Q&A with Jorge Peinado Izaguerri

Which are the most challenging parts of your project?
The whole project is extremely challenging. We have to cope with all of the tasks that a conventional PhD would have to, but in addition we have to be able to face several residency changes and trips, which involve careful planning. Specifically, about my project, I would say that developing the high bioinformatic knowledge that is required is a challenging task, but I’m pretty sure that I will enjoy the processand be well advised by my supervisors and industrial partners. Challenging usually means gratifying and enjoyable so I’m pretty happy to face such a challenging project.

Which are the most boring parts of your project? And the most interesting ones?
First answer is easy, administrative tasks. Is there anyone who enjoys them? As part of a European Project which involves a co-tutelle and several industrial partners we have to face a lot of administrative work, not only institutional but also related to our constantly changing daily life. Second question is much harder since I’m so excited because of my whole project. But I think that being able to work with animals and learn about their handling and welfare and the possibility to visit several countries and meet people from all over the world are extremely interesting.

How did you feel when you receive the confirmation to have been chosen as an ESR?
I couldn’t believe it! I received the confirmation while I was doing an internship in the Chilean Patagonia, facing a completely new experience for me. Knowing that it was just the beginning and that I was going to be able to meet high quality researchers from all over the World and to be part of such a reputable project was such a shock. I really didn’t believe it until a week passed and I accepted that I was going to live this unique opportunity.

Which are your greatest passions?
Out of science, I would say that my passions are sport (specially handball), reading (especially fantastic and historic literature) and videogames. Those activities have been part of my life since I was young, have helped to forge my personality and I think that without any of them I would be a completely different person.

Why did you decide to study (and then to work) on this kind of topics related to animal science and biotechnology?
I studied my Bachelor ́s degree in Biotechnology because Biology had always been my favourite subject through my educational path and the new possibilities that Biotechnology brings to the Biology field seemed too exciting for me. As a scientist I had done research projects in both animal science and plant science before
MANNA started. This preference for the agricultural field of knowledge rather than the human one (which is often the preferred for Biotechnologist) is due to a familiar background. I have grown up helping my father with his agricultural work so my affinity to that field of knowledge has always been obvious for me. It is nice that before doing plant/animal research I have actually worked with them.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Honest, meticulous and trustable.

Questions: Ruben Riosa


Q&A with Prof. Eckersall

Prof. David Eckersall is the Professor of Veterinary Biochemistry at the University of Glasgow.
In MANNA project he is the coordinator of the whole project.
How much difficult was to select the ESRs among lot of applications coming from all over the World?
The selection of the ESRs for MANNA was a difficult task to undertake especially with the high calibre of the applicants who came from countries all over the world and not just from Europe. In addition, with 6 universities from six countries involved, the process had to be aligned with the recruitment practises in each of the universities to ensure a fair process for all applicants. With an outline of each project on the MANNA website the applications were submitted and after careful perusal to ensure eligibility of each candidate short lists were prepared for each ESR position. Interviews were held with candidates using an advanced on-line system allowing the supervisors from both universities involved in a project to participate. The outcome of the selection process has been to produce a superb cohort of ESRs that are expected to complete the MANNA project in full.
How MANNA was born?
MANNA had a long and involved gestation covering interaction between the universities over a decade or more. Although there was contact between the PIs at the universities in the form of contact at international meetings the first major collaboration covering most participants was in the COST Action on Farm Animal Proteomics which lasted from 2011 to 2014. This EU funded project, which itself needed repeatedapplications over three annual submissions, allowed frequent contact between laboratories and as well as holding annual meetings, a number of Short Term Scientific Missions were undertaken with students travelling between institutes. At the end of the COST Action, a number of further EU project applications were submitted to keep the momentum of collaboration progressing. After three separate but linked applications in the area of applications of “omic” sciences to animal science, the MANNA project was successful in obtaining funding for this prestigious European Joint Doctorate.

Why is it important for a PhD student (or a student in general) to be in touch with more universities and companies?
A main feature of MANNA is that the ESRs are supervised at two universities for their Dual PhD Degrees and during their studies they will visit other institutes and companies for their placements. These visits will be important to widen their experience, to increase their understanding of the translation of science from the laboratory to having significant impact in the real world, to develop a network of contacts in academia and industry and to experience working in different cultures across Europe. Having the two supervisors, often from differing disciplines in their projects should provide the PhD students with a wide understanding of the latest developments in multiple areas of science which may mean that their careers may move in ways they might not have imagined before MANNA. Taken altogether these will give the ESRs a boost in future career wherever they go in animal and biological sciences or beyond.

Which advices would you like to give to an ESR for a brilliant career?
Some advice that can be given to an ESR to have a brilliant career, is of relevance to the next 3 years but more can apply for your post-MANNA life. If you read and understand the literature to be aware of what research has gone before; understand all the methods relevant to your research area; recognise and answer gaps in the current knowledge to seek new questions to address; learn to apply statistics to ensure significant results; develop expertise in writing papers in English for publication in international journals; become adept at making incisive conference presentations, but do not overestimate the knowledge of the audience; invent novel methods of investigation or analysis; be aware that strange results may lead to new discovery but confirm a new finding before dissemination; build a network of international contacts; contribute to the organisation of national and international associations; do not believe everything your elders and betters say; acquire a mentor who will provide an invisible hand in your academic career and who will glory in your progress; look forward to going to the laboratory every day, then you will have a great and brilliant career.

What do you expect to obtain in terms of results from the MANNA projects?
From the MANNA project the priority result is that all ESRs will become highly competent scientists and will graduate with Dual Degrees from the two Universities where they are registered. To accomplish this, each project is expected to produce novel and interesting findings that can be published in leading scientific journals. On another level the MANNA project expects to provide the scientific and related training such that all of the ESRs will go on to have a successful career in scientific or industrial research and contribute to our knowledge of animal health and nutrition and especially in the use of “omic” technology at the cutting edge of science to these areas. Predicting exact results that will come the MANNA projects is a fool’s errand for supervisors as well as students. Indeed, the most interesting results are those we do not expect that can then lead onto new hypotheses and further experimentation, so we are in the realm of seeking out both known unknowns and also unknown unknowns. We fully expect there to be a raft of experimental results which by the end of MANNA will make a major contribution to European Research.

Questions: Ruben Riosa