10 things that make our training programme unique

10 Things

10 things that make our training programme unique


Our trainees

We get to meet and train over 8,000 people each year from around the globe. Most are PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from academia, but we also have trainees who are clinicians, industrial scientists and research leads. Whether they travel to us, or we travel to them, without them we would have no programme!



Coffee and cake

Need we say more? If mathematicians turn coffee into theorems*, the training community creates courses from coffee and cake! All aspects of our training programme – the preparation sessions, team retreats and the courses themselves – require coffee and cake. Please take note when we meet!


Our trainers

The wide range of courses we offer requires a diverse community of trainers. Over the years we have supported many of our bioinformatics resource experts to develop their training skills, and many more have travelled to train at EMBL-EBI from across the globe. Together they have brought a huge variety of expertise and enhanced our courses in numerous ways. Some of our trainers even started out as trainees on our courses.


The bell

Loved by many, disliked by a few – how else do you get a rowdy bunch of course participants (trainees and trainers) back to the training room after a coffee or lunch break? A good old fashioned UK school handbell of course, rung to let people know it’s time to get back to work. If anyone knows of a travelling version we can purchase…


Our Systems Administrators (and the compute they are responsible for)

With two fantastic IT suites on site we need two equally fantastic individuals to run them! Working closely with all of the trainers, our Sys Admins run our virtual machine (VM)-based compute system, creating and launching bespoke VMs for all our courses. It’s our vision that one day they’ll help you join us virtually, wherever you are.



Post-it notes

Did you know about the variety of post-it / sticky notes that you can buy? There’s a cornucopia of colours, shapes, sizes and different levels of stickiness. If you train with us and don’t use a sticky note, you’ve missed out!


The user training working group (UTWG)

Coordinating a huge training programme that involves practically every team at EMBL-EBI can be complicated. Luckily we have the UTWG, with representatives from each of our service teams. They coordinate their team’s training activities by supporting the development of new trainers, providing new training ideas, keeping their training content up to date and ensuring we have trainers to deliver sessions whenever – and wherever – they are needed.



Sculptures on campus (aka the big silver balls)

The Wellcome Genome Campus is a fantastic base for our training programme; it’s an inspiring environment with a mix of cutting-edge science, acres of wildlife reserve, and stunning buildings and sculptures. Perhaps the most iconic are the three silver balls on our main concourse.** Visitors to campus often stop to admire and have their photos taken around these sculptures. They also make a regular appearance in our off-site slidedeck, so you won’t miss out on seeing them if we travel to you!


Events Organisers

So we have a course idea, some trainers and our compute – but what about getting everyone where they need to be, making sure they are well looked after and that they have a place to stay? This is where the Events team is key; they handle all the course logistics for both trainers and trainees. They make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when, whilst also making sure we’re all well fed (see “coffee and cake” above!). They are the welcoming face you will see at the registration desk when you join us on-site and the helpful person on the end of the phone when we visit you off-site.



Scientific Training Officers

These are the people you often see in our training rooms or off-site encouraging you to participate in an icebreaker at the start of a course, or coaxing you back into the room after a break (with help from the bell; see above!). Even though they are often found at the back of the training room, these are the people who have worked hard behind the scenes for months pulling the course together. Whether training on-site, off-site or online, they work to make sure we have a course that delivers what you need. And don’t forget, they also love coffee and cake…


What do you think makes our training programme unique? If you’ve joined us for a course and something memorable springs to mind about the experience, please share it with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

* A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. Paul Erdos, 1913-1996.
** The sculptures were created by Colin Rose and are made of hand-welded polished steel. The series of balls along the concourse represent ‘You’ because you can see yourself in the highly reflective surface. The iconic ‘Starball’ near EMBL-EBI’s East Wing represents the structure of a seed or a pod as a symbol of a beginning, the origin of development and holder of potential.