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Quinta Grande The Newsletter of the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência

In this edition IGC amongst the Top 10 Best places for postdocs - 2 The Gulbenkian alumni: a network of excellence - 3

March 2011 Issue 9

Reproduction in plants uses the same communication mechanisms as our brain. by Sílvia Castro

Portuguese research, published in Science, reveals how, in reproduction, plants use the same communication mechanism similar to one that is used in our brain.

nervous system of animals. This study published in Science Express, of the journal Science, opens an exciting new avenue in the study of how cell-cell communication is conserved between animals and plants. Communication at a molecular level between plant male and

Dias de Sousa, SA: supporting science and industry - 5 Dates for your diary - 6 IGC Social Networks

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The Plant Development research group at IGC led by José Feijó (1). The work described here was carried out by Erwan Michard (2), Pedro Lima (3), Filipe Borges (4) and Ana Catarina Silva (5).

Plant reproduction is a complex and highly coordinated process. It al starts with the pollen grain, which contain the plant male gametes. Pollen is transported to the female organ, where it germinates and grows a pollen tube, which extends and is guided to the ovary, where it releases the sperm that fuse with the egg cells. From here an embryo, part of the seed, is formed. Researchers at IGC discovered that, during reproduction, plants communicate through a molecular mechanism that is commonly observed in the

female sexual organs is essential for the formation of new seeds. The international team, lead by José Feijó, group leader at the IGC and Professor at Lisbon University, went through several steps before reaching their final conclusion, but, as is usually the case in research, it all started with an observation: biologists have previously noticed several changes in the pollen tube as it grows, such as calcium ions oscillations, but the actual molecular channels that control these oscillations and their physiological output have


remained elusive. Therefore the team set out to identify these key components. They found that the calcium oscillations in the growing pollen tubes of tobacco and the weed Arabidopsis are facilitated by channels called Glutamate receptors-like (GLRs). Furthermore, this transport is controlled by, amongst other molecules, an aminoacid, D-serine, expressed by female organ (the pistil). Surprisingly, both molecules are key molecular players in cell-cell communication in the animal central nervous systems, at various levels: they play a central role in memory and learning processes in the brain, and have been implicated in a wide range of

neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer, Huntington and others. Now the crucial role of this communication mechanism is also established in plants, since in their absence plants are partially sterile. José Feijó, who was also the curator for the acclaimed “Darwin’s Evolution Exhibition”, in 2009, adds, <<This is a new signalling pathway, never before indentified in plants. Our findings, implicating analogous genes in growth processes in both plants and animals, underscores how evolution re-uses successful mechanisms, over and over again>>.

IGC amongst the Top 10 Best Places for Postdocs

by Sílvia Castro

hand, are accessible and really care about passing on their knowledge, which is great for our guidance>>. Raffaella Gozzelino has been is in Portugal for three years. This italian highlights the multicultural environment at IGC that enables a quick and smooth integration of researchers of all nationalities. She emphasises that the presence of renowned international guest speakers almost every week allows her << to ‘touch’ other fields of research, increase knowledge, and provides a great place for scientific discussion and international collaborations, essential for the development of research>>.

IGC has been ranked as the 9th best international (non-US) institution to work for postdocs, in the annual survey of The Scientist, the magazine for the life sciences. Only three of the last years’ institutions stayed in the Top 10, the IGC being one of them and, again, the only Portuguese institution present. The postdoctoral years are critical in any budding scientist’s career, to solidify the path established during his or her PhD so that the researcher may establish himself (or herself ) as a future leader in science. The rankings in the Best Places to Work for Postdocs survey are determined by postdocs themselves, working in research institutions across the world, giving them a chance to express their opinions concerning their working places. French postdoc Marie Bonnet, points out the importance of the group leader for the success of this step in the academic ladder. She feels that <<group leaders at the IGC trust their postdocs, which is really important for their independence, and, on the other Quinta Grande|March 2011| 2

Raffaella Gozzelino doutorada do IGC

As of March 2011, the IGC hosts 85 postdocs, from 20 different countries, working in 45 research groups.


