“This training provided me with input which I didn’t know I needed, but has changed everything!”
“These four days have been a real turning point!”
These remarks, from Jaime Isern and Victor De Sousa-Agostino, were the first responses I heard from our two PhD students from Durham University, upon their return from the NTD Network’s medicinal chemistry training workshop, held in Medoza city, Argentina, 2nd-4th November 2019.
Jaime and Victor joined a further 24 early career researchers from all over South America; a cohort themselves comprising diverse backgrounds and a breadth of experiences. There they joined a line-up of experts from both academia and industry, including expertise across synthetic chemical and structural biology, biochemistry and drug development. The training included theoretical knowledge, new practical techniques and – crucially – intense1:1 personal coaching from these experts. It is difficult to capture the intensity of excitement from the students’ feedback. Our attendees returned us their meeting report within three weeks (record time!), which itself shows something of the focus and motivation of our student cohort.
The training event was conceived and delivered ‘from the heart’ of two of our NTD Network chemists, Dr Guillermo Labadie of Universidad Nacional de Rosario (UNR) and Professor Patrick Steel, from Durham University. This workshop asked for, and obtained, a profound honesty and authenticity from the teaching team, who shared learnings from their successes, and also their failures. Their message, ‘learn from our mistakes’, shows rare courage in the academic world, where ‘being the authority’ at times prevents an open conversation about where an idea may be wrong, or where a model for thinking has been superseded by the thinking process. This openness has facilitated a chance for our early career researchers to truly show up for themselves, to be open to what they don’t know, to listen to other’s perspectives, and – as Jaime and Victor demonstrate – to truly ‘own’ their research project and process. I am thus pleased and proud of what has happened here – acknowledging a largely unspoken unmet need in the academic process – for authenticity, openness, and a willingness to listen.
The credit for this workshop goes both to the vision of Guillermo and Patrick, and also to the openness amongst our amazing student cohort, who have shown up and responded to this challenge with such energy and courage. With this as the defining spirit of our team, I have confidence that we can work together and find the synergy needed to discover the new solutions needed for Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and other negelcted tropical diseases; solutions which would provide a real turning point, ‘changing everything’ for the outlook for human health in developing countries worldwide.
Well done team!