EuroSPIN: Excellence in NeuroinformaticsTraining

Choosing a doctoral program is an important decision, as it shapes our careers, allows professional growth and helps to define who we are as human beings. New opportunities in PhD training in the emerging field of Neuroinformatics arise across the world for brave and enthusiastic students, like the PhD programme EuroSPIN.

eurospin_newThe discipline of Neuroinformatics aims to enable the integration of all data across all levels and scales of neuroscience, with the ultimate goal of understanding the brain and battle brain disease. During the summer of 2008, the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) formulated several key recommendations at the workshop “Needs for Training in Neuroinformatics”. A year later the Erasmus Program -the EU educational platform- was expanded to cover PhD studies, and four INCF member countries, leaders in Neuroinformatics and Computational Neuroscience, created an international 3-4 year PhD program in Neuroinformatics: the European Study Programme In Neuroinformatics, EuroSPIN, was born.

StartquoteThe EuroSPIN programme appealed to me both because of the exciting research happening across all institutions and because there was a chance to […] have a genuinely collaborative project across multiple universities Endquoteexplains Yann Sweeney, EuroSPIN student in 2011.

Several elements contribute to establish a successful training in Neuroinformatics,  multidisciplinary training being one of them. Currently EuroSPIN is coordinated by the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), in Sweden. The other three partners are the National Centre for Biological Sciences (Bangalore, India), the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (Germany) and the University of Edinburgh (UK). In addition, two associated partners participate: the Honda Research Institute and Nordita. All EuroSPIN partners are world prominent institutions in Neuroinformatics and computational neuroscience, with complementary strengths: the Stockholm group brings expertise in large-scale neural modeling; the Freiburg group has world-leading expertise in computational neuroscience and neurotechnology; the Edinburgh group specializes in neural plasticity and development; and the Bangalore group performs world leading research on neural systems biology. The associated members (Nordita and Honda Research Institute) allow to extend towards theoretical and applied directions, respectively.

eurospin_story_text_2Diversity in research topics and approaches is a second key element. EuroSPIN partners offer over 20 research projects, going from sub-cellular mechanisms to large-scale brain theory, and from basic science to technological applications. Thus, EuroSPIN encompasses research on sub-cellular mechanisms, large-scale brain theory, basic science and technological applications.

StartquoteA heterogeneous neuroscience community contributes with different inputs to the research topics and problem solving processEndquote explains Simachew Mengiste, EuroSPIN student in 2011.

Mobility is another crucial element for successful training in Neuroinformatics, as it allows and encourages collaborative research. It offers complementary training opportunities and facilitates contact with leading experts and facilities. Furthermore, mobility allows exposure to the latest advanced research.

StartquoteWhen I got the opportunity to be a researcher in computational biology field, I had a sense of honor and responsibility that I am directly dealing with human lifeEndquote explains Sayyed Auwn Muhammad, EuroSPIN student in 2011.

eurospin_story_text_3During the course of their projects, EuroSPIN allows each student to choose among six possible pairs of partners and at least two supervisors, one from each of the universities granting the joint PhD degree. In addition, all participant students, their scientific advisors and local researchers attend an annual workshop. By the end of their studies, all students will have visited all EuroSPIN partner institutions.

StartquoteWhile short term mobility in form of conferences and summer schools is certainly beneficial, the longer term mobility provided trough the [EuroSPIN] programme gives you a chance for a proper international collaboration during your PhD which makes a very valuable addition to your PhD experienceEndquote explicates another EuroSPIN student.

As a result, EuroSPIN students are quite unique. They have been trained in multi-cultural environments. Fluent in languages, they are skilled and accomplished communicators. They are competent leaders in research, academia, and in society. And above all, they have faced professional and personal challenges throughout the course of their projects and have grown as scientists and as human beings.  

So far, 20 students from all over the world are enjoying this unique experience. Their background is diverse: Theoretical physics, Mathematics, Physics, Pharmaceutical Science, Computer Science, Physics Engineering, Robotics… and they all share their enthusiasm for the research occurring across EuroSPIN partner institutions, for the prospect to work along eminent investigators, and for the opportunity to work in diverse environments and cultures. The demand for outstanding researchers trained in Neuroinformatics and Computational Neuroscience is high both in academia and industry.

StartquoteThe training has been excellent, along with the contacts and people I have metEndquote summarizes Renato Farinha Duarte, EuroSPIN student in 2011.

New EuroSPIN projects will be offered in 2013. The application will open in early October 2012. In the future, the European Union will likely merge Erasmus Mundus PhD programs with the Marie Curie PhD training system

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Students and supervisors enjoying the second EuroSPIN workshop in Bangalore, India (2011)

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