Welcome to the switchBoard official Blog!

SwitchBoard is an In Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme under the Marie Curie Actions. The duration of the project is 48 months, starting on November 01, 2015.

The switchBoard consortium brings together eleven beneficiaries from eight different countries, combining the expertise of seven academic partners with excellent research and teaching records, one non-profit research organisation, and three fully integrated private sector partners. This European Training Network (ETN) is supported by six Partner Organisations as well as a management team experienced in multi-site training activities and counselled by a scientifically accomplished advisory board.

Taken together, the switchBoard training network provides an international, interdisciplinary platform to educate young scientists at the interface of neurobiology, information processing and neurotechnology.

Monday, 11 March 2019


The switchBoard project - a review


More than two years are over since the first annual meeting in Tübingen in 2016 October, where we first met each other. We are 15 PhD-students from different parts of the world brought together in one Innovative Training Network, the switchBoard (http://www.etn-switchboard.eu/), supervised by leading scientists in the field. In this blog article we want to go through the timeline of our program to look back on some of the opportunities we got as being a part of this network.

October 2016: During our first meeting, we got to know each other, the projects and scientific backgrounds of the other early stage researchers (ESRs). It was really exciting to meet people with different cultural backgrounds but the same interest for the retina. During the same meeting, we also got the opportunity to visit the Science Center Experimenta, which was nearby Tübingen, to get some ideas for our museum exhibit, which was going to be the combined outreach activity for the second year of all ESRs. We had a lot of fun but also got many ideas from this daytrip.

May 2017: ESR Gemma Taverni and her colleagues from iniLabs organized a workshop on their Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS) camera. Through this workshop the ESRs were able to gain knowledge about the DVS camera and other ongoing research in their labs.

June 2017: A month later, we had another workshop on ‘Recording retinal activity using microelectrode arrays (MEAs) organized by ESR Meng-Jung Lee and her colleagues at the NMI, Reutlingen. During this workshop we learned how to record and analyse light responses from the mouse retina using MEAs. In this context, we also got the opportunity to visit another company that is associated with the switchBoard network: MultiChannel Systems GMBH and learned some basics about the MEAs and retinal implants.

Subsequent to this, we had a complementary skill course in Tübingen together with ESRs of another ITN program, MyFUN. This contained topics as ethics, writing of scientific papers, basic legal awareness, lab book organisation and patents. Together with getting knowledge on the above-mentioned topics, this course also gave us the opportunity to interact and build networks with other ITN members as well.

July 2017: Seven ESRs also participated in the Young Researcher Vision Camp, which is a great opportunity for young researchers to learn presenting their research in the best way and exchange knowledge about their own work with other young researchers. The castle Wildenstein, the venue for this meeting, also played a role as a beautiful setting to do this.

September 2017: For researchers it also important to convey their research to the open public. Therefore, we got a media training workshop by Anna Ross (Grasshopper Films) (http://www.grasshopper-films.de). It was a fun week, in which we learned how to arrange a picture for our research profile, to present our research in a small movie and to enhance our communication skills.

November 2017: During this month  we had our second Annual meeting and Mid-term Review when all of us met  in Bergen, Norway. The ESRs presented their progress and got feedback from the whole consortium. During this meeting we also participated in the opening ceremony of our exhibit in VilVite, the Science Center in Bergen.  The exhibit was mainly organized by ESR Rémi Fournel together with Prof. Margaret Veruki and Prof. Espen Hartveit and supported by other ESRs and PIs in the network.

July 2018: During the second Complementary Skill course, which we had in Tübingen, we practiced to give a good presentation and got an overview of communication and conflict management. Additionally, speakers with different career paths gave us an overview about career planning and job hunting outside academia.

September 2018: We had our third Annual meeting in Zürich (http://switchboardblog.blogspot.com/2018/08/3rd-annual-meeting-in-zurich-public.html). There ESRs presented their progress and got feedback on their research from the experts in the field. We also got the opportunity to visit different labs at the University of Zürich.

February 2019: As there is also a possibility to found a start-up company based on our research, an Entrepreneurship workshop was organized to provide us with some basic knowledge on this topic. We went through the process of describing a problem, finding a solution, developing a product prototype and learned to develop different business models. Sadly, this was our last workshop in Tübingen. 

Besides these meetings, courses and workshops, we also learned to improve our  communication skills by sharing our research and knowledge with the public during their outreach activities (e.g. poster presentation at TÜFFF, Blog articles, Museum exhibit, open day of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, introducing the eye and retina in pupils lab).

Other than these activities each ESR also got the opportunity to do secondments in other labs within the network where we could visit the labs of their interest and gain knowledge about the ongoing research and learn other techniques which we could also incorporate into their own research.

All in all the structured ITN program allowed us to already build a network of European retina scientists, with whom we can exchange knowledge and ideas as well as build collaborations. This also helped us a lot in shaping our future career with not just acquiring knowledge from the experts in the field but also developing various interdisciplinary skills.

We, all the ESRs, are very thankful for all the experiences we gained in the last years that enabled us to become independent scientists.

And we are looking forward to our final meeting in May 2019 in Innsbruck!!

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