All SystemsX.ch Day 2015
Interdisciplinary research in all its diversity
The SystemsX.ch community gathered at the Stufenbau in Bern on September 15, 2015. Around 200 researchers from all over Switzerland took part in the fully booked event to present and discuss their projects, and get to know the work of others.
The talks, which featured young, upcoming researchers as well as experienced scientists, showcased the breadth of SystemsX.ch research, and offered insight into a number of diverse projects. For example, Paola Picotti from the ETH Zurich described her research on the function of genes that protect the brain from protein aggregation and its associated diseases such as Alzheimer’s. John McKinney from the EPF Lausanne talked about the development of new microscopy techniques involving the combination of optical and atomic force microscopy, making it possible to observe individual living bacterial cells for a whole week.
Ariane Hofmann from ETH Zurich presented her work on intratumor heterogeneity and patterns of co-occurring mutated genes in renal carcinoma. “It was a great honor to present my research project in front of the SystemsX.ch community, and a great personal experience as well; it was my first talk in front of such a large audience”, says the young researcher.
The diversity of topics was also evident in the 82 posters presented at the event. The three best posters in each of two categories were awarded prizes.
In the postdoc category Hartland Jackson (UZH) took first prize, Tri T. Pham (UniBas) was second and Georgios Savoglidis (EPFL) third. “Winning the poster prize was a surprise and an honor. Having the support of the SystemsX.ch community is great motivation for my work", says Hartland Jackson. The winner in the PhD student category was Denis Samuylov (ETHZ), followed by Lukas Widmer (ETHZ) and Dimitiris Christodoulou (ETHZ).
The keynote speaker, Steven Altschuler from the University of California San Francisco, presented a beautiful example of interdisciplinary systems biology research. In his talk, Altschuler explained how he and his team, using a combination of imaging techniques and computer modeling, investigated how the many optical nerves of the fly’s compound eye manage to wire themselves efficiently to the brain – so as to result in a single image.
The panel discussion on the challenges of interdisciplinary research focused largely on the education of the next generation of systems biologists. One of the principle issues discussed was whether systems biology benefits more from scientists who are very specialized in their fields, or from generalists who are familiar with a range of disciplines.
The panelists, along with some members of the audience, were of the opinion that students should be armed with principles, concepts and methods that they can use in many different areas, instead of being required to learn material by heart, as used to be the case in traditional biology studies. They were also united in their viewpoint that the key to successful interdisciplinary research lies in the ability of each team member to understand the language used by their fellow scientists, no matter what field they come from.
Last but not least, the end of day barbecue dinner in the garden provided the opportunity for participants and speakers to relax and get to know each other better in an informal and atmospheric setting. Young researcher Ariane Hofmann summarizes: “The whole All SystemsX.ch Day was an inspiring event, which enabled networking within the SystemsX.ch community and led to many fruitful discussions.“