Being a researcher involves a lot of time preparing applications for grants and funding. Is there a recipe for success? Branwen Hide, speaker at the Participants perspective: Writing grant tips for successful applications MSCA-IF webinar, shared a few tips with us.
Branwen, in her own words
I am originally from Canada and completed a bachelor of science honours in kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in 1993. I subsequently moved to the UK, where I completed a bachelor of science in clinical science at King’s College, University of London. After a short stint at a small pharmaceutical company in Vancouver, Canada, I returned to the UK and undertook a PhD in clinical medicine at the University of Oxford. After completing my PhD, I worked for a small policy organisation which focused on scholarly publishing and open access. In 2010, I joined the University of Birmingham as a Research Development Officer (EU funding). In 2014, my family and I moved to the US for 2 years for the outgoing phase of my husband’s MSCA International Outgoing fellowship and upon our return to the UK, I joined the Science and Technology Facility Council (UKRI-STFC). In 2018, we relocated to Brussels so that I could take up my current position within the UK Research Office (UKRO), which is part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Branwen has dedicated a lot of time to raising awareness about MSCA opportunities, when she was working as a National Contact Point in the UK. “A lot of time is spent on supporting applicants, in addition to providing support during the actual running of the projects. You feel that you are making a real difference in someone’s career, which I really like,” she explains.
Acting as a link between the applicants and their future project is therefore very satisfying, as Branwen highlights: “It is a really rewarding experience that allows one to engage across a wide range of sectors and nationalities. You also get to work both the potential applicants, or current fellows, and with supervisors and host organisations.”
TOP TIPS TO PREPARE A SUCCESSFUL MSCA APPLICATION
Read carefully the Guide for Applicants: “It is really important to remember that training (trainingthrough-research) is a key element of the proposal and that the training component should be fully integrated into the research proposal,” explains Branwen. It is crucial to develop your proposal as a joint effort between the researcher and the potential supervisor.
Put yourself in the shoes of the evaluator: According to Branwen, evaluators are chosen for their expertise, but are not necessarily experts in the applicant’s specific area of research. “They take the job very seriously and are under immense time pressure, so it is important that it is as easy as possible for them to find the necessary information in accordance with the evaluation criteria,” she adds.
TIPS FOR OTHER TYPES OF FUNDING
Read: “It is important to take time to read the funding guidelines and background information and any other supporting documents,” recommends Branwen, so that you can tailor your proposal accordingly.
Clarify: Make sure you speak the same language as your evaluators! As Branwen emphasises: “Different schemes have different expectations with regards to the term ‘impact’ and it is important that you understand the differences when applying so that your proposed idea and application meet the expectations of the evaluators.”
Delegate: Ask someone with “fresh eyes” to read your proposal before sending it. “Proposals always take longer to put together than you expect,” adds Branwen.
Branwen will continue supporting potential fellows in their applications. “In the fall, we will also hold a session for potential UK applicants to the upcoming MSCA Special Needs Lump Sum (SNLS) call. As part of our wider remit as UK Research Office, we will be holding a focus group meeting for UK beneficiaries to discuss issues and share best practice in relation to Horizon 2020 project implementation during the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Branwen.
The UK European Research Centre National Contact Points will also be holding sessions on legal and financial issues, including audits, related to Horizon 2020-funded projects.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
HELPING COMMUNITIES BUILD RESILIENT, EQUITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURES
Blazing the trail by establishing a unique research network, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie WEGO project is demonstrating to decision-makers how local communities can actively sustain and care for the well-being of their environment and community in Europe and beyond.
How is gender linked to environmental problems and developmental issues? How are feminist political ecologists working with local communities around the world? How can their activities inform sustainable development policy debates? These are the main questions the Well-being, Ecology, Gender and Community Innovative Training Network (WEGO-ITN) – the first international feminist political ecology (FPE) network of its kind – is seeking answers to.
