Away from the bench: Bioinformatics course at EMBL-EBI, Cambridge

EBI South Building, home of the ELIXR hub; Model for integrating omics

Last
week I spent four days at the EMBL-EBI, Hinxton near Cambridge on a course to
learn about integrating omics. It was nice to spend some time away from my lab
bench and meet specialists and colleagues in a new field, as well as come away
with skills that I can apply to my work.

On
Tuesday, I woke early and jumped on the train at Kings Cross to Cambridge,
before arriving at the institute campus by taxi. I’d visited previously for
meetings with old collaborators during my PhD and most recently for a Post Doc
interview (which I wasn’t offered!)
The
campus is quite isolated, 20 minutes from Cambridge, but well-connected and
built in the middle of the beautiful countryside. On site are both the Sanger
institute and the EMBL-EBI, as well as a new conference centre where we would
be staying.

The
course itinerary itself was packed, 9am starts with lectures, hands-on
tutorials and discussions until about 6pm. There were about 25 people on the
course, so quite small and this meant we were able to get direct feedback from
seminar speakers and ask lots of questions specific to our individual topics. Each
candidate also brought a poster describing their work, so we got to know more
about their research interests and new, unpublished results.
Catering
was all provided for us, from continental and full English cooked breakfasts,
regular tea and coffee breaks with Walkers shortbread biscuits, finger sandwich
lunches with fruit and mini dessert platters and three course dinners, as well
as one dinner out at the local and typically English, Red Lion pub on the last
evening.
After
our first full day of the course, we were shown to our accommodation. After
expecting student hall-like rooms I was so surprised and happy to find it was
more like a 4-star hotel. Huge bed, en-suite bathroom with in-built speaker and
a little mini-bar of goodies.

Mulberry bedroom at the Wellcome Trust Conference Centre

As ‘The Scientist Runs’ and with Saturday parkrun and the Thames20Path pace race
to complete on Sunday, I knew I had to keep my legs ticking over and find time
for my workouts. With the institute located in the middle of the countryside
and, as I found out during the first lunchtime, protected wetlands on site, it
was easy to find paths to run around and explore. So on Wednesday and Friday
mornings, I got up early and went for a short run, finding new trails and small
nearby villages to get some miles in my legs. It’s always good to find new
routes and running gives you the opportunity to get to know an area quickly. I also
find that running in the morning, before a long day at a computer desk, gives
me peace of mind that I have done at least a little exercise that day and I
won’t worry at the end of the day that I have to do something if I’m tired.

Exploring the Wetlands Nature Reserve, Hinxton on morning runs

Weekend run goals: Fulham Palace 5km parkrun; Thames Riverside 20

On
Thursday morning, the weather wasn’t so nice, but I was up early anyway having
planned a run, so decided to do some HIIT and circuit training in my room using
the Fitness Blender online videos. I often rely on these videos for motivation
and ideas for new moves and routines. I chose 3 videos, Wake Up and GO HIIT,
High Intensity Cardio Workout-Quick and Brutal Bodyweight Training and Quick 10
Minute Core Workout-Pain in my Abs, for a short 30 minute cardio and core
focused workout. Fitness Blender is a great site with hundreds of videos and
their website allows you to pick and choose depending on your time, body focus
and training type. You can also become a member of the site for free allowing
you to build workout video sets and log your progress.

Create your own personal, online workout using Fitness Blender

Now
back to London I go, with new techniques to use in the lab that I hope will
improve my research and reassurance that a break in your normal fitness routine
is actually quite healthy. It was refreshing to be in a new working environment
and meet fellow researchers working towards a similar goal, and fitness-wise I
managed to achieve a good balance of indoor and outdoor workouts to keep my
legs ticking over. Job done.

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