The Gulbenkian alumni: a network of excellence

by Ana Godinho

There are approximately 350 of them. They are the Gulbenkian PhD alumni, spread across the globe, in different jobs: group leaders, in Portugal or abroad, university lecturers, clinicians in public hospitals, some have set up their own companies and others pursue careers in scientific project management or science communication. The Gulbenkian PhD Programme in Biology and Medicine (PGDBM), launched in 1993, was the first structured PhD programme of the IGC. It was followed by the Gulbenkian PhD Programme in Biomedicine (PGDB), which ran from 2000 to 2004, and the Gulbenkian PhD Programme in Computational Biology (2005-2008). Currently the IGC hosts three PhD programmes: the in-house Programme in Integrative Biomedical Sciences (PIBS), the Gulbenkian-Champalimaud International Neuroscience Doctoral Programme (2008-2012) and the Programme for Advanced Medical Research, a doctoral programme for physicians, launched in 2007 by the Gulbenkian Foundation, and shared with other graduate and research institutions. The Gulbenkian doctoral programmes boast an excellent international reputation, not least due to the outstanding worth of the students, carefully selected amongst the many that apply each year. The programmes are research-based and studentcentred, and their only aim, according to IGC Director Antonio Coutinho, is to “provide students with the best international training possible, allowing them to make informed choices about the research questions that they decide to work on, and giving them total autonomy and a sense of responsibility, from the moment they join the programme.” For Antonio Coutinho the success of the programmes is “manifest in the success several have obtained as independent researchers: six of the ten European Research Council grants (the most competitive in Europe) in the Life Sciences, awarded in the last two years, went to PGDBM alumni”. Besides the scientific achievements, the programmes have also produced extremely high returns in financial terms, even in the short term. Of the 101 alumni of the PGDBM programme, which ended in 2004, 69 returned to Portugal and, in the last five years alone, have secured almost 20 million Euro in foreign investment (in research funds and biotechnology companies) - a significant increase when compared to the total investment in the programme.

The paths travelled by some Gulbenkian alumni Luís Miguel Martins is a former student of the first PGDBM, in 1993. He is currently a Reader with the University of Leicester and a tenured team leader, responsible for more than ten scientists. His research interests have been to understand the fundamental mechanisms regulating cell death and survival. His work has revealed important components of the molecular machinery that controls and directs the process of programmed cell death, namely a mitochondrial controller of cell death that is defective in Parkinson’s disease, and a putative new tumor suppressor gene in pancreatic cancer. Luís’ PhD started at the John Hopkins School of Medicine (Baltimore, USA) and was completed at the University of Edinburgh (UK). In 1998 he was awarded a PhD in Molecular Medicine, by the University of Porto (Portugal). After a post-doc at Cancer Research UK (London, UK), he joined the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, in Leicester. Luís considers himself “lucky to be paid to do something that I love. I am also very lucky to be part of the community of Gulbenkian alumni. It means that whenever I am I have doubts about an unfamiliar research area I can simply pick-up the phone and call a trusted colleague. This is reciprocal and I have also helped (and will always be willing to help!) several of my colleagues in the past. I also look forward to giving something back to Gulbenkian whenever I am asked.”

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Alexandra Capela joined the Gulbenkian student community in 1996, when she became a student of the 4th PGDBM. After the first year of courses at the IGC, she moved to Sally Temple’s laboratory in upstate New York where she worked in developmental neurobiology. She graduated in 2003 with a PhD in Biomedical Sciences, awarded by the University of Porto. After graduate school, she joined StemCells, Inc. a Bay Area biotech company engaged in the discovery, development and implementation of novel cell-based therapies in regenerative medicine. She is a Senior Scientist in the neural group and leads preclinical research programmes in retinal degeneration, myelination and Alzheimer’s disease. Alexandra says “the PGDBM offered a unique scientific and educational environment that allowed me to refine and focus my scientific interests in stem cell biology and ultimately lead me towards a career in translational research.” Bruno Silva-Santos was admitted to the 5th PGDBM, in 1997. After a year of “outstanding courses” (Bruno’s own words), he decided to carry out his PhD research in Immunology at Cancer Research UK (London, UK). He graduated in 2002, and went on to do a post-doc at King’s College London. He was recruited as Associate Professor with the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa (Portugal). He is also principal investigator at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular, in Lisbon and an IGC

external investigator. Bruno states that the Gulbenkian doctoral programme gave him a “huge biomedical culture” and was “the gateway into research at the highest level, in the UK”. It also provided him with a vast network of contacts, collaborators and friends, all of which “valuable” and unique to this programme. Maria João Leão was a student of the 7th PGDBM, in 1999. Her PhD is from Imperial College London, where she worked on cancer and virology. After her PhD, she was a post-doc at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, in London, for two years. Alongside her work in breast cancer research, Maria João became strongly involved in science communication and fundraising projects. She brought this interest back with her to the IGC, where she is currently running several projects aimed at involving the scientific community, the private sector and the general public in research funding in Portugal. According to Maria João, the Gulbenkain PhD programmes have “contributed to the multidisciplinary education of generations of young researchers, who have had strong impact in society”. She is ‘honoured to be a part of this fantastic group”. The following partnerships and funders have supported the Gulbenkian PhD programmes, through the years: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tencologia (FCT), Secretaria de Estado da Ciência e Tecnologia, Direcção Geral do Ensino Superior, Luso-American Foundation, the British Council, SIEMENS SA Portugal, the Champalimaud Foundation.