WEGO has developed a shared research and training agenda to educate the next generation of interdisciplinary social-environmental scientists on FPE in Europe. “FPE is a process of doing environmentalism, justice and feminism differently,” explains project coordinator and principal investigator Wendy Harcourt, a professor of gender, diversity & sustainable development at Erasmus University Rotterdam’s International Institute of Social Studies. “It can empower and promote social and ecological transformation for women and other marginalised groups.”
ACADEMIA, ACTIVISTS AND COMMUNITIES FOR RESILIENT AND EQUITABLE SUSTAINABLE FUTURES
The aim of WEGO is to work as a dynamic and engaged network that forges links amongst local communities impacted by climate and environmental change, the scientific community, civil society and policymakers concerned with gender and the environment. To achieve its goal, the network is focusing on three thematic areas: climate change, economic development and extractivism; commoning, community economies and the politics of care; and nature/culture, technologies and embodiment.
The network includes 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) who are undertaking their postgraduate doctoral degrees in FPE at academic institutions in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom. Ultimately, this research will help to build a scholaractivist community that works together to bring about gender and environmental justice and to contribute relevant advice and recommendations to local, national and international policymakers on gender approaches to sustainability.
“WEGO is helping to break down the ‘grand narratives’ of sustainable development by researching the embodied, the intimate and the emotional experiences of communities,” comments Harcourt. “It’s finding ways to engage with the communities where the research is being done ‘in place’, in order to link these findings to the global policy arena, and from both the local and global levels find the means to end environmental degradation and exploitation and the ways of living sustainably with natural and social needs.”
MAPPING ECOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
Halfway into the four-year project, WEGO has now just completed its second annual training, completely online. It’s currently working in a variety of local and national settings with social movements involved in gender and environmental justice.
These include ongoing women’s rights engagement such as around International Women’s Day on 8 March each year, as well as specific campaigns like gender-based violence awareness in Italy and Uruguay, climate justice in the Netherlands, Indonesia and the United Kingdom, water safety and food sovereignty in Italy and India, anti-fracking in Italy, Indonesia, Kenya and the United Kingdom, and the degrowth movement in the Netherlands and Spain.
Harcourt is responsible for pulling together the findings and guiding the process, a particularly important task during the Covid-19 pandemic. She’s also supporting the work of the ESRs, encouraging them to publish and promote their research projects’ progress. Future plans include an edited volume on feminist methodology in the Palgrave series on gender, development and social change, a special section on FPE in the renowned Journal of Peasant Studies, and a handbook on FPE by leading publisher Routledge. The dedicated project website will produce new online learning resources, including a course on FPE in 2021.
Ultimately, the WEGO project will collectively provide important guides to strategies of resilience and sustainability that are required to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in realising a better and more sustainable future for all.
MCAA EDITORIAL TEAM
Discover Project 6 of the MANNA network. You will find out that even tiny little exosomes may play a big role in animal nutrition and immunity.
The European Joint Doctorate in Molecular Animal Nutrition (MANNA) is an EU network whose mission is to provide a double doctorate training programme, valid throughout Europe, on innovative technologies applied to animal science and nutrition. The MANNA Joint Doctoral project is a Marie SkłodowskaCurie Innovative Training Network funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Programme. This is the seventh of a series of articles on the MANNA doctorate through which we will discover in detail its projects and the related Early Stage Researchers (ESRs).
My name is Rafaela Furioso Ferreira and I come from warm and wonderful Brazil. I am a veterinarian, graduated from Federal University of Paraná, and I have always been fascinated by research and how to apply it in the clinics of veterinary medicine and animal production. Some of my previous experience was at the VetMedZg Laboratory of Proteomics in Zagreb, Croatia, in which my projects evaluated acute phase proteins and used a proteomics approach to develop potential biomarkers for dogs with various inflammatory and neoplastic diseases. I also acquired experience in veterinary clinical pathology, assisting in research focused on haematology and bone marrow cytology of feline leukaemia virus, and seroepidemiology of Apicomplexa protozoa such as Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis neurona in different species. My research interests involve developing novel diagnostic tools for veterinary medicine and the use of innovative approaches such as OMIC tools for animal health and production, and I found the perfect opportunity to do this in the MANNA framework
I am currently the ESR number 6 working on the project entitled 24 NEWSLETTER ISSN 2663-9483 RESEARCH “miRNomics, proteomics, and lipidomics of sow’s milk exosomes”, which is supervised by Helga Sauerwein from the University of Bonn (Germany), Vladimir Mrljak from the University of Zagreb (Croatia) and Mike Salter from the company AbAgri (UK).
