BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH CENTRE: HOST INSTITUTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL TRAINING COURSE
Although being the youngest organization among the research institutes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Szeged based Biological Research Center (BRC) is the largest. Respecting the traditionally high-level biological research in the city, symbolized by the Nobel Prize winner biochemist, Albert Szent-Györgyi, BRC was founded in Szeged in 1971 by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Currently there are about 250 researchers working in the four institutes (Biochemistry, Biophysics, Genetics and Plant Biology) of the Center. The International Training Course (ITC) has been launched in 1972 and organized – so far – yearly in Szeged by the BRC. The official language of the ITC is English. ITC is dedicated to give opportunities to graduate students, aiming at a research career, to be introduced to exciting, high-level research activity and to improve methodological-, publication-, and language skills. Besides providing a high-level scientific education in English, the intensive international collaborations of the laboratories of the BRC may also present possibilities for the participants of the ITC to establish personal contacts with leading scientists outside of Hungary.
SUMMARY OF THE PREVIOUS ACTIVITY OF THE ITC
Since its establishment in 1972, the aggregate number of participants of the ITC is 666. Most of ITC fellows arrived from Central and East European countries, but also from Ireland, Deutschland, India, The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Canada, Turkey and China. The various cultural traditions blended and gave a special atmosphere to the courses in each year. Regularly, long lasting relationships have been built among the participants of the ITC and the members of the host laboratories. All the students have benefited from their stay in Szeged and frequently finished the course as coauthors of scientific papers publishing their results. Furthermore, starting from 1990, BRC has allocated a limited resource for the most dedicated ITC fellows to continue their studies as Ph.D. students at the University of Szeged, maintaining their relations to the hosting laboratories at the BRC. In 2006, BRC has been organized the first ITC Alumni Conference for the ITC graduates with the participation of 170 former students and supervisors. The second alumni conference – in observance of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the BRC – has been arranged for 2011, in which 130 registered alumni participated.
From 2012, the worldwide recession makes significantly more difficult the operation of the ITC. The funds available for the stipends decreased dramatically and, as a consequence, BRC cannot sponsor the costs of the students even for 2011/2012 academic year of the ITC in the usual way. The stipends in this and the following years – hopefully only temporarily – are covered by the host research laboratories. The only exception is a single lucky student of the 2011/2012 year, whose stipend is sponsored by the generous donations of the ITC Alumni Community, collected at the alumni conference in 2011.
OUTLINE OF THE ANNUAL PROGRAMS
The courses are organized in academic years starting at October 1, each year, lasting for 11 months, and are organized around selected research projects. The list of the projects for each academic year may vary, and is advertised at the beginning of the calendar years on the web-site of the ITC. Students should go through an application procedure to receive an ITC fellowship, with an option to nominate their preferences in the research projects to join. After their successful application, ITC fellows will work on their own research projects in the laboratories assigned by the BRC, under the supervision and guidance of BRC staff members. A detailed research plan, in accordance with the research schedule of the host laboratory, will be set up after the ITC fellows arrive at Szeged. By the end of the course, students will gain insight into special aspects of the selected research topics, will become familiar with the relevant literature and complete a substantial experimental work. At the end of the course, fellows will present their results at the concluding ITC workshop, then, they will receive a certificate of attending the course. Please observe that no academic title or degree is given.
Besides their research in the host laboratories, ITC fellows will also actively participate in laboratory- and institute seminars, scientific discussion and journal clubs. Fellows will also attend a concise lecture course on selected methods and topics of modern biochemistry, biophysics, genetics and plant biology, where senior researchers of the BRC will review some selected, most rapidly developing areas in molecular, cell- and developmental biology.