Research and Advanced Education
Research Day – Balance of a very special day
The second edition of Research Day of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon(FMUL) was held on 11 December and organized by the Office for the Support of Scientific and Technological Research and Innovation (GAPIC) in close collaboration with the Students’ Association of FMUL (AEFML). This day is simultaneously an icon, proof of, and celebration of scientific experiences for our medical students. Including these experiences in the academic path of medical students also attests the fulfilment of the explicit mission of GAPIC.
The opening session was attended by FMUL professors J. Fernandes e Fernandes, Director of the Faculty, Rui Victorino, President of the Scientific Council, Maria do Céu Machado, Clinical Director of the Northern Lisbon Hospital Centre (CHLN), João Ferreira, Coordinator of GAPIC, and student Maria Guilhermina Pereira, President of AEFML. The performance of GAPIC and of the AEFML was praised in the speeches given at this session for encouraging scientific research conducted by students of our Faculty, and the structuring role of the latter in the academic preparation of future doctors was equally commended. This year, in addition to presenting the results of the regular projects of the “Education through Science” Programme, the results of the scientific research and mobility Gulbenkian/FMUL Scholarships as part of an educational project sponsored by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation were also disclosed. On behalf of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, as its dignitaries, Margarida Abecasis, Director of the Scholarships Office and Jorge Lucas, responsible for the “Qualification of New Generations” Programme, enthusiastically followed the presentation of work done by students.
The presentation of the results of scientific projects was certainly the high point of the day. The students involved impressed due to their formal and scientific rigour, careful preparation and the quality of their questioning and reasoning. The demanding evaluation and ranking process was the responsibility of a dedicated jury of researchers and lecturers of basic and clinical fields, and that was not an easy task. The first prize was awarded to student Benedict Paul Both, who presented the project titled “The role of angiogenesis in regenerating spinal cord in zebrafish”, a task conducted at the Leonor Saúde laboratory of the Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM) as part of a scientific research Gulbenkian/FMUL Scholarship. The second and third prizes were awarded, respectively, to Marta Leal Bento for her work “Characterization of the levels and G-protein Coupling of Adenosine A2A Receptors in Hippocampus and Striatum of transgenic rats overexpressing adenosine A2A receptors in the brain”, which received a scientific research Gulbenkian/FMUL Scholarship, and to Diogo Maia e Silva for his work” Do long non-coding RNSs regulate the T. brucei differentiation?”, who received a scholarship under the “Education through Science” Programme.
The Gulbenkian/FMUL mobility scholarships were a new modality involving two students. The results of the internships, held in Paris (Hôpital de Saint Antoine; supervisor Emmanuel Tiret) and in Lausanne (Institut Universitaire de Médicine Sociale et Préventive- Univ. de Lausanne; supervisor Pedro Marques-Vidal) were reported by the students who won these scholarships, António Sampaio Soares and Filipa Andreia Guerra, respectively. These presentations, once again of great quality, will certainly be an example and emulation for students who, in future, may want to try other ways of being and working with quality in Europe. This is an experience that must be repeated.
The internships conducted within the Gulbenkian/FMUL Scholarships and the “Education through Science” Programme had a photo reportage, which resulted in a very interesting exhibition that was commented positively by the public and denoted the enthusiasm and commitment of our students in their new activities.
One can conduct scientific activities, science can be learned, scientific issues can be improved, the scientific method may be internalized until we reach a more critical and rational stance, but when it comes to talent and vocation, they cannot be taught or learned – they need to be awoken. In this context, the session “Research Opportunities for Students”, organized by the AEFML, had the participation of FMUL lecturers Maria do Carmo Fonseca, Executive Director of the IMM, and Inês Luis, a specialist in the Oncology Service of HSM-CHLN, and a PhD student at Harvard Medical School. The two doctors, explained in an exemplary manner how they were drawn, each in her own way, to the allure of investigating and discovering science. There was also an element of demystification of scientific activity and an explanation of how it can be combined with clinical practice, which are important aspects at the stage of life our students are at the moment. This session also included personal testimonies and information provision given by Maria Guilhermina Pereira and Filipe Figueiredo, both of the AEFML, by members of the organizing committee of the “AIMS Meeting”, by student Inês Figueiredo, and by Sónia Barroso, advisor to GAPIC.