Exosomes are extracellular vesicles that are released from cells during fusion of multivesicular bodies with the plasma membrane. They provide a means of intercellular communication and transmission of molecules between cells – such as proteins, lipids, mRNA, miRNA, and DNA. As such, they are targeted ad vectors for drug and possible supplement delivery. We know that exosomes play important roles in both normal cellular physiology and pathological states, but much remains to be discovered.
Milk exosomes, particularly, are of interest as a scalable source of exosomes for drug loading and delivery, in addition to milk's essential role in nutrition and development of the infant's immune system and the source of large volume of milk and dairy products for human consumption .
The experimental basis of my project will use samples from two groups of sows, which received two different ratios of polyunsaturated fatty acids – the animal trial was carried out in MANNA Project 1 (find out more in the December 2019 issue). We will analyse how different diets change the composition of both the milk and plasma exosomes of sows, and, together with the analysis with plasma exosomes from piglets, we will also evaluate the exosome influence on maternal diet for the development of the piglets’ immune system, in terms of the changes of colostrum’s composition into that of milk. We hope that this study will provide new insights in the unexplored world of exosomes, with prospects for the development of biotechnological applications for medicine and animal production.
MY PROJECT SO FAR
During the first year of my doctorate, I tested and set up an efficient protocol for isolation and purification of exosomes from milk and plasma that will be used both in my project and in in vitro studies to provide exosomes for two other MANNA Projects (2 and 9). After successfully isolating and characterising the exosomes, I have begun to evaluate how the different diets affect their composition at the OMIC level – which I have already performed by LC-MS/MS proteomics2 and Next Generation Sequencing3 microRNA analysis. In the next months, we will also perform lipidomics4 analysis of the milk and plasma exosomes.
HOW BEING PART OF AN MSCA ITN IMPACTS ME
Being part of an MSCA ITN is a great opportunity for growth both professionally and personally. First, the intercultural professional exchange is like no other programme. Personally, I have been to Germany, Croatia, Italy, and Scotland, where I had the opportunity to work in high-quality laboratories and learn from extremely qualified staff in all. I believe that communication is the key to creating a positive workplace and longlasting collaborations, and certainly MANNA provided the perfect environment to refine our intra- and inter-personal skills along with our scientific skills.
RAFAELA FURIOSO FERREIRA
UNIVERSITY OF BONN, GERMANY AND UNIVERSITY OF ZAGREB, CROATIA
EARLY STAGE RESEARCHER OF MANNA PROJECT 6
2 Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteomes — sets of proteins produced in an organism, system, or biological context.
3 Next-Generation Sequencing Technology allows millions of DNA fragments to be sequenced at once, at high speed and low cost.
4 Lipidomics is the large-scale study of pathways and networks of cellular lipids in biological systems.
Discover Project 7 of the MANNA network. You will find out that studying the microbiota is extremely important in understanding the relationship between a host and the microbial species living in its gut.
The European Joint Doctorate in Molecular Animal Nutrition (MANNA) is an EU network whose mission is to provide a double doctorate training programme, valid throughout Europe, on innovative technologies applied to animal science and nutrition. The MANNA Joint Doctoral project is a Marie SkłodowskaCurie Innovative Training Network funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Programme. This is the eighth of a series of articles on the MANNA doctorate through which we will discover in detail its projects and the related Early Stage Researchers (ESRs).
