Feeling the Force: A Dive into Mechanobiology in Paris

I had the opportunity to attend the 5th edition of the International Course on Cell Biology & Cancer on the topic “Cell and Tissue Mechanics” organized by Institut Curie from April 3rd to 7th, 2023. The course aimed to expose participants to cutting-edge concepts in the field of mechanobiology. Although a “course” on paper, all the speakers discussed ongoing and published studies from their labs, making it a perfect hybrid of textbook theory and its real-world application. The speakers had diverse backgrounds ranging from core biology to physics, and the structure of the talks allowed them to delve deep into their science, making the entire enterprise a remarkable learning experience. For me personally, it was possibly the best introduction to the application of mechanics in biology and biological systems and pertinent differential equations we biologists are so terrified of.

As part of the course, all participants had to present a 3-minute (modernized) “chalk talk.” The modernity came from the fact that we drew on an iPad instead of the traditional blackboard, but this format of the presentation was certainly more absorbing and interactive than the mundane PowerPoint presentations. As a presenter, it was a unique opportunity to try and succinctly explain my research in under 3 minutes, all the while attempting to draw exquisite, yet simple, diagrams that were easy to grasp. Listening to others present their work was in itself awesome, so do consider this format while organizing your next conference or meeting!

The course participants came from different labs from all over Europe. A week-long course meant ample opportunity to get to know one another’s interests scientifically and, more interestingly, from outside the lab! Interacting with peers is always an enriching experience, opening doors to new scientific possibilities and collaborations, and receiving feedback that can be pivotal in directing our work towards more innovative avenues. The cherry on top of this already memorable course was that it happened in the picturesque city of Paris. For someone like me who’s never been out of his home country (India), the significance of such exposure to the cultural, social and work-related aspects of a vibrant city like Paris is beyond words.

Now that you’ve reached this final paragraph of the post, I hope to have pushed you, at least a little bit, to apply to this fantastic course if relevant to your research. Scientifically, it is a brilliant amalgamation of theory and its laboratory application, along with the opportunity to present your work as a “chalk talk.” In addition, the location makes the entire experience more rewarding, which hopefully will aid you to blossom as a scientist in ways that go beyond just the science!

On a final note, I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. Johanna Ivaska for the wonderful opportunity and InFLAMES for their travel grant.

Omkar Joshi
The writer is Doctoral Researcher from Cell Adhesion and Cancer Group