Return of the Retreat

25 November 2021

On 11th November more than 100 people from CRM met up for the Annual Retreat which was the first in-person meeting this size since our last retreat in October 2019. The day, held at Surgeons’ Hall, involved presentations from a range of researchers, from PhD students to a former Director of the Centre, and an award ceremony where the winners of the annual CRM awards were announced. 

The highlight of the Retreat is often the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition and this year’s students did not disappoint. As the title suggests, the six brave presenters had only three minutes to convey the essence of their PhD to the audience. Not an easy task! Congratulations to them all for a great effort and an entertaining start to the day. In particular, well done to Jennifer Annoh (Lowell Lab) for scooping the 3MT prize, as voted by the retreat participants.  Jennifer described signals from cancer cells as ‘fake news’  – a fantastic way of illustrating her science. Madeleine Heep (O’Carroll Lab) won the PhD Day Best 2nd Year Presentation Prize. 

Next there were four excellent presentations from CRM Post-Docs shortlisted for this year’s Postdoc Award. Congratulations to Burak Ozkan (Soufi Lab) who was awarded the PostDoc Award. His project focuses on the possible role of a zinc finger protein, WIZ, in the recruitment of histone methyltransferases G9a to chromatin in mouse embryonic stem cells. CRM established the award in 2020 to recognise outstanding papers by its postdoctoral researchers, so congratulations also go to Antonella Fidanza (Forrester Lab), Camille Malouf (Ottersbach Lab) and Lida Zoupi (Williams Lab) on their first class science. The judging panel commented that "all four candidates were outstanding and it was a very close competition".

After lunch the finalists of the Wilmut Prize gave their presentations. This prize was established at CRM using funds that were donated to mark Professor Sir Ian Wilmut’s retirement and it is awarded to the best final year PhD student presentation. Congratulations to this year’s recipient, Hannah Esser (Forbes Lab), whose work focusses on liver regeneration and inflammation.  Congratulations to runners-up Aaron Alonso Torrens (Wilson Lab) and Azzurra De Pace (O’Carroll Lab).

Elaine Emmerson spoke in her capacity as Research Lead for Public Engagement, explaining ways to get involved in engagement activities at CRM. She also presented the prize for Public Engagement which was awarded to Kelly Douglas, Postgraduate Administrator, for her dedication and hard work with the STEM clubs in local schools.

The final presentation of the day was given by Charles ffrench-Constant, who also received the Outstanding Contribution Award. Charles was Director of CRM from 2011 to 2016 and was also instrumental in the establishment of the Institute for Regeneration and Repair. Until recently he held the position of Dean of Research for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and has now taken on the role of Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of East Anglia. He spoke about his research which has made a significant contribution to understanding how myelin is formed in response to injury and is important for the development of new treatments for multiple sclerosis. Thanks very much to Charles for a fantastic talk and congratulations on your award.

In presenting the Outstanding Contribution award, Anna Williams recognised the contributions of so many CRM staff and students throughout the pandemic. It is impossible to single out one individual as so many made such an outstanding contribution to keeping CRM running.

A final thanks must go to the Admin and Comms Teams who did a fantastic job of co-ordinating the Retreat. They all worked tirelessly to ensure everything ran smoothly and safely. Hopefully next year’s retreat will be back in Cardrona as normal but for the time being this was a great step for CRM in bringing everyone together and celebrating our achievements.

Prize Winners at the CRM Retreat 2021
Prize-winners clockwise from top left: Jennifer Annoh; Madeleine Heep; Burak Ozkan; Charles ffrench-Constant; Kelly Douglas; Hannah Esser.