My name is Morena Cau and I come from Sardinia, Italy. I moved from my lovely island to the Italian peninsula to study in the veterinary faculty at the University of Milan, where I obtained my bachelor’s degree in animal production, food and health. I worked in the microbiology laboratory of the Sardinian Institute for the Zooprophylaxis, in Sassari, to prepare my undergraduate dissertation entitled “Hygiene and health aspects in the mussel farming.” I continued with my master’s degree Discover Project 7 of the MANNA network. You will find out that studying the microbiota is extremely important in understanding the relationship between a host and the microbial species living in its gut. 27 NEWSLETTER ISSN 2663-9483 RESEARCH in veterinary biotechnology with a thesis entitled “Identification of the immune-related microRNA in ear wax of dogs affected by external otitis".
I had the great opportunity to be selected several times for the Erasmus+ programme, having studied in Lisbon (Portugal), in Rijeka (Croatia) and in Trim (Ireland). In the latter, I had the opportunity to work as an intern on a national project regarding cattle welfare at the Teagasc Research Centre.
All these experiences enabled me to grow as a person and kindled my passion for the lab environment and the world of research. This led to applying for the MANNA programme, which combines my skills and interest in animal nutrition, veterinary medicine and biotechnologies with work in different environments. I am currently the ESR 7 working on the project titled “Bacterial, fungal and archaeal components of the gut microbiota and their impact on animal nutrition”, which is supervised by Armand Sánchez (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Mark McLaughlin (University of Glasgow) and Filippa Addis (Porto Conte Ricerche, Italy).
By the term ‘microbiota’ we mean all microorganisms present in a defined environment. The importance of the intestinal microbiota is a topic that has increasingly taken hold in recent years.
To study the microbiota, you need to have knowledge of bioinformatics, computational analysis of biological data, and how to make phylogenetic trees5
In the 19th century, bacteria could be studied using in vitro cultivation, but it was not possible to isolate microbial species, mostly because of their particular growth conditions, including specific nutrients requirements and anaerobic conditions.
Overcoming classical microbiology techniques to identify microorganisms involves the use of total genomic DNA6 extracted from a matrix of various nature and the sequencing of 16S rRNA7.
The emergence of Next-Generation Sequencing8, bioinformatics and metagenomics9 , have allowed closer study of the intestinal microbiota and shed light on understanding the interaction between bacterial communities and the host organism.
The interest in research pertaining to humans, which is popular now, also raised interest in other species. The pig, for example, is a good animal model for conducting studies on the gastrointestinal tract, as it resembles that of humans in both absorption and use of nutrients, and may be key to understanding the natural barriers against foreign invaders. Pigs are also one of the main sources of meat for humans and its microbiota can be affected by many factors such as stress, diets, management practices and antimicrobial compounds that ultimately affect the growth and fitness of the animal
The pigs of my study are related to MANNA Project 1 (find out more in the December 2019 Issue), which includes a trial on feeding sows diets containing two different omega-6/ omega-3 ratios throughout gestation and lactation.
My project uses mass sequencing data along with metaproteomic and metabolomic10 results to investigate if/how diet changes microbiota composition and affects productive parameters in pigs.
MY PROJECT SO FAR
During the first year of my PhD programme at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a total of 270 faecal samples from both piglets and sows were collected together with intestinal content from cecum, ileum, and jejunum. I extracted the DNA and measured its quantity with Nanodrop, a tool that allows a high-sensitivity fluorescent quantitation of nucleic acids. Then the 16S ribosomal RNA was sequenced using the Illumina MiSeq system targeting the V3-V4 hypervariable regions. The following step was to import the sequence data into QIIME2 (“a next-generation microbiome bioinformatics platform that is extensible, free, open source, and community developed”, https:// qiime2.org/) for the bioinformatics analysis. The taxonomic composition of each sample and group of samples was then generated, and a statistical comparison between groups was conducted based on both alpha and beta diversity analysis. We are now planning the future analyses, which will involve a metabolomic study to be performed at the University of Glasgow, and the metaproteomic study to be performed in the Porto Conte Ricerche centre of research, Sardinia (Italy).
HOW BEING PART OF AN MSCA ITN IMPACTS ME
Being part of a MSCA is an honour because of its undisputed prestige. The first reason I decided to participate in the call for this PhD was the opportunity to learn from different university realities. The spirit of collaboration that this programme has is its strength. Doing a PhD means constant learning, and it happens because there is a continuous exchange with people who bring information and materials, communicate results, news, project progresses, fears, and encouragement to one another. I am happy with the project I participate in and I look forward to learning more, thanks to the experienced people who are involved and help me in this project.
AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA, SPAIN,
AND UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, UK
EARLY STAGE RESEARCHER OF MANNA PROJECT 7
5 System used to name and group organisms based on their evolutionary history and their connections. 6 The chromosomal DNA of an organism, representing the bulk of its genetic material. 7 16S is a gene located in the subunit 30S of the prokaryote’s ribosome, approximately 1 600 base pairs long, and includes 9 hypervariable regions of varying conservation (V1-V9). The 16S rRNA gene can be tagged to make amplification and used to make the microbial taxonomic profile of the sample. 8 Next-Generation Sequencing Technology allow millions of DNA fragments to be sequenced at once, at high speed and low cost. 10 The process used to characterise the metagenome (the collection of genomes and genes from the members of a microbiota), from which information on the potential function of the microbiota can be gained.
Antimicrobial resistance is a growing and intricate environmental problem. Insights produced through a secondment in industry during the project ENVIROSTOME11, a Marie SkłodowskaCurie individual fellowship, shows how intersectoral collaborations can speed up research in the lab and help address this problem.
Unanimously endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), health scholarship and governments, we are fast approaching an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis. Antimicrobial resistance12 is the intrinsic or acquired ability of bacteria and other microorganisms such as fungi and viruses to withstand treatment. Antimicrobial stewardship is being progressively deployed by the European Commission13 and several other authorities to prepare for the consequences of AMR. Our knowledge of how antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and antibiotic-resistant genes spread is mostly derived from clinical and veterinary/animal husbandry settings. We lack knowledge of how resistance spreads in the environment, and how this environmental dissemination affects human health.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT AMR IN WATER?
We know that antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes concentrate in wastewater treatment plants and also occur in drinking water distribution systems. This makes the water industry a strategic control point for AMR14. The problem is that there is a lack of safety values; in other words, there is a lack of precise thresholds, beyond which we can classify a water as unhealthy, or risky, or “toxic.” That is, the safe values for antibiotic resistance organisms and antimicrobial resistance determinants, such as genes and bacteriophages, have not been set for treated water yet. There is no planning even for discussions to begin considering speculative values so far15.
Our knowledge of how antibiotic resistance genes travel (move or disseminate) from one microorganism to another in environmental settings is limited, a significant gap faced by both water industry and research.
ACADEMIC AND INDUSTRY COLLABORATIONS ON FIGHTING AMR
Bacteriophages (viruses which infect bacteria) are the most abundant entities on Earth16. Phages play a fundamental role in acquiring and spreading antibiotic-resistance genes among bacteria. The project ENVIROSTOME investigates this aspect as well as new disinfection technology to remove phages from water17. ENVIROSTOME (Exploring the contribution of bacteriophages to the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance in environmental settings) is an individual Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant currently being coordinated by the Catalan Institute of Water Research (ICRA, Spain)18. ENVIROSTOME also had in its design a secondment of the fellow at BlueTech Research (Ireland), a company specialised in water research and business intelligence19. The secondment with BlueTech Research, carried out during the first year of the project, helped to improve both design and decision-making of research done in the laboratory. Through this company, we were able to access first-hand market and technology information on AMR. Furthermore, contact leads provided by BlueTech Research helped us to observe best practices in combating AMR in water, as implemented by various companies such as Wetsus (the Netherlands), Grudfoss Biobooster (Denmark), California Orange County Sanitation District (US), Bluephage (Spain), and more.
- Investment and upscaling lab technology to the field needs to be justified by good business case and feasibility studies of new technology. Research needs to observe bottlenecks for adoption of new technology in industry and their success cases. Sometimes what works best in the lab, will not succeed in the market.
- Are phages a new benchmark for AMR safety in environmental settings? It is possible that they will become a new standard on quality of microbial safety. As Giardia cysts became a new standard for testing ultraviolet (or germicidal) disinfection efficiency, phages might become a standard for AMR safety.
