Fourth It Ma(t)Ters Conference on Microbiology  

by Merle Ücker

It Ma(t)Ters is a mini-conference on microbiology for doctoral researchers in the MPS initiated in 2017 by the PhD representatives of the MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg and the MPI for Marine Microbiology (MPIMM) in Bremen. This year, the conference took place for the fourth time as a two-day event in Bremen, and was a huge success!

After the arrival of the visitors from Marburg on Wednesday noon, the PhD representatives opened the conference with a short introduction of the institutes. An overall positive mood and excitement about the goodie bags (sponsored by the MPIMM press office) ensured an energetic start into the conference. Director Prof. Dr. Marcel Kuypers gave a keynote lecture about different research topics in Biogeochemistry, from microbial carbon and nitrogen metabolism  to seagrass ecosystems, processes in sand, and greenhouse gases. The second speaker, Dr. Ivaylo Kostadinov from the German Federation for Biological Data (GFBio, https://www.gfbio.org/)  gave an informative talk about scientific data, how to be FAIR, and the topic of data submission. The participants presented their own research through short talks or posters followed by exciting discussions. This was a great opportunity for doctoral researchers in early stages of the PhD to present project plans, initial results and discuss hypotheses.

Tour through the Sea Tech Hall, the mechanical workshop. Elisa Merz, external PhD representative of the MPIMM, explains how the lander works.

During the institute tour, the visitors got some insights into the mechanical workshop, our Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer, and aquaria with symbiotic gutless worms. Also, they learned about how to conduct research in the field, how to use microsensors, and why bioreactors are so special. Of course, participants also got the chance to grab the hooves of our Bremen Town Musicians during the city centre tour for a lucky future! Discussions, scientific and non-scientific, lasted long on Wednesday evening while playing billiard and table football in the institute’s recreation room. The conference ended with a dinner on Thursday evening in Bremen’s Viertel, where all participants gathered around a table to share experiences of PhD life, being abroad and other interesting topics.

Inter-institute events like this are a great opportunity to get to know a new MPI, to learn about other methods and new ways of thinking, to get inspired and to form collaborations for the future. Conferences for early career scientists might not be the right place to get acknowledged by your scientific idol but they offer a safe, relaxed and fun atmosphere to gain some conference experience. Doctoral researchers get the chance to network and exchange experiences with researchers in similar situations. Finally, ‘It Ma(t)Ters’ helped to connect marine and terrestrial disciplines and to find out what we actually have in common.

Doctoral researchers from Marburg visit the Bremen Town Musician. Touching the donkey’s hooves brings good luck.

When organising an event, many things need to be taken care of beforehand. This includes the preparation of an abstract booklet and a time schedule, finding available keynote speakers, organising drinks and meals, getting funding and planning social activities. It might be challenging to do this alongside the PhD, yet, PhD representatives from Bremen consider the experience is worth it. Among other benefits, the organising committee gets the chance to improve their managing skills, try new areas which might be interesting for a future job and meet new people along the way. Most importantly, even if not every detail is planned out in advance, the overall event can be a great success, as long as everybody on the team is motivated and contributes to the organization.

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 event visibility by improving communication with MPI directors and the PhDnet. PhD representatives from Bremen and Marburg look forward to many more inspiring It Ma(t)Ters conferences!

Participants of the IVth It Ma(t)Ters in Bremen.

Do you conduct research in the field of microbiology and want to join the It Ma(t)Ters conference in the future? Get in touch with the PhD representatives from Marburg (https://www.mpi-marburg.mpg.de/101139/b_MPI-PhD-student-network) and Bremen (phdreps@mpi-bremen.de)!

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