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Integration of RNA Biology for Next-Generation Scientists

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INTEG-RNA (Integration of RNA Biology for Next-Generation Scientists)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

This project specifically targets three Life Science research programs at CEITEC MU that focus on Molecular Medicine, Plant Science and Structural Biology with one major research theme - RNA biology. The objectives of the INTEG-RNA project are closely related to the positive impact of synergies with leading partner institutions and effective knowledge transfer of the current research undertaken at CEITEC MU within this field. We trust that bringing scientists together and investing in next-generation researchers (students, young scientists) through learning, training, and mentoring is a key to sustainable cooperation in the long term.

The key objectives of the INTEG-RNA project are grouped around the core scientific goal, which is to strengthen RNA Biology within CEITEC MU through the Twinning exercise via close collaboration with institutes that have a strong tradition in this research area, including the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), The University of Edinburgh (UEDIN), Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), and Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB).
To meet the project objectives, we employ a set of measures structured into the following groups of activities: (1) Scientific mobility and small collaborative projects, (2) Training and education, and (3) Scientific dissemination and impact assessment of CEITEC MU.
The objectives are the following:
1. Stimulate scientific excellence by increasing knowledge in cutting-edge RNA methodology through cross-disciplinary collaboration.
2. Increase the knowledge in data processing and analysis across RNA cluster nurtured at CEITEC MU.
3. Educate next-generation scientists in RNA biology integrative approaches by expanding relevant training opportunities.
4. Boost the potential of researchers and Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) by nurturing universally applicable transferable skills and career development in RNA cluster through training, mentoring, and networking.
5. Utilize the experience and best practices of international partners in order to upgrade research management/administration within CEITEC MU and the overall CEITEC MU research profile.
Nine new seed funding projects (WP1) were developed between researchers CEITEC MU and Twinning partners. These projects involve secondments of researchers and enable expanding the range of methodological approaches, formulation of relevant research questions, and contribution to international exposure of young scientists.
Via these scientific courses, young researchers from CEITEC MU have updated their skills in ‘Statistics with R, Linux’, and ‘Attacking open chromatin with ATAC sequencing’.
During the first reporting period, young researchers (over 90 students and postdocs from CEITEC and Twinning partners) had another opportunity to hear cutting-edge scientific lectures during the RNA Summer school organized in September 2021. The lectures from leading experts covered many different current topics in RNA research, from structural studies of large macromolecular complexes, bioinformatics analyses and methods to the mechanisms of RNA synthesis, processing, modifications and translation, and their role in development, disease, and infection.
We assist CEITEC MU PhD and postdoc committees in organizing social events to help networking and knowledge sharing with the RNA cluster communities. In the 1st reporting period, CEITEC organized PhD and Postdoc retreats virtually in autumn 2021 for PhD students and postdocs from CEITEC and Twinning partners. In total, 67 PhD students and 32 postdocs participated in these retreats.
We want to prepare our young researchers for the various career paths and career challenges they can face by means of mentoring and career guidance at the institutional level. Currently, we are implementing CEITEC MU Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) that involves mentors from our partner institutions. By broadening the network of PhD students and their contacts in the partnering institutions, we can provide our students an opportunity to select the TAC members that are the best fit for their research and career portfolio. Currently, five CEITEC MU PhD students have a member of their TAC from the Twinning institutions. The other nine students will set up their committee in their first semester of study (i.e. in the autumn semester of 2022).
Every three months we organize the joint telco "Career Café Live – Life after PhD" with at least one RNA alumni from the partner institution to prepare young researchers for various career paths. The alumni share their career stories and are available to answer PhD students' questions on the career difficulties and varieties of paths that a student can take to overcome the challenges. In the 1st project period, we organized five career cafés. Two of those alumni were asked to participate in the podcast where they elaborated on specific career topics.
In the frame of WP4, The Research and Technology Transfer Office at JGU organizes webinars for CEITEC MU and INTEG-RNA partners' research management and administration staff twice a year. The webinars help strengthen contacts with partner institutions, understand different research support systems, compare knowledge and experience in the field, and exchange practices. The topics of the webinars in the 1st reporting period were: Project Management in ERC Projects and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (organized on 11 November 2021) and Data Management in Research Projects (on 9 December 2021).
We also supported two research managers from the Grant Office and the Grant Administration Department of CEITEC MU to participate in the international conference EARMA which is in their area of expertise and was held in Oslo, May 4 – 6, 2022.
It is planned that the strategy of the INTEG-RNA project based on scientific collaboration, mobility, and joint training will positively influence CEITEC MU in terms of the quality of research findings (scientific impact) and the overall international reputation of CEITEC MU and Masaryk University as a whole (strategic impact). CEITEC MU researchers, together with their colleagues from INTEG-RNA partner institutions, have advanced in achieving these objectives in the 1st reporting period. Expected impact of the projec is the following:
- Increased research excellence of the coordinating institution in the particular field of research as a result of the twinning exercise
- Enhancing the reputation, attractiveness, and networking channels of the coordinating institution
- Improved capability to compete successfully for national, EU and internationally competitive research funding
All the measures included in INTEG-RNA are designed to utilize the experience and best practices of international partners and upgrade scientific excellence and research management/administration at CEITEC MU. Implementation of small-scale pilot research projects can be seen as incubators for future collaboration in competitive research funding, as the scientists are motivated to elaborate more on the preliminary results gained.
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RNA Summer School