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On June 7, 2024, the second annual Jenner Institute Early Researchers Symposium was held at St Anne's College, bringing together a vibrant community of over 80 DPhil Students, Research Assistants, Technicians and Apprentices from across the Nuffield Department of Medicine to network, share their research and discuss career aspirations.

The Symposium opened with a warm welcome from the organising committee, led by Adam Khan-Qureshi and Chris De Voss, who reflected on the mission of the event—to empower early researchers by providing a safe space to present their work and connect with peers. 

Vice Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, officially opened the Symposium, highlighting the pivotal role young scientists play in Oxford's mission to cultivate the next generation of scientific changemakers. Professor Sir Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, followed with remarks on the Institute’s recent successes, setting an inspiring tone for the day.

One of the highlights of the Symposium was a keynote address by Professor Dalial Freitak from Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. Her talk on developing vaccines for bees was both fascinating and eye-opening, underscoring the importance of innovative thinking in addressing overlooked but crucial biological questions.

The day's sessions focused on various aspects of vaccine development, including novel vaccine platforms, pre-clinical antigen design and validation, and the principles of immunology. The presentations featured 15-minute in-depth talks and 3-minute quick overviews, provoking discussions and offering new perspectives among attendees.

During lunch, a poster display session provided a lively setting for the participants to engage with a diverse range of research projects, highlighting the collaborative spirit and keen interest in each other's work.

In the afternoon, Dr. Joseph Kennerley from Oxford Simcell delivered an inspiring talk on his novel bacterial vaccine platform, encouraging many to consider entrepreneurial ventures and highlighting the University's role in supporting such initiatives.

The career session featured powerful talks by Professor Leanne Williams from LearnSci and the University of Warwick, and Dr. Katherine Burgess from the UK Civil Service. Professor Williams emphasised the need for transforming higher education to enhance equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), while Dr. Burgess shared her experiences of integrating scientific discoveries into policy-making, describing concrete examples of her work in shaping policies to improve systems.

The Symposium concluded with a prize ceremony led by Professor Anita Milicic, Director of Graduate Studies at the Jenner Institute, and Professor Sir Adrian Hill. The awards recognised the exceptional contributions of the attendees:

  • Best 15-minute presentation: Alexander Sampson, Pandemic Sciences Institute
  • Best 3-minute presentation: Joel Balkaran, Department of Engineering Science
  • Best Poster: Lucy Denly, Jenner Institute

The event concluded with a celebratory drinks reception and dinner, providing further opportunities for attendees to connect and discuss their work.

Reflecting upon the day and the importance of having symposiums targeted towards early career researchers, Professor Anita Milicic says:

“I am delighted at the extraordinary success of this year’s Early Researchers Symposium. The Jenner Institute student team delivered a carefully designed and flawlessly organised event, with inspirational guest speakers and hugely enthusiastic attendees presenting high quality science. There was a strong sense of community among the junior researchers who seized the opportunity to take centre stage and showcase their work in an open, respectful environment. The JERS presents an excellent blueprint for promoting and implementing EDI from the roots up, and empowering the next generation of world-leading researchers."

The Symposium was organised by DPhil students at the Jenner Institute: Adam Khan-Qureshi, Chris De Voss, Sam Provstgaard-Morys, Solomon English, Alexander Sampson, Alejandro Diaz, Oliver Pearson, Lee Sims, Beatrice Francis, and Marcellus Korompis, with invaluable support from Professor Anita Milicic, Jenner Institute Director of Graduate Studies.

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