Several persons are sitting spread over a room at tables, always two persons in front of each other discussing. Laura Bacete is standing on the right side of the photo checking her clock and smiling into the camera. Speed dating under the time control of Laura Bacete (right front) at the symposium in June 2023 - postdoctoral candidates and UPSC group leaders interacted with each other in different formats to identify common interests. Photo: Stéphanie Robert

How to encourage talented young researchers to move to Northern Sweden? UPSC is inviting them for the UPSC Symposium for Early Career Plant Scientists – a concept that has been revived this year. The postdoctoral candidates had the opportunity to see the place and the research environment, and their overall feedback was very positive. After a successful symposium in June this year, UPSC is now accepting applications for the next symposium which will take place on March 21-22, 2024.

Long, cold and dark winters, short summers – the geographical location of Umeå might discourage many talented scientists from applying for open positions. However, Umeå has a lot to offer: two universities and a university hospital with cutting-edge research infrastructure on one campus in a growing and vibrant city. UPSC is located right in the middle as part of both universities and that is what UPSC wants to show to those talented, young plant scientists that will be invited to the UPSC symposium in March 2024.

“UPSC is a great place to work. We have about 30 research groups with strong international reputation, and the centre is impressively well-equipped with shared platforms and facilities for all kind of plant research”, says Stéphane Verger, group leader at UPSC, who took the initiative to restart organising the UPSC symposium for Early Career Plant Scientists this year. “It is an excellent environment for learning new techniques and acquiring new skills, and Umeå with its beautiful surrounding is a good place to live.”

Six postdoctoral candidates from Canada, France, Germany and India were invited for two days in June for the last symposium. All of them were at the end of or have recently finished their PhD and were selected because they had high chances of being successful in applications for competitive European postdoctoral fellowships. During the symposium, the candidates presented their research, met and discussed possible projects with UPSC group leaders and visited UPSC’s facilities.

“The research discussions were of course central to the programme, but we also offered a workshop with Umeå University’s Research Support and Collaborations Office to provide information about European research grants as well as time for social interactions and networking”, says Petra Marhava, one of the main organisers of the previous and the coming symposium. “We received very positive feedback from the participants which reassured us to continue with the same format also next year.”

The programme for the upcoming symposium in March is not finalised yet but the organisers plan to address the suggested improvements from the participants of the previous symposium. For instance, they moved the symposium from June to March so that the postdoctoral candidates and the group leaders have more time to prepare applications for European postdoctoral fellowships, which mostly have a deadline in autumn. They will also try to include an inspirational lecture by a more senior group leader in addition the one by a junior group leader to give a more complete picture about the possible challenges of an academic career.

“The most difficult point to address is that the invitation to the symposium does not come along with a definite job offer. Postdoctoral fellowships from Marie Curie, EMBO or HFSP are very prestigious, but it costs time to apply, and they are very competitive”, says Laura Bacete, who recently started her research group at UPSC and was invited herself to a similar symposium in Norway before starting her postdoc there a couple of years ago.

“We think that the participation in the symposium is still very valuable for the invited candidates because they can get feedback on their research and expand their network without any expenses from their side.”

Stéphane Verger adds: “As a group leader you are depending on qualified staff that fits into your team. If I meet such a candidate that is willing to apply together with me for a fellowship, I will try my best to find a backup solution in case the application is not successful. Moreover, there are all the time new postdoc opportunities coming up at UPSC and those candidates might fit well to one of these openings.”

The application for the symposium is still open until Tuesday, the 9th of January. Besides their CV and references, applicants are expected to send in a cover letter explaining their research interests and motivation and they should mention UPSC group leaders they would be interested in working with. Once the application is closed, an evaluation committee will go through all applications, select the most promising candidates, and invite them for the symposium in March.

More information about the UPSC Symposium for Early Career Plant Scientists

For questions regarding the symposium, please contact:

Laura Bacete, Umeå Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University
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Petra Marhava, Umeå Plant Science Centre, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
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Stéphane Verger
Umeå Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University
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