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A doctoral training network in plant development research: from single molecule to whole plant

Final Activity Report Summary - ADOPT (A doctoral training network in plant development research: from single molecule to whole plant)

The ADOPT project aimed to help integrating the Ph.D. education across Europe in the field of molecular plant sciences. Due to the great demand of junior scientists, the ADOPT Project was established to attract qualified students from Europe and abroad to help train a new generation of scientists. The basis of every educational initiative is to attract skilled young students. We were able to attract 19 promising young researchers over the project duration of four years. They came from 14 different countries, 12 of them European Member states or ENP countries. One of the goals of gender mainstreaming policy was to hire an equal number of male and female researchers under the project; this goal was exceeded. We were able to hire eleven female researchers and eight male researchers (58% female students). Interestingly, our selection procedure was very successful in this respect; while we received about 40% female applicants and finally hired about 60% female scientists.

Meanwhile, 8 students (5 female and 3 male researchers) have finished their theses or are in the process of defending their thesis. The students recruited in the second year and after will finish their theses in the coming months.

Twelve publications have been published so far by the students hired under the project, among them were four publications in Development (Impact Factor 9,16), EMBO Journal (Impact Factor 13,5), Plant Cell (2x, Impact Factor 9,85). According to an internal statistic about the lead time to publication from the start of the PhD work it becomes clear that 74% of all publications are usually published after the finishing of the PhD (in the field of molecular plant sciences) due to e.g. the elongated times for plant growth. Hence, there will be a significantly higher number of publications emerging from the project. Individual measure were taken to disseminate the knowledge ranging from the publications and conferences to radio interviews, expert committees, presentations for interested students by the coordinator, retreats etc. The students contributed with 13 presentations and 18 posters to international conferences and participated in 6 workshops as well as further conferences. The most prominent measures were the events organised by the students themselves; some of them are meanwhile well established like the yearly PhD day. A very big success was the career workshop organised by the students. They invited 8 professionals from different careers (patent lawyer, industry researcher, consultant etc.) to gain insight into their careers, a typical day, the skills required for this career and further valuable information. A questionnaire completed by the participants revealed that 100% of the PhD students learned about new aspects and career options, 97% judged the workshop as "valuable" or "very valuable" for their career. The career workshop was accompanied by a visit at the BASF Plant Science Research Center in Limburgerhof, Germany.

The students organised a European student conference in Wageningen, Netherlands. This symposium might be the prelude to a longterm collaboration with other European plant science institutions beyond the ADOPT consortium and therefore perfectly supports the idea of the European Research Area on the PhD level.

The training of the students took place in the institutes and labs of the project partners and comprised a series of practical and theoretical courses, participation in seminars, presentations etc. Practical courses were given in a variety of cutting-edge research disciplines like proteomics, genomics, bioinformatics, X-ray Crystallography etc and it also comprised an intensive workshop on complimentary skills. These courses created a group feeling and identity as an EU ADOPT student as well as the retreat weekends that were organised as a student symposium and were also used for individual meetings to discuss further strategies.

The "flying fellowships" were means to promote exchange of knowledge and expertise among the partners. This tool has been successfully implemented within the project. The students have performed part of their research in the labs of the different partners.