- Excessively disinfecting the water may backfire as it could trigger stress responses and stimulate horizontal gene transfer (of antibiotic-resistant genes between bacterial cells, including the WHO watchlist of antibiotic-resistant pathogens).
- The problem may be in the sludge of wastewater treatment plants (WWTs). Currently, there is a lot of focus on the microbiological quality of treated water, while little consideration is being given to the sludge where most biomass and AMR determinants accumulate.
HOW CAN TALKING TO INDUSTRY ADVANCE AMR RESEARCH?
The secondment aimed at understanding the state-of-the-art technologies used to treat antibioticresistant genes associated with bacteriophages. A key action of the secondment provided by BlueTech Research was to allow the fellow to gain access and interact with industrial leaders working with AMR in water. This training provided the fellow with the necessary skills to continue interacting with other water business companies until the conclusion of the project.
Despite the research objectives having been established by the project outline, the secondment has provided invaluable information to ameliorate the research design. For example, we know through BlueTech research that, for largescale industrial applications, a substantial investment will be necessary to remove or decrease AMR risks. This was demonstrated by a case study from the company Grundfoss Biobooster at the Herlev hospital in Denmark20. Another concern we have in ENVIROSTOME is to make sure any added disinfection step to remove phages and antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs) does not increase other microbial risks such as horizontal gene transfer. This and other considerations became more available to us after interactions with BlueTech Research and their contacts in the water treatment industry.
Disinfection is not the complete elimination of harmful microorganisms from water. It is the desired sustained reduction of microbial numbers to a safe threshold. As the safety thresholds for ARGs, antibiotic resistant bacteria and bacteriophages have not been established yet, it is vital that academia and industry work together to monitor and control the spread of these emerging microbial contaminants in the environment. Insights generated in the intersectoral collaboration of ENVIROSTOME will help advance research focused on findings which are relevant to the spread of antibiotic resistance in the environment, and also on how to control this spread through disinfection. We have incorporated what we learned in the project with BlueTech Research. Now we can use those as a benchmark on how to approach and interact with other organisations to continue enriching the outcomes of our research.
ANA CAROLINA MAGANHA DE ALMEIDA KUMLIEN,
CARLES M. BORREGO, JOSÉ LUIS BALCÁZAR
CATALAN INSTITUTE OF WATER RESEARCH (ICRA), SCIENTIFIC
AND TECHNOLOGICAL PARK OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GIRONA (SPAIN)
AND UNIVERSITY OF GIRONA (SPAIN)
11 Exploring the contribution of bacteriophages to the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance in environmental settings. MSCA-IF-EF-CAR - CAR – Career Restart panel. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement n. 792686, acronym ENVIROSTOME.
12 National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease (2016) , Glossary of Terms: Antimicrobial Resistance. [Online]. Available at: https://nccid.ca/publications/glossary-terms-antimicrobial-resistance/
14 A European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). European Commission. (Nations et al., 2017).
16 Clokie, M.R.J. et al. (2011) Phages in nature. Bacteriophage 1, 31–45
17 This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement n. 792686, acronym ENVIROSTOME. The authors are grateful for valuable contributions shared by BlueTech Research.
Metal, glass and cement, the building blocks of modern life, are all, at some point in the process, produced at temperatures higher than the ones of a volcano. This invites the questions: what do we use as containers for these extremely hot materials, and how do we study them? Well, materials known as refractories – part of the ceramic family – are the key component in the containers, and to study just one of them (the steel ladle), we need the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action European Training Network – Innovative Training Network (ETN-ITN) project, ATHOR.
Refractories are unique ceramic materials used in linings of vessels to contain and process fluids at high temperatures. They can sustain complex combinations of thermomechanical stresses and chemical/ physical wear generated by fluids and chemical agents used during the process. Being the only low-cost materials able to sustain operation conditions at temperatures typically above 1 000 °C, refractories are classified as advanced ceramics.
