Nicolas Roby, a member of Matteo Rauzi’s team, explains that the revival of the iBV “ PhD pizza club” has its roots in the post-covid era: « We first realized that there were many newcomers at the iBV, but they just did not know each other! » It was time to shake up the student crowd and to get out of this gloomy COVID time… Nicolas thus became a leading member of the club, as a natural-born organizer, bustling with ideas and transforming many of them into actual events.
The ambition of this post-pandemic PhD club was multifaceted, but the common denominator was to share knowledge, help each other and create a deep sense of community: « Our PhD club is not a copy of the Valrose seminars. We have a clear and specific agenda, with several main objectives. First, we have tool- or technique-oriented talks. People present their techniques, they give examples for application and it can stir interactions and collaborations among them, sometimes at the crossroads of several disciplines. We also organize mini courses. For example, Arnaud Landra-Willm (Sandoz’s lab) has familiarized everyone with statistical methods adapted to their specific scientific questions and experiments. I am myself a member of the ethics committee for human trials and I might organize something on this topic soon, as it is multidisciplinary and encompasses several notions worth sharing with the other members».
The two most recent PhD club presentations were given by Paolo Piovani from the Studer lab (on brain and retinal organoids) and Mathilde Solyga from the Besse lab (on CRISPR/Cas9 editing). Nicolas writes an article about each presentation in the news section of the iBV website, and all of them are made available on the common server, in the “PhD pizza club section”, so they can benefit to everyone, even outside the club.
The third and very important objective of the club was to provide a brain storm space for helping PhD students facing scientific or technical issues. « This has already had a positive impact on several of us, and most importantly, it helps people to stay out of discouragement when things go wrong … or not as expected! » If you want to rehearse your talk for a scientific meeting in France or abroad, the club is also the place to go. Because becoming a PhD also means to be able to project oneself into a professional future, meetings with actors of the non-academic world are organized, to broaden career prospects for future PhD graduates. So far, key representatives of the pharma and consulting industries, sometimes iBV alumni, were able to come share their insights with the club attendees on different occasions. In the same spirit, Niels Fjerdingstad, from the Lamonerie team, another active member of the club, shared his experience at the BioTechnoSud forum, as recently announced on the iBV website. Postdocs and masters are also welcome and participate regularly to these meetings.
Emily Plumb, from the Arkowitz lab, is another dedicated organizer of the PhD community. Coming from South Carolina, she was from the start confronted to the language question, and sometimes to the difficulties that foreign students may experience when arriving at the iBV, and in France in general. She thus decided to organize « language lunches » twice a month (every other Tuesday), where people can come to practice their English…but also their French! « Yes, I wanted it to works both ways, so we swap languages from one lunch to the next. It’s open to everyone, not only PhD students. So permanent researchers, postdocs and ITA are welcome of course! For now, we have not discussed specific topics yet but we may introduce thematic lunches soon. We could for example talk about Nice and its surroundings, about sports, or about cooking, a very important topic in France! » She also noted that she is thankful for multiple supportive colleagues around the iBV for encouraging the initiative.
Emily is also very much involved in making PhD students happy with their life in Nice. In her inaugural presentation (to be found on the common server just like all other PhD club presentations), she shares a ton of tips about cultural events and music scenes, about sports, discovery of natural wonders and traveling, especially in Italy, so close. This is a great contribution to help achieving an ideal balance between hard work and the life outside the lab. Nicolas and Emily and other PhD students also organize gatherings outside the iBV, of which the very popular climbing gang is just one of the avatars.
The dedication and motivation of Nicolas, Emily and all their PhD fellows have paid off: PhD students are now a strong, care-taking community that plays a major role in the scientific and social life of the iBV.