NGC - The Origins

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When I joined the lab in Mainz I was an enthusiastic, passionate and driven second-year PhD student who thought that these qualities, united with hard work and a bit of luck, were the unique key to success in science. Needless to say, I was young and naive. I wasn’t any longer in a huge lab with many students and postdocs running around all day to perform experiments and prepare reports. It was then that I started feeling disconnected from the local community. At the same time, I felt like the other young members, especially those from brand new FTN labs, were somehow disconnected too.

This led me to reminisce my Erasmus days in Munich, when I used to participate in the Beer Of The Month (BOTM). The department’s head would give students the chance to meet once a month to discuss their problems with experiments, funding, supervisor-trainee relationships, etc. And some beer too, hence the name BOTM. It was a great opportunity to get some advice from our peers, and to report issues via our speaker, if present.

I don’t precisely recall how it happened because it doesn’t seem like something I’d have done before that moment. However, I got in touch with three other PhD students who were eager to start meeting other peers and discuss about science or their life in the lab. It took us a couple of beers at Baron’s to decide how to do this, but eventually we thought it was best to take the middle road between pure scientific seminars and pure casual encounters. Two and a half years later, I think it worked out quite well. What do you think?

During these years, we weren’t always NGC though. At first, we were just students meeting independently. Then we became GSS (Graduates’ Seminar Series). Shortly after this, we were the Neuroscience Graduates’ Colloquium. We got organized, some of the people involved in building the network and planning the meetings have changed. Some of our greatest supporters from the past years have now graduated and left academia.  Nonetheless, we’ve grown bigger over the years and are now known by institutes and graduate programs. We also started offering support to those who are not sure about how to direct their careers after the PhD.

As for me, I am a not-so-young anymore,  sixth year PhD student who has learnt that passion, hard work, luck and a constant effort to improve often disregarded skills are essential to survive in our career (enthusiasm fades away after a few years of the PhD and the drive is funneled through the work on one's own skills). But most importantly, staying isolated won’t take us anywhere. Networking, talking to other scientists, sharing experiences, knowledge and ideas are essential to our growth as early career researchers. It keeps the lymph running. It keeps science alive.

We, the NGC organisers, are proud of what these encounters have become and what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve helped six colleagues to get ready for their PhD defense (check out the Alumni section and post series for news about them). We got the opportunity to assign credit points to speakers and attendees from one of Mainz’s Graduate Schools. We are helping whoever wants information or tools for their career, present and future. We are exchanging valuable information about science and techniques. And we hope to be able to continue doing so for a long time. Or at least until we graduate! ;)

Enjoy the blog and our meetings, and if you want to participate in our activities, as a speaker, a writer or a helper, just get in touch with us.

Written by Chiara Galante; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured Image: NGC/Design.


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