ATHOR-Advanced THermomechanical multiscale mOdelling of Refractory linings is an innovative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary project that brings together seven academic beneficiaries and eight private partners. The ATHOR network is deeply committed to providing a combination of research and training activities which will support and enlarge the initiative of the Federation for International Refractory Research and Education (FIRE).
VARIOUS ASPECTS OF REFRACTORIES
As a key part of the commitment to the ETN-ITN, the ATHOR project has organised five training courses across Europe to cover various aspects of the fundamental science related to refractories. The Montanuniversität of Leoben, Austria, hosted the first training course on the fracture mechanics of refractory materials (11-15 July 2018). This one week of intensive training included different lectures covering the fundamentals of fracture mechanics and creep of refractory materials as well as two industrial RHI-MAGNESITA site visits to the Technological Centre in Leoben and a production plant in Veitsch.
The RWTH University held the second training course, dedicated to the corrosion of refractory materials, in Aachen, Germany (24-25 September 2018). This coincided with the 61st International Colloquium on Refractories in Aachen, allowing ATHOR’s ESRs to participate in both scientific events. The colloquium included a poster session where Lucas Teixeira, one of the ATHOR’s ESRs, won third place in the Best Poster award competition.
The University of Orleans, France, arranged the third training course, focused on thermomechanical modelling in Orleans, at the end of January 2019. This event, along with a visit to the Duralex glass factory, gave an insight to the behaviour of refractories at high temperatures.
The fourth training course was organized by the University of Limoges, France, and was hosted by one of the industrial partners, SaintGobain. It took place in Cavaillon, France (24-28 June 2019), and focused on the micromechanics of materials. The programme included lectures on micromechanics, a tour of the laboratory at Saint-Gobain, and site tours of Saint-Gobain SEPR Le-Pontet and Alteo Gardanne. Furthermore, the ESRs had the opportunity to present their work to the EU project officer and to an external scientific expert during the midterm review of the ATHOR project.
SCIENTIFIC EVENTS ACROSS THE WORLD
In addition to the training courses, ATHOR also participated in many scientific events across the world. On 16-20 June 2019, its ESRs had a chance to visit Turin, Italy, to attend the XVI conference organised by the European Ceramic Society (ECerS), preceded by a two-day summer school about “High and Ultra-High Temperature Ceramics.” During the ECerS event, the students had the chance to participate in a poster contest, and one of ATHOR’s young researchers, Robert Kaczmarek, won the first prize.
The ATHOR group then headed to Wuhan, China, for the 2019 annual symposium on Refractories (9-11 October). On the last day of the symposium, the ATHOR ESRs had an opportunity to add to their knowledge with the Refractory Technology Short Course, the ChinaGermany-Austria Postgraduate Academic Forum, and the ATHOR Course. Following the event in China, the ATHOR group went to Yokohama, Japan, to participate in the Unified International Technical Conference of Refractories (UNITECR 2019, 13-16 October).
The theme of the UNITECR 2019 was: “Refractories for the future: collaboration among customers, manufacturers and academia in pursuit of future high-temperature technology.” UNITECR 2019 presented the world with the prospects of high-temperature technologies’ contribution to an environmentally friendly world by conserving natural resources. Eleven of the fifteen participating ATHOR ESRs presented their work. At the end of the conference, two of them, Robert Kaczmarek and Lucas Teixeira, won the Excellent Presentation award.
ADAPTIVE ACTION IN THE TIME OF CRISIS
The University of Minho, Portugal, planned to hold the final training course, on 24-28 February 2020. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ATHOR project held a virtual course instead. The main topic of this training was multiphysics coupling, which opened new possibilities of modelling refractories using different methods. While it goes without saying that a week face-to-face in sunny Portugal would have been preferable to a videoconference, it did result in a larger overall attendance and even had participants from China, India, and Brazil!
These training courses and scientific events have provided the ATHOR ESRs with a broad knowledge of refractory science, the chance to present their work all over the world, and the opportunity to network with industry leaders in refractories. They will be well prepared to overcome the various scientific challenges they will have to face in the future as many of them are approaching the finish line.
THANH HUNG NGUYEN, MONTANUN IVERS ITÄT LEOBEN, AUSTRIA