of the faculty members, journal club meetings and weekly PhD seminars. At the end of the project, the students present their results at a symposia, entirely organised by them – which, according to the hosts “for most of them will be the first experience of presenting to an audience and also of organising an event”.

The programme not only gives the students the opportunity to learn new techniques, build an international network and gain new knowledge but also includes a packed social programme, including an opening dinner, a visit to some of Vienna’s historic sights and other regular campus activities. All in all the programme helps the students to “develop a strong sense of belonging together as a group” according to the observations of the hosts.

Last year’s students described the school as “a great experience – a chance to learn new research techniques, a new field of research, and make friends from all around the world” and “altogether an amazing experience”. Clearly, they enjoyed the experience and hopefully so will the 2014 students.

And if you’d like to spend your next summer in Vienna, working in a world-class lab, the application process starts in early December.

Nicola Hunt

Photo: IVB Summer School

Last Changes: 08.29.2014