BREW is a learning workshop organized by PhD students in bioinformatics

10.06.2016

For starting PhD students it helps a lot to get feedback on the scientific paper, and chairing and presentation skills.

BREW 2016 Bioinformatics Research and Education Workshop was organized in Helsinki in May. BREW is a series of annual workshops for PhD students in bioinformatics and computational biology, which aims to give an introduction to scientific conferences, including submission, peer review and presentation of scientific papers. All participants both present a paper and participate in the programme committee, reviewing papers from other participants.

'The first BREW was organized in 2002, 14 years ago. The basic format is the same, it is just carried out in different places each year. There are a limited number of universities participating: Aalto University, University of Helsinki through the HICT Doctoral Network, as well as the universities of Bielefeld, Berlin, Bergen, Novosibirsk and Tartu. This year there were altogether 28 participants', tells professor Juho Rousu from Department of Computer Science at Aalto University, who oversaw the organization with professor Veli Mäkinen from University of Helsinki.

The organizing committee in Finland included three PhD students, Anna Kuosmanen from University of Helsinki, Viivi Uurtio and Anna Cichonska from Aalto University, as well as post-doctoral researcher Travis Gagie from University of Helsinki. Invited talks include Matti Pirinen and Simon Anders from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, FIMM, and Esko Ukkonen from the University of Helsinki. Ukkonen is one of the founding members of BREW together with professor Robert Giegerich from University of Bielefeld.

'I participated in BREW the first time as a PhD student in Bergen, Norway, in 2007. That was one of my first presentations, a very good opportunity for practicing. The feedback was honest and direct, I personally consider BREW a very good learning experience. In 2009 I organized BREW myself in Helsinki. BREW allows you to connect with researchers in the field', explains Academy of Finland Research Fellow Matti Pirinen. 

The distinctive factor about BREW is that it is almost completely organized by the PhD students themselves. The role of the steering group of BREW is to involve the professors, provide support for the organising team, make sure that researchers from the departments will participate in BREW, and also put positive energy into the workshop. The aim of BREW is to mimic workshops as realistically as possible.

'In the beginning of my academic career, I was asked to chair a real workshop session myself without any advice and without ever being to a workshop before. I had no questions prepared and I did not receive any feedback afterwards', explains Rousu.

'In BREW everyone learns how to be a chair person in a workshop, and it has been surprising how good all the participants are at chairing. There is also a feedback form for the presentation skills', adds Viivi Uurtio, Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University.

BREW is open for students and supervisors from the PhD programs in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the participating universities. The workshop in May was hosted by the University of Helsinki at the Kumpula Campus and sponsored by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki through the Helsinki Doctoral Education Network in Information and Communications Technology HICT and by the University of Helsinki through the Doctoral School in Computer Science DoCS. 

More information:

Juho Rousu

Veli Mäkinen