AMeeGuS 2011- The annual meeting of IGC PhD Students by Rui Castanhinha

The annual gathering of IGC PhD students took place on February 5 - 7th next to Porto Novo beach, at Maceira’s Hotel Golf Mar. Over 100 participants took part in the annual meeting of Gulbenkian students (AMeeGuS), mostly of IGC and Champalimaud Foundation students, and also some group leaders of both programmes as well as renowned international guest in several research areas: Paul Brakefield (evolution), Max Cooper (immunology) and Enriço Coen (plant developmental biology). All the students had a chance to discuss their PhD projects with their peers during the three day meeting and, as in previous years, in a stimulating debate. The debate was indeed intense during both the poster and oral sessions. Quinta Grande|March 2011| 4

AMeeGuS is supported by IGC and organized by the PhD students. This year AMeeGuS also received support from Champalimaud Foundation and several sponsors.


Dias de Sousa, SA: Supporting science and industry by Sílvia Castro The company Dias de Sousa, SA was one of the

AMeeGuS’ sponsors this year. The portuguese group had its origins in 1982, and taking advantage of its founder, Eng. Dias de Sousa, large experience in the european chemical industry, provides technical training and consultancy on the analytic and scientific instruments, general equipment for laboratories, environment and analytic services. Paula Lourenço Cid guides us through this company’s history, services, and experience as one the 2011 AMeeGuS’ sponsors.

What does the future holds for Dias de Sousa, SA? As science in Portugal evolves, so do we. New areas are emerging and we wish to be a part of it. Therefore we search for solutions and knowledge that allows us to strength our links with our clients. Nowadays, there are several areas of interest such as biomedicine, biomaterials, nanobiotechnology, tissue engineering, steam cell biology, regenerative medicine, biometrics and neuroengineering. How do you evaluate your participation at AMeeGus? Our participation was a positive and pleasant one, since we took part in an event with the worthy objectives of learning with people holding a vast personal and professional experience in multidisciplinary areas and strengthening the relationships between IGC researchers, thus contributing to scientific development.

How woud you define your group’s mission and its impact in the near future? Dias de Sousa, SA has as a mission to be a serious and committed partner that provides valid solutions to fit our clients’ needs and also to be a profitable company to comply with our financial and social aims. We want to continue to have an impact on scientific excellence, here and beyond borders.

What the benefits do you envisage from your contribution to AMeeGuS? Beyond the obvious benefit of visibility, what really drive us is to get to know people with experience that are able to recognize us as partners and, on the other hand, meet new clients, the young researchers that are now initiating their professional career and that can count on us through out.

Can you identify your main products and services? Dias de Sousa, SA’s portfolio consists of two main types of equipments analytic and scientific (chromatography, spectrophotometery, spectrometry, etc.); and general laboratory equipment (flow chambers, incubators, ultrapure water systems, centrifuges, scales, microscopes, amongst others). We are responsible for their commercialization and providing technical support through representatives that receive regular training.

The Portuguese law (Lei nº 26/2004) concedes tax benefits to companies that support scientific activities. How do you rate it? It is important as far as it allows the organizers of events as this one to gather more supporters, and, at the same time, allows the sponsors to contribute more the event. Our aim is to be close to our clients and contribute to the development of science in Portugal: having more tax benefits allows us to be involved in more events of this type. Quinta Grande|March 2011| 5


Dates for your Diary April IGC Seminars list is available here April 27th Biology in Modern Times - Seminars for Teachers Theme: Developmental Biology / Embryology With Ana Cristina Borges (Post-doc;Tissue Morphogenesis Lab), Moisés Mallo (Group Leader, Patterning and Morphogenesis Lab), Diogo Castro (Group Leader, Molecular neurobiology Lab)

May 20th Biodiversity Day: A look beyond 2010 In order to understand the impact of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 and to better understand what actually needs to change in the future, the IGC and the French Embassy in Portugal, are holding a public meeting at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, on 20 May. Biodiversity Day aims to be a space where conservation biologists, students, teachers and the general public may discuss some of the issues of greatest concern to biodiversity on the planet: the rapid loss of species, destruction of natural ecosystems, and the beauty of natural environments. Pre-registrations for the meeting are now open.

The “Science Collection” is a partnership between the IGC and Vista Alegre. The original images of the “Science Collection” were obtained by young scientists during the course of their work at the IGC. Support Vista Alegre and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in promoting scientific research and culture. The “Science Collection” is available at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência and at Vista Alegre stores. For more information please contact Maria João Leão by e-mail: colabore@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Quinta Grande, Issue 9, March 2011

Coordinator: Ana Godinho Editor: Sílvia Castro Contributors: Ana Godinho, Rui Castanhinha, Sílvia Castro Address: Rua da Quinta Grande, 6 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal Telephone: +351 214 464 537; Fax.: +351 214 407 970 www.igc.gulbenkian.pt

Have your say ‘Quinta Grande’ is a forum to communicate events and any news which may be of interest to those who work either at or with the IGC. If you have any suggestions of topics to be discussed here, please e-mail them to: quintagrande@igc.gulbenkian.pt


The Newsletter of the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência - issue 9