BioMed PhD Day, together for a future of research in biomedicine

At the second BioMed PhD Day of the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, which took place on October 9, doctoral students were given the opportunity to present their projects to the public, but also to meet, get to know each other and share ideas. This year the event was hosted on the new East Campus, and was attended by around thirty PhD students (more than twice as many as in 2019) from 10 different countries and enrolled in one of six doctoral specialisations in Biomedical Sciences: immunology, oncology, neuroscience, cardiovascular science, drug science and public health.

"Our doctoral school is only two years old, but it already counts 31 students, and in the short/medium term we could have up to 50," says professor Alain Kaelin, director of the Neurocentro della Svizzera italiana and coordinator of the PhD courses in Biomedical Sciences at USI. "These are significant numbers and show that we need a school like ours. On the other hand, a Faculty of Medicine cannot exist without a doctoral school: we said this at the outset, and we have proven it. But, from a broader perspective, it’s the overall reseach ecosystem in Ticino that will benefit from a doctoral school".

The event kicked off with the young researchers, who operate in different locations of the partner Institutes (IRB, IOR, Cardiocentro Ticino, Neurocentro della Svizzera italiana) and USI, who were given the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange ideas, sometimes discovering common research approaches or interests in different fields, as well as discovering the possible research funds (grants) offered to PhD students. It was also an opportunity to elect a student representative, Elena Vacchi, a researcher at the Neurocentro, to enable communication between students and the PhD directorate.

The busy day was organised in several parts: a walking poster session involving the first and second year doctoral students, the public presentations of third year students, and finally a lecture given by Prof. Antonio Lanzavecchia on a very current subject: From memory cells to therapeutic antibodies and vaccines. "During the event, about twenty high-quality projects were presented, with the closing lecture of Antonio Lanzavecchia who managed to summarise 30 years of research in immunology, providing a perspective on the near and distant future of this field of biomedicine," said Prof. Mario Bianchetti, Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences. 

Graduates in human medicine and related disciplines can apply to the USI doctoral school. The programme runs for a minimum of three years, at the end of which a doctoral thesis is presented and discussed and awarded the title of "doctor of research" (PhD). At that point, many will continue to work in research laboratories as post-docs, leading towards an academic career, while others will choose to work in private companies or public institutions. "Academic careers involve a long and demanding process, which must also consider the fact that the number of positions available, nationally and internationally, as a professor or group leader researcher is lower than the total number of PhD students," explains Vittorio Limongelli , professor of Pharmacology and Computational Biology at USI. "It is important to emphasise and inform students that those who choose to become researchers do so out of passion and not for economic reasons. There are in fact better paid careers, but, in my opinion, the possibility offered by the world of research to meet and interact with brilliant minds and to contribute to the training of young researchers is priceless".

The public session of the event, with limited attendance due to public health restrictions, was broadcast live for researchers, clinicians and Faculty members, who were able to enjoy the interesting lecture of Prof. Lanzavecchia from a distance. Also the new students of the new USI Master in Medicine were invited to participate, bringing them closer to the fascinating world of research.