Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The GABBA program

I was recently in the annual meeting of my former PhD program, the GABBA program, a Graduate Program in Areas of Basic and Applied Biology in Portugal. I realized that I never blogged about the Portuguese PhD programs and I thought I would share with you their somewhat unusual concept.

Like in other PhD programs, GABBA students start by having courses during the first semester of the program. The semester is divided into week long courses in different subjects (think Cell-Cycle, Development, etc) with invited teachers. What is different from most other programs I know of is that students then get to use their scholarship to do their research projects anywhere in the world. GABBA students get payed to do their research in any lab that accepts them, no strings attached. No return clause, not even a requirement to inform the program of research progress. There is an annual meeting where students (and alumni) get to go to Portugal to present their work but no one is obliged to go. It is also a nice opportunity to exchange tips and in some cases even start collaborations.

The annual meeting is always organized around Christmas time so most people end up going. I kept going to the meetings after finishing my PhD mostly because I enjoy seeing the people but also because of the cool science. As you can imagine, everyone is scattered around the world in very nice labs doing research in all sort of different biomedical related subjects. This year there were a lot of talks about stem cells and an unusually high number of neurobiology related work. Some cool research of note for me were for example the work of Martina Bradic (Borowsky lab at NYU) about the convergent evolution of blind cave fish and the talk by Andre Sousa (Sestan Lab at Yale) on the transcriptional profiling of human brain regions during development (http://hbatlas.org/).

The GABBA program takes international students as well but they are typically asked to do their research in Portugal. The applications are usually around June so keep an eye out if you are interested in applying. Have a look at the admissions page for more information.