woensdag 10 november 2010

The Academische Jaarprijs - the end?

Our team from Groningen, the GenenKrakers (gene code breakers) has been busy for a year to come up with ideas, and had been organizing a number of public activities (see our website and previous blogs-entries: AJ 1/3 and AJ 2/3). Our plan was to use the railway as a metaphor for DNA (see picture) and to remodel a train carriage into a travelling exhibition on the role that DNA and lifestyle play in health and disease (focused on our research): the LifeLinesExpress.

Wednesday 27 October was D-Day for the participants in the Academische Jaarprijs 2010 – a competition for the best translation of science to a broad audience. On this day, the winner would be rewarded 100.000 euro to realize their plan. At an official happening in Leiden, all five teams gave a 15-minute presentation on their plans to the jury.

After submitting the proposal in September, our team put the best foot forward to make the best presentation for this day. Luckily, one of our team members was not only post-doc in bioinformatics, but also a graphic designer. He and his colleagues designed amazing animations of the train and we put together a fancy presentation. In addition, we moved our DNA-bar to Leiden, and we had our own piece of plastic 'railway' on the stage that we could bend into a DNA-molecule. Our plan was presented on stage by three team-members (including myself).

The hours of work and the many days of practice seemed to pay off - we did a great job! The presentation went smoothly, the audience liked it and apparently the jury did so too as we were invited to the Grand Finale, together with the Wageningen team. So, now we had 50% chance to win the 100.000 euro to turn our LifeLinesExpress into reality… But the odds turned against us as the (divided) jury decided that the other team, that brought a real Chilean Blue Eagle, was to win the 100.000 euro. So we got … nothing.

But was all my time and effort wasted? NO, it was NOT! Participating the Academische Jaarprijs made me realize what I am passionate about: explaining science to a broad audience, organizing events, searching for new ways to communicate complicated research. And during this competition I learned all the skills I will need for a future career in this direction.

In the meantime, I kept my research going and I was lucky that I received help from two talented students. While I was talking on the phone with graphic designers and travelling across the country, they kept my project going. Also, in this period our group got a major paper published in Cell and I submitted a grant-proposal. So I am still keeping my options open for a career in any direction, but my next career step will focused on a job where science and communication can be combined!

- This blog was first posted on PCDI's community blog -