The AEFML organized guided visits to clinics and laboratory research units in the morning for those who have not yet decided to do research at undergraduate level and students who, although no longer freshers, wished to know the available infrastructures of the Lisbon Academic Medical Centre (CAML) better. Impeccably organized, this activity was well attended and positively assessed by participants.
The quality of the question, i.e. the scientific question, is the most important aspect of a good project and of an important discovery in science. Asking good questions in science
Is something one learns and improves continuously, but it is always a job for a lifetime. It is important to start early. The session “How do I question myself” aimed to serve the education of students with regard to the several aspects involved in the formulation of a good research question. This year the format was different from the one that was so successful last year. In this second edition of Research Day, students were invited to ask the questions themselves, either individually or in groups of two. The initiative was presented as a competition and was named “Critical Mind Game”; the target subject areas were cell biology, molecular biology/oncology and neurosciences. In this competition, students Catarina Alves do Vale, Diogo Maia e Silva and António Silva received awards in the field of cell and molecular biology/Oncobiology, and students David Naod Berhanu and Zakhar Shchomak received prizes in the field of neurosciences. Competitors were still low in number, possibly due to the planning difficulties inherent to this type of competition, both for the organizers and the competitors. However, given the importance of the topic, we will pursue this initiative in the next edition of Research Day, with adjusted planning and logistics.
Research Day and the activities of the GAPIC, in close liaison with the AEFML, are an example of the spirit of the CAML. The human and functional interactions that occur within this organizational infrastructure are becoming naturally larger and complex. With the aim of starting the professional analysis of these interactions, and of the capacity needed to evaluate the impact of administrative procedures and policies that will be implemented in the future, the results of a pilot study named “Structural Analysis of Networks in the Scientific Research of the CAML”, conducted by sociologists Nuno Rodrigues, from the Coordination of Administrative Centres (CPA) and Sónia Barroso, from GAPIC, under the scientific coordination of Inês Pereira, a Professor at the Sociology Studies and Research Centre of the Higher Institute for Labour and Corporate Studies (CIES/ISCTE) were presented. This type of analysis, which is pioneering among us, aroused curiosity and interest due to the impact it may have in future. (link to article about the study).
Last, but not least, the “Talk” and the guest speaker. Still within the spirit of a true Academic Centre, and because endless curiosity and passion are the true essence of scientific research and medical practice, we want our students to have a rich and eclectic education by exposure to various aspects of human culture. This year’s guest was Rui Vieira Nery, Director of the “Gulbenkian Portuguese Language and Culture Programme”, and a Professor at the Universities of Évora and Nova de Lisboa, among many other public and private sector activities and posts, always performed within the scope of cultural production, promotion and dissemination. A person of recognized prominence and known to the public for his role in the dissemination of music, Rui Vieira Nery told us about one of his passions – Fado. Rendered in an accessible style, the “Talk”, titled “Love, jealousy, ashes and fire, pain and sin: Fado in the labyrinths of Portuguese identity” was a vibrant and indelible lesson in semiotics of that so very Portuguese musical genre. Thank you so much, Rui Nery!
The spirit of our patron this year, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, was always present throughout the event. Important aspects of his life and of the foundation he left as legacy were remembered in a discrete and rigorous manner, as he would have liked it, in slide show format and small texts, illustrating his genius, talent, generosity and work.
Overall, participants positively evaluated Research Day with regard to the programme and the different sessions, as well as the organization of the event (evaluation). The success of the day was to a large extent due to the entities who sponsored this initiative, with particular emphasis on the Gulbenkian Foundation and its services, on the performance of the extremely committed multidisciplinary team of FMUAL, and all participants, particularly those who were part of the evaluation and session panels, and all those who were involved in several core organizational and implementation activities necessary for the success of this day.
To them, and to our students to whom Research Day was dedicated, our heartfelt thanks!
The GAPIC Team
(Text written by João Ferreira and Sónia Barroso)