Catching up with VIB scientists all across the world

On the eve of the 2nd edition of the VIB Conference on Emerging Applications in Microbes, VIB alumni reconnected with their former colleagues in Leuven to catch up over science and beer.

Over the past 25 years, more than 5,000 students and postdocs came and went. As they take up new professional challenges in or outside academia, the VIB community has become more global than ever.

“Our alumni end up in a diverse range of sectors and roles, providing a unique and invaluable network for former and current VIB researchers,” says Joke Baute, training & development manager at VIB and responsible for the alumni program. “That is why we are always looking for ways and opportunities to reignite and reinforce those connections.”

The alumni program is now tapping into the success of the VIB Conferences Series, which has rapidly become an international success, drawing scientists from all corners of the world to Flanders.

That is how, on Dec 6th, the VIB Alumni Series kicked off with five former students and postdocs in the field of microbiology sharing their journey. Their experiences and reflections set the mood for the rest of the evening, entirely devoted to networking.

Picture by Nora De Koning
Picture by Nora De Koning

Chance favors the prepared

No two careers are the same, and coincidence seems to be equally important as planning. But, as Marcelo Vinces pointed out, quoting Louis Pasteur: ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’.

Vinces is an alumnus of the Verstrepen lab and is now Weinberg College Advisor and Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biology at Northwestern University in the US. His story, and that of the other speakers, shows that following your nose will often lead you to new and interesting challenges.

From plant biotech to pharma (Marie-Laure Erffelinck), from a thesis on glycosylation in yeast to becoming one of Those Vegan Cowboys (Steven Geysens), or from research findings to research funding (Gaetano Castaldo): some leaps that may seem big, make total sense when looking at the underlying mission. Invariably, skills acquired as a PhD student or postdoc prove invaluable later on.

Sparking connections

What all of these diverse, perhaps unpredictable or at least non-linear career trajectories have in common is the importance of peers and being part of a supportive community.

“Networking and conferences are incredibly useful,” underscored Mireia Valles-Colomer, a former PhD student of the Raes lab, who is now starting up her own team at UPF in Barcelona. While the message of the cartoon she shared was a tongue-in-cheek reference to her human gut microbiome research, it was a perfect fit for the occasion: always trust your gut’s feelings!


If you are a VIB alumnus – do stay in touch and join the VIB alumni network. Follow the VIB alumni webpage, join the LinkedIn group or follow #VIBalumni on twitter. Hope to see you at one of our next meetups in the VIB Alumni Series.

Pictures by Nora Dekoning


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