IBIOIC CTP ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM

On Wednesday 24th January, IBioIC welcomed our PhD students to Glasgow for the first IBioIC CTP Annual Symposium. The theme of the day was “The Big Wide World of Industrial Biotechnology” with the aim to get students thinking about the world of IB outside of their own research space.

Organisation and delivery of the day was very much a joint venture between the IBioIC Skills Team and the students and provided the students with the opportunity to develop their preparation, research and presentation skills and to learn about the diversity of the sector.

With 30 PhD students from across our four current cohorts and eight industrial and academic supervisors in attendance, the symposium provided an ideal opportunity to learn about the breadth of research currently underway across IBioIC’s programme. This was the focus of our first session ‘What’s going on in our cohort?’ which involved a ‘speed networking’ session to get a snapshot of everyone’s research areas and try to find connections between researchers. This proved really useful with lots of new networks being formed.

The second session looked beyond individual projects at the wider IBioIC thematic areas of biocatalysis/biotransformation, synthetic biology, downstream processing, integrated bioprocessing and sustainable feedstocks.   This involved the students splitting into groups to devise and deliver a STEM session on a topic relating to one of IBioICs thematic groups. This builds on the student’s previous induction training session to become STEM Ambassadors which was delivered in October. For this exercise the academic and industrial supervisors were required to act as the eight year old audience (complete with lollipops and sweeties!), which they all played rather well. It was great to see the inventiveness and props used by the students to explain complex topics such as aseptic techniques and chromatography.

Session 2 on thematic groups was concluded with a brief discussion about the next student-led thematic group meetings. These sessions will take place in March/April and will require the students to investigate a chosen topic within their given thematic area and report back on their findings.

After a networking lunch, the first afternoon session looked wider again to look at IB at a sector level. A number of key sectors have been identified in IBioIC’s business development plan as strategic areas for growth and this session provided the delegates with an opportunity to input into the further development of the business plan and to gain an understanding of the key growth areas of speciality & commodity chemicals; biorefining from waste; food & drink and carbon capture storage & utilisation.  The session was kicked off with four students having the daunting task of presenting an overview of the four chosen key sector areas using a presentation technique new to them, known as Pecha Kucha.  Pecha Kucha is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds the presenter talking along to the images. This is a style that is commonly used in the creative industries but was a new challenge for our students. Following the introductions, the delegates divided into each of the key target sectors to discuss current and emerging technologies and what should be done to grow IB in that sector.

The final session of the day aimed to get the students thinking about the context and diversity of IB on a global scale and to visit some of the current key issues across the globe.  This started with a lively debate on whether GMO should be allowed, with the ‘for’ side winning the argument on the day. It was a difficult task for the ‘Against’ team due to the audience but a good exercise in considering a controversial topic from a different perspective.
The formal symposium was topped off by an engaging talk from Charles Abbas from IBioCat who came all the way from Illinois, USA to talk to the students about the highs and lows of developing IB tech and to provide a global context to IB.
The whole day was wrapped up at the IBioIC offices for a wine reception and then dinner in Glasgow’s Merchant City. All in all it was a great day full of energy and enthusiasm -just the right thing to set the students up for the following two days attending the IBioIC Annual Conference!

Thank you to all the students and supporters who put in a lot of time and effort to make the event a success.

Until next year!