AGEM retreat 2018

Record numbers and setting a standard

This year’s AGEM PhD retreat was a great success! With a record number of participants, we have not before had so many interesting and diverse talks during one retreat. Subjects included translational rodent and C. Elegans studies, cutting edge techniques such as gene editing using CRISPR-CAS and the use of organoids, and patient studies aimed at bettering and elongating patients’ lives. No surprise this inspired many questions and suggestions from the audience!

Our four guest speakers mimicked this diversity. Prof. dr. Hugo Heymans (emeritus professor in pediatric at the University of Amsterdam) gave a worldwide perspective about the importance of the first 1000 days of life in shaping the growth and (cognitive) ability. Elaborating on this subject, the pediatric endocrinologist Martijn Finken (VU Medical Center) lead us through his research and findings on vertical transmission of glucocorticoids to mother’s milk. Through simple diffusion blood cortisol of the mother influences the infant phenotype to prepare it for their postnatal environment. 

Dr. Tristram Wyatt came especially from the University of Oxford and showed how difficult it can sometimes be to do good science in the face of popular beliefs by explaining and debunking the human pheromones myth. Last not but not least, prof. dr. Boudwijn Burgering (UMC Utrecht) showed us the abundant work his lab has produced on PI3K signaling in relation to cellular metabolic signaling. Together, these speakers complemented the students’ presentation wonderfully.

Fitting with the AGEM’s aim to discover, share and learn from each other, the program includes fun and networking activities aimed to facilitate our amalgamation into one institute. According to the positive feedback, I think the Organizing Committee pleasantly surprised all participants with a personal compliment and the seating arrangements during dinner. After a delicious dinner, Sahand Sahebdivani entranced us all with Arabian stories of brotherhood and communication. Where better to get to know each other than on the dance floor? This year was the first themed meeting; a fantastic boogie wonderland at the Disco Inferno. Tânia Garcia stole the show and won the best party outfit prize; don’t stop till you get enough! On Friday, the traditional early morning boot camp revitalized the mind and helped gear up thoughts for the next sessions and our first interactive feedback meeting. Thank you all for your suggestions.

Last but not least; congratulations again to all winners! Suzan Knottnerus (Best Classical Presentation), Kyra van Rijn (Best Pitch), Joanne Donkers (Most Contributing Participant).

The AGEM 2018 meeting has thus set a high standard for our future meetings. We thank you all for your participation and for sharing your ideas and science. We hope to see you all again next year!

On behalf of the Organizing Committee, Myrtille Gumbs