Omics@VIB: fertile soil for tight postdoc communities

21 March 2018
​The Omics@VIB program – cofounded by EU FP7 MSCA – orients young scientists from diverse backgrounds toward one goal: becoming experts in omics techniques for life sciences. With the last group of postdocs having completed the program in mid-2017, it’s now the perfect time to look back. At the same time, VIB looks forward to providing new opportunities to maintain the positive impact the Omics@VIB program on the VIB postdoc community.

Over the past 6 years, 20 integrative biologists were given the chance to do breakthrough science in excellent research groups, embedded in a stimulating and multicultural environment. They were given access to cutting-edge technologies while enjoying three years of secured funding and personal career assistance. But they did more than just research: they bridged the gaps between their fellow VIB postdocs.

Diversity leads to unity
In contrast with PhD students – who usually enter VIB through an IWT or FWO fellowship in October –postdoctoral scientists follow diverse paths to VIB. Some stick around after their PhDs while others come to VIB through other funding options. They all arrive at VIB at different times throughout the year and stay for different time periods. Lieve Ongena, science policy manager at VIB: “Apart from their titles, these young scientists have little that binds them. They are scattered around campuses and have no real way to connect with one another. It’s a pity, because they share similar ambitions and challenges.”

Eleonora Leucci, Omics@VIB alumnus: “If you think you’re doing great, you should definitely leave your comfort zone, take a tour and meet your colleagues from around the world. It changes your perspective tremendously. There’s so much to learn out there.”

“The Omics@VIB program is different,” Lieve continues. “The candidates had the chance get to know each other in open selection interviews, which were carried out in the form of a scientific seminar. They all left their comfort zones to perform research abroad, they all wonder how to approach their postdocs, and they all dream – or worry – about what comes after that,” Lieve explains. “It makes perfect sense that the selected 20 formed a tight group.”

But they didn’t stop there: the fellows were also the driving force behind the VIB Postdoc Committee, uniting more than 300 postdocs into one community. Today, this community organizes various activities such as company visits and career days, offering VIB postdocs insights into many potential career paths.

Jean-Paul Meynen, Omics@VIB alumnus: “The Omics@VIB program opened up possibilities for me to present my work at international conferences, where I expanded my network and discovered my current career. Without the fellowship, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”

Excellent output
Besides their efforts in bringing young scientists together, the Omics@VIB postdocs conducted some groundbreaking research : with 84 papers published and more in the pipeline, it’s safe to say that the program was a huge success. Even better: about 50% of those publications featured an Omics@VIB fellow as leading author. “An important accomplishment of the program is the way it guided expertise in various omics technologies into VIB. International students with experience in labs around the world all brought unique views and skills to the table.” 

Florian Rambow, Omics@VIB alumnus: “I really feel that this fellowship has made me a better and more complete scientist. The excellent research environment and access to top-notch technologies at VIB were key.”

“The combination of nationalities, personalities, ideas and expertise, and the unifying force of Omics@VIB program is definitely something we aim to continue,” Lieve concludes. “The alumni of the Omics@VIB program and the VIB Postdoc Community have crucial roles to play. But we also want to attract more young scientists, for instance via the Marie Curie grant. In this way, the Omics@VIB legacy lives on.”

Want to join the postdoc community at VIB?
Find your lab of interest and apply for Marie Curie. The VIB international grant office will assist you with tips & tricks to increase your chance for success. Contact grantsoffice*Replace*With*At*Sign*vib.be  


Team Omics@VIB 2015