ECNP Workshop on Neuropsychopharmacology for Young Researchers, Nice, France – by Verity Pinkney

An audible sigh of relief announces take-off with the expectation of leaving the seemingly endless rain in Southampton behind to land in Southern France drenched in glorious sunshine. The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) invite to attend their annual Workshop for Young Researchers was met with excitement in our office when we realised that three of us (Ben Ainsworth, Joanna Miler and I) were lucky enough to have been awarded a place to attend. The three-day conference in Nice aims to give early-career researchers like myself a chance to present and discuss their research in interactive sessions and provides ample opportunity to network with likeminded students, postdocs and psychiatrists from all over Europe.


The Nice vista, captured from our hotel balcony

Within minutes of our arrival we began our networking experience and met Mathieu, a Frenchman from Montpellier who has traded France for Leicester to study for his PhD at De Montfort University. After a not-so-brief detour around central Nice and a visit to the wrong hotel we soon found ourselves in the Boscolo Plaza hotel lobby which buzzed with energetic researchers at the welcome reception.


Day 1 kicked off with a good selection of impressive talks covering a wide range of topics, from the use of proteomics in CNS disorders to animal models of fragile X syndrome. One talk in particular that caught my attention presented interesting fMRI data showing that threat-related brain function could be moderated by daily bright-light intervention; an area that offers exciting possibilities in how treatments of this type may work in Seasonal Affective Disorder. After a brief interlude for lunch, the quality of the talks continued throughout the afternoon and was followed by an evening of poster presentations, networking, French wine and the local cuisine.


The first couple of talks in each session were presented by distinguished scientists in their field of research. These were a great way to illustrate the positive impact a lifetime of research in Psychology and Psychiatry can have to an audience of fresh-faced scientists keen to consider this challenging career path. Saturday began with an inspiring talk by psychiatrist Thomas Schlaepfer who presented some exciting results on the use of deep brain stimulation to alleviate symptoms of severe, treatment-resistant depression. We then enjoyed a few hours of sea and sunshine, before going to two well-attended optional talks covering “how to write good papers” and two personal accounts of careers in industry and academia.


This was again followed by another enjoyable evening of poster sessions where we quickly got chatting with other PhD students who talked enthusiastically and knowledgeably about their work.

After a third morning jam-packed with a wide range of talks, very quickly it seemed that our time in Nice was over. This ECNP workshop gave me the chance to meet some lovely people from a variety of different research areas and also gave me a first-hand account of the vast amount of top quality research that is being undertaken across Europe every day. I now look forward to attending the ECNP Congress in October in Berlin and hope to see some familiar faces there.

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(Ed’s note: Based on the quality of her research and her poster presentation in Nice, Verity was selected by senior ECNP scientists to present her research at the ECNP conference 2014 in Berlin – congratulations Verity!)