Barcelona 2017

Breaking Down Complexity: Innovative models and techniques in Biomedicine

The 1st European PhD and Postdoc Symposium was held in Barcelona from the 15th to the 17th of November 2017. The aim was to highlight recent advances and applications of modern techniques and models in biomedical research. 

The event had three parts: a Scientific Symposium featured lectures from eight renowned keynote speakers covering a wide range of topics, from synthetic biology to translational medicine. On Career Day, participants were offered insights on transitioning to industry careers through a variety of activities including directly talking to industry professionals, and dedicated workshops. Attendees had the chance to share their knowledge among citizens in an informal atmosphere; participating in ENABLE’s Outreach Activities, which included actions for children and teenagers, as well as engaging panel talks for adults.

The symposium was organised by PhD students and Postdocs from four international institutes and featured lectures from eight renowned invited keynote speakers. 272 participants attended, mainly PhD students and Postdocs, as well as some PIs. All in all, ENABLE Barcelona was a success, offering participants scientific opportunities, as well as insights on transitioning to industry careers, and the chance to share their science among citizens.

Enable BCN 2017 at a glance

Scientific Symposium

Under a common theme of “Breaking Down Complexity: Innovative Models and Techniques in Biomedicine”, ENABLE Barcelona offered participants a bird’s-eye view of current biomedicine, with eight highly renowned researchers presenting their state-of-the-art research in four interconnected sessions.

Scientific sessions and keynote speakers

Session 1

Building the Foundations of Biology:
Synthetic and Cellular Research

University of Trento
Trento, Italy
The Rockefeller University
New York, USA

Session 2

The OMICS Revolution: Understanding the Layers of Life

Ecole Polytechnique
Lausanne, Switzerland
Babraham Institute
Cambridge, UK

Session 3

In Vitro to in Vivo:
Modeling Life in 3D

Milan, Italy
Copenhagen, Denmark

Session 4

From Discovery to Cure:
The Future of Therapeutics

University of Maryland
Barcelona, Spain

Additional scientific activities

ENABLE also offered eight master classes, where scientific articles were critically analysed by a renowned researcher in active discussion with attendees. Participants also had the opportunity to interact with the speakers face-to-face, either during career chats, the daily lunch session, coffee breaks, or the networking-focused event Tapas with speakers. Participants could also present their own research in short talks as well as a multitudinous poster session.


Career Day

The aim of the ENABLE career day was to provide chances for careers in science outside of the academic landscape. This was achieved through workshops on soft skills, career chats with non-academic science professionals, and an opportunity fair.

Opportunity fair

28 companies presented themselves, their portfolio, and any job opportunities they had to offer, with more than a dozen advertised job openings. Participants could not only get insight into career paths to consider, but also find out what companies require from prospective applicants, and network with contacts directly within the companies.

Career chats

To get direct feedback on everyone’s own career choices, 13 company representatives and ENABLE keynote speakers answered questions on their individual career paths, including obstacles and surprising opportunities, during intimate career chat sessions.


Workshops were intensive courses for small groups to help the personal and professional development of young researchers.

The following workshops were offered:

  • Transferable skills
  • Assessing career options
  • Preparing a job interview
  • Goals and time management
  • Science communication and public engagement
  • Scientific writing
  • Intellectual property valuation and knowledge transfer
  • Business planning and innovation in life sciences

Outreach activities

Apart from bringing young scientists together, ENABLE further aimed at communicating biomedical research to the general public. With this aim, ENABLE initiated direct discussions between scientists and the public. During “Ask the scientist”, researchers and public figures discussed the challenges, advances, and ethical qualms of the fight against cancer in the 21st century. In a cross-disciplinary session, scientists and well-known non-scientific guests were invited to a panel discussion on the importance of leadership, within and outside of the academic world. At four bars in different neighbourhoods of Barcelona, 16 ENABLE participants presented their research to the general public in an informal setting, accompanied by food and beer.

Primary and secondary school students were also invited to IRB Barcelona, to be taken on a journey into what it means to be a scientist. Primary school children were introduced to the scientific method by performing fun experiments, while for teenagers, ENABLE volunteers organised a session where students could directly ask PhD students and Postdocs what it’s like to work in academia.

The organising committee

Scientific organising committee


Ambra Dondi – Giovanni Giangreco -Elisa Magistrati


Gianmarco Di Mauro – Gemma Turon – Sanja Zivanovic


Elja Louer – Wouter Verdurmen – Helena Xicoy


Alexander Hogrebe – Teresa Ho Lai Fong – Meeli Mullari

Local organising committee


Sanja Zivanovic – Busra Topal – Alexandra Balaceanu – Laura González – Diana Domínguez – Madhulika Rai – Diana Buitrago – Gianmarco di Mauro – Susana Barros – Elzbieta Szulc –  Jery Joy – Gemma Turon – Alicia Llorente – Cristina Fuster – Manuel Cañete – Paula Climent – Saska Ivanova – Daniela Kalafatovic – Antonija Kuzmanic – Miguel Rovira – Fernando Salvador – Macarena Sánchez – Nina Schweizer – Ricardo Silva dos Santos – Giorgia  Testoni – Jürgen Walther


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 724115.