Marie Mardal, Vesna Prchkovska, Martin Nielsen, Katryna Cisek and Maria Bostenaru Dan attended ESOF 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They all enjoyed the experience and agreed to share with us what they learnt during the event.

Marie Mardal: “My three words to sum up ESOF 2014 are: networking, outreach and inspiration

Originally from Denmark, Mardal benefited from an Initial Training Network (ITN) to work in Germany on a project aiming to determine illicit drug use trends at community level via the analysis of urinary biomarkers in sewage.

Mardal decided to attend ESOF 2014 in Copenhagen mainly to get a better understanding of the European Union (EU) funding system but also to network with researchers working in different fields so as to broaden her horizons. She therefore attended several sessions (“What is a PhD for”, “What the Higgs do we do now”, “The billion-dollar big brain projects: where are we going with our brains?”, “The future of science communication”, “How much do you want to know about yourself”, “Ageing as a way of life”, etc.) and particularly enjoyed the session about how to communicate research to children at school. She also particularly enjoyed the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) session and especially the overall theme “Transferable skills”, which she considers “very useful for PhD students”.

Mardal’s experience of ESOF 2014 was very positive. It gave her a feeling of belonging to a very special community: “There is something beautiful about scientists’ common passion for science, independently of any area of research”.
Vesna Prchkovska: “I attended ESOF to improve myself as a researcher

Prchovska comes from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYROM). After having benefited from an Intra-European Fellowship for Career Development (IEF), she moved to Spain to work on a project studying multiple sclerosis to develop new models for studying brain connectivity.

Interested in developing transferrable skills and curious about her future opportunities within and outside academia, Prchovska attended numerous ESOF sessions (“What's up with peer review?”, “What environment is required to fulfil the role of a scientist?”, “The ERC and beyond: impact on career paths”, etc.). “All of the sessions were great” she says, adding that “I have learned more about how the Horizon 2020 programme works, more about the bridges between academia and business, and about different scientific disciplines which are not per-se from my research area but which were explained in a way that I could understand”. She had also the opportunity to present her project during the MSCA poster session.
When we asked Prchovska if she would be willing to attend ESOF again, she replied with enthusiasm – having met a lot of people and been inspired by hearing their success stories, she would definitely go again.
Martin Nielsen: “I appreciated the broad interdisciplinary aspect of the conference

Originally from Denmark, Nielsen was awarded an International Outgoing Fellowship for Career Development (IOF) to work in the United States on biomass valorisation and its transformation into commercially useful commodities.

Even though initially he found “The information on what ESOF is wasn’t very good or easily accessible in my opinion”, Nielsen admits that he learned a lot during the different sessions that he attended (the opening ceremony, “Science to Business”, “Science Policy”, etc.), and especially about other disciplines. He had also the opportunity to attend the MSCA event and some workshops.

If he could sum up in three words his ESOF experience, Nielsen would say “Inter-disciplinarity, science in the future, networking, showing that he would be happy to repeat the experience!
Katryna Cisek: “I understood how I can transition from academia to industry

With joint Polish and American citizenship, Cisek works on a project which characterises protein complexes that have been linked to various neurodegenerative disorders and depression. She conducts research in Finland thanks to an Initial Training Network (ITN).

Cisek attended ESOF 2014 as she wanted to participate in the MSCA event as well as in the career development workshops, wanting to learn how to transition from academia to industry, especially in the framework of small biotech companies. According to her, “Both the MSCA and ESOF career sessions were excellent”. She received practical information about on-line resources and portals, as well as an idea of the “the true value of non-technical skills learned during doctorate studies”. 
For Cisek, the experience was definitely “fun, fruitful and insightful” as she met and networked with a lot MSCA Fellows and learned about career development.
Maria Bostenaru Dan: “It was worth it!

Bostenaru Dan has joint Romanian and Hungarian citizenship and has been lucky enough to benefit from three Marie Curie Actions so far (under FP5, FP6 and FP7). Her field is housing from the first half of the 20th Century (first seismic response, then decision making for preservation, and finally study of the architectural layout).
Bostenaru Dan has a lot of experience of ESOF, having been present in Stockholm in 2004, in Munich in 2006 and in Dublin in 2012. At ESOF 2014, she had the opportunity to work behind the scenes as she was involved in the preparation of some of the sessions.

She definitely recommends Fellows attend ESOF: “Career sessions are unique at ESOF” and adds that it’s worth it “If you want to make your voice heard in science policy”.