ISRF 2014 in Odense, Denmark

5 future scientists: 4 from the Institute of Medical Sciences and 1 from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health; 4 women and 1 man; 3 Italians and 2 Scots; cancer, eye development and disease, autism aetiology and cartilage defects. These are the statistics about the PhD students representing the University of Aberdeen for the first time at the International Student Research Forum, hosted this year by the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. Never heard of this forum? Here; some history.

A bit of history

“In 2006 the University of Nebraska Medical Centre was invited to be part of the first International Student Research Forum (ISRF)…”

In 2005 Professor Hiroshi Watanabe, President of the University of Tokyo, and Professor Hiroshi Komiyama visited the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Science (GUCAS). As a result of the discussions a program called the Sino-Japan Student Forum was established to encourage student exchange activities between the two institutions. In 2005 the forum is carried out by the Institute of Medical Science at University of Tokyo (UT) and, at the end of this forum, GUCAS and the UT agreed that a more international approach was essential for the career development of the students as future science leaders. In 2006 the University of Nebraska Medical Centre was invited to be part of the first International Student Research Forum (ISRF) and from 2006 until 2013 the ISRF was hosted in Beijing, Tokyo, Omaha and Brisbane-Gold Coast. In 2013 the University of Southern Denmark was invited to take part at the forum with the commitment to host the event the next year.

All the way to Odense


We’re here, at the University of Southern Denmark!

So here we are! Francesca Sartor, Kristina Harrison, Angela Armiento, Heather Walker and Alessio Panzica ready for the IRSF 2014: University of Southern Denmark, Odense, 1–5 June. Accompanying us on this journey were Prof Bernadette Connolly and Dr Bernt Muller.

Professor Kaare Christensen broke the ice with a catching lecture on the paradox: “Women have more diseases, they complain more about their health conditions but they live longer than men.” A really good start for the pink majority of the audience!

To follow there were two further lectures: “Lifestyle factors for congenital malformation in male reproductive tract”, and “Biological mass spectrometry in proteomics” by Professors Tina K. Jensen and Martin R. Larsen, respectively.

Open lecture by Kaare Christensen

Open lecture by Kaare Christensen.

All the participating students, 10 from each University (with the exception of Aberdeen, who were restricted to 5 participants since it was our first visit to the ISRF), had 10-minute oral presentations and a one-hour poster presentation. A wide range of topics were covered in 4 different sessions: Molecular Medicine and Biology, Epidemiology and Public Health, Neuroscience, Cancer and Regenerative Medicine. All the sessions were chaired by PhD students of the hosting University making the atmosphere very informal and giving the chance even to the shyest of students to raise their hands, ask questions and participate in the debate. It was very interesting to see so many different presentation styles but, at the same time, to find similarities within presenters from the same University.

Following the presentation we had a guided tour of the stunning state-of-the-art Proteomic laboratories and the futuristic Exercise Facilities. While walking around the University it was impossible not to be amazed by the uncountable spaces dedicated to small group study, social events, and fitness (because the Danes really do care about exercise and health… a lot!).

A social program with a story…teller

With H.C. Andersen, the famous storyteller.

With H.C. Andersen, the famous storyteller.

Of course the forum included a social program that was not limited, as is so often the case, to merely a conference dinner! Odense is the birthplace of the storyteller Hans Christian Andersen and it is a fact they are very proud of. We were guided through his childhood house and the museum dedicated to the time his work originated from. A Hans Christian Andersen-themed parade, with actors representing all the different fairy tales, led us to the Town Hall. We visited the Odense Convent of Nobel Maidens and followed the Watchman making his evening round in the H. C. Andersen Quarter. During the walk, the night watchman sang the traditional hourly verses and told us stories about local history.


Egeskov Castle, one of the best preserved castles in Europe.

Our last afternoon in Odense was dedicated to the Egeskov Castle, the best preserved moat castle in Europe, which left the Scottish representative surprised!

We are now back in Aberdeen, to our projects, our theses and our PhD ups and downs, but we are all very grateful for this unique experience. Such a forum is an exceptional opportunity to compare yourself with your peers and see where you stand, as well as a chance to discuss outside your own research group and to get new inspiration for your work. It is a friendly environment in which to meet new future colleagues and to discover different working approaches, but it is also a way to make new friends and learn from other cultures.

Prof Bernadette Connolly, head of the Graduate School, declared herself proud of our presentations rewarding us for the work we invested, and also mean that the University of Aberdeen was well represented.

ISRF 2015 at the University of Aberdeen

We are already thinking ahead and looking forward to summer 2015 when the University of Aberdeen will host the forum. New postgraduate students will be recruited as attendees, so keep your eyes peeled for any emails from the Graduate School!

All images courtesy of the representatives.

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