It Ma(t)Ters is a mini-conference on microbiology for doctoral researchers in the Max Planck Society that was initiated in 2017 by the PhD representatives of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPIMM) in Bremen. This year, the conference took place on February 26 and 27 for the fourth time as a two-day event in Bremen, and was a full success!
After arrival of the visitors from Marburg on Wednesday noon, the PhD representatives opened the conference with a short introduction of the institutes. An overall good mood and excitement about the goodie bags (sponsored by the MPIMM press office) ensured a good start into the conference.
Director Prof. Dr. Marcel Kuypers gave a keynote talk about different research topics in Biogeochemistry, from microbial carbon and nitrogen metabolism over to seagrass ecosystems, processes in sand, and greenhouse gases. As a second speaker, the PhD representatives invited Dr. Ivaylo Kostadinov from the German Federation for Biological Data (GFBio), who gave an informative talk about scientific data, how to be FAIR, and the topic of data submission. The participants presented their own research topics in short talks followed by vivid discussions, or during one of the poster sessions. Especially for doctoral researchers in early stages of the PhD, this was a great opportunity to present project plans, first results and discuss hypotheses.
During the institute tour, the visitors got some insights into some of our workshops, our Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer, the aquariums with symbiotic gutless worms, and learned about how to conduct research in the field, how to use microsensors, and why bioreactors are so special. And of course, they also got the chance to grab the hooves of our Bremen Town Musicians for a lucky future during a tour of Bremen’s city centre!
Discussions, scientific and non-scientific, lasted long on Wednesday evening in the institute’s recreation room. The conference ended with a dinner on Thursday evening in Bremen’s Viertel, where all participants squeezed around a table to discuss their experiences of PhD life, being abroad and other interesting topics.
Inter-institute events like this are a great opportunity to get to know other Max Planck Institutes, learn about new methods and maybe also new ways of thinking, to get inspired and to form collaborations for the future. These conferences for early career scientists might not be the right place to get recognition from your scientific idol, but they offer a safe, relaxed and fun space to gain some conference experience. Doctoral researchers get the chance to network and exchange experiences with researchers in similar situations. Finally, the It Ma(t)Ters helps to connect marine and terrestrial disciplines and to find out what we actually have in common.
“When organising an event, many things need to be taken care of beforehand: You need an abstract booklet and a time schedule, find keynote speakers that are available, organise drinks and meals, get funding and plan social activities. This can be challenging besides doing your PhD, yet, the experience is worth it”, the PhD representatives from Bremen emphasize. “You get the chance to improve your organisational skills, try a new line of action – which might be interesting for a future job – and get to know new people along the way.” And in the end, the most important lesson that can be learned: Even if not every detail has been planned out in advance, if everybody on the team is motivated and contributes something, the overall event can be a great success!
For the first time this year, a doctoral researcher from the MPI for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, who is working on plant-microbe interaction, joined the It Ma(t)Ters conference. In the following years, the organisers hope for more participants from other institutes to broaden the audience and to enhance the visibility of the event by improved communication with Max Planck- directors and the PhDnet. PhD representatives from Bremen and Marburg look forward to many more inspiring It Ma(t)Ters conferences!
Merle Ücker is a PhD-student at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen. In her research, she uses metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to reveal the secrets of deep-sea symbioses between mussels and bacteria at hydrothermal vents and cold seeps.