The 13th Horizons in Molecular Biology PhD Student Symposium

September 2016 saw the successful conclusion of the 13th annual Horizons in Molecular Biology Symposium. Organized by students of the Molecular Biology program, the four day-long event once more featured eminent scientists from a plethora of fields, and hosted almost two hundred participants from thirty different countries.


The symposium was kicked off by the 10th Career Fair, at which Drew Berry enchanted his audience with stunning animations of cellular processes. Talks given by representatives from industry giants, a biotech startup, a consulting firm, and a funding agency gave participants insights into alternative career paths, while Patrick Müller, a Molecular Biology program alumni turned research group leader, talked about opportunities in academia.


For the first scientific lecture of the symposium, Highlight Speaker Karl Deisseroth gave an illuminating talk on optogenetics, the 2010 Nature Method of the Year he pioneered. Mariann Bienz followed with new insights on the formation of the Wnt signalosome. True to the mission of Horizons to showcase a wide range of research topics in molecular biology, the following days featured talks on the role of actin during meiotic chromosome segregation (Melina Schuh), rRNA dynamics that facilitate the translocation of tRNAs in the ribosome (Harry Noller), the molecular mechanism of maternal inflammation-induced autism-like behavior (Gloria Choi), the function and regulation of phosphatidylinositols in cellular membranes (Pietro De Camilli), identifying miRNA targets in vivo (Amy Pasquinelli), tracing Aedes aegypti odour preference to the molecular level (Carolyn McBride), glycosaminoglycan signaling in the brain (Linda Hsieh-Wilson), and self-assembled DNA machines and their applications (Hendrik Dietz).


This year’s Horizons also featured a mixture of classical and cutting-edge research methods. Yifan Cheng gave an engaging talk on using single particle cryo-electron microscopy to obtain high-resolution structures of membrane proteins, and Maria Barna and Gloria Brar spoke about using high-throughput methods to uncover new paradigms of translational regulation, while David Morgan and Ramanujan Hegde demonstrated the power of elegant biochemistry experiments for studying cell cycle regulation and protein quality control.


What truly sets Horizons apart, are the many opportunities for participants and speakers to interact. Between talks and at social events, motivated students were engaging in lively discussions with the invited scientists. On the final day of Horizons, both speakers and participants left the conference hall delighted with the quality and diversity of science, while also invigorated and re-inspired to work towards answering their own scientific questions. The Horizons organizers have already started assembling the speaker lineup for 2017 it will take place on 11-14th